Choosing Exercise Equipment You’ll Actually Use

February 12th, 2013 posted by Karen Millard

by Karen Millard

By the time my son was four years old, he already understood my fascination with home-exercise equipment. He came to me one day with a drawing he’d made of “an exercise machine for ladies,” complete with all manner of straps, pulleys and weights. “And when you’re finished,” he beamed, “it pops out a raisin cookie for you!” But what if you don’t like raisin cookies? What if your taste runs more to chocolate chip? Or nachos with cheese… Okay, I’m getting carried away. The point (and what my optimistic little inventor didn’t realize) is that no machine can be all things to all people. Long-term fitness success (I might have mentioned this before…) requires a lifetime commitment of time and effort. And you’ll only make that commitment if you’re happy with your workouts. If you truly enjoy what you’re doing while you sweat. // we’ll look at how you decide what kind of equipment to buy for your aerobic workouts and how to avoid wasting your money on a machine that never gets used. What I call aerobic or cardiovascular equipment can include everything from a good pair of running or walking shoes, to a state-of-the-art baby jogger; from a skipping rope to an elliptical machine or stair climber; from a simple step to a computerized treadmill complete with heart monitor. Here’s something to remember: A five dollar skipping rope and your favorite tunes on the CD player will get you just as fit as a $3500 treadmill. But does that mean the treadmill is a waste of money? Not if you use it. By the same token, a five dollar skipping rope could represent five dollars in the trash if you keep tripping and would prefer to stride out on a treadmill! One of the keys to success as a home-based exerciser is to know yourself. Before you spend even one penny on exercise equipment, ask yourself a few questions and think long and hard about the answers.

First priority:

Do you have any health concerns? If you have trouble with your knees, for instance, avoid equipment that requires you to bend them beyond a ninety degree angle. (Actually, equipment that requires this of you is best avoided in any case. If you don’t have bad knees when you start, you surely will after you’ve been using it for a while.) A bad back means you should be wary of machines that repeatedly throw your spine out of proper alignment. If you have any health concerns at all, check with your doctor before making the investment.

Other questions to consider:

Do I like long moments of solitude? Or do I prefer to be motivated and revved up by others? Do I enjoy dance moves or do I trip over my own feet? Do I prefer to be indoors, outdoors or does it depend on the weather? Does jogging or walking with the baby sound like fun or would I appreciate the opportunity to get away by myself for a while? I chose to buy a cross-country ski machine and it’s been my main source of cardiovascular exercise for over twelve years. Here’s why: First, I’m very much a loner. I love that I can do it all by myself, at my own pace. It’s a non-impact exercise too, which is great because I had shin-splints once and never, never want to get them again! Some people might hate the monotonous motion, but to me it’s a wonderful way to free my mind. I listen to music while I exercise and sometimes I sing along at the top of my dreadful voice. Other times the music fades into the background and the writer in me begins to plot novels, dream up characters and settings and mull over article ideas. My ski-machine also allows me to work out indoors, which to me is a huge plus. I live in Western Canada and our temperatures are extreme. We have some die-hard joggers in this province who brave the cold, the wind and the mountains of snow, but I know I’ll never be one of them. A good idea might be to pay a drop-in fee at a local gym and “test-drive” a few machines before you buy your own. Of course, the version you try in a gym will usually be state-of-the-art, but it will give you a feel for the motion and whether or not it causes any discomfort. I loved the idea of stair climbers, but could never quite get the hang of the little bitty steps you’re supposed to take. I also love rowing machines, but my knees can’t take the constant stress. Whatever you choose to buy, there are three points you should consider. First, make sure you’ll be able to use the machine over and over and over again without causing undue stress on your body. For this reason, treadmills and ski-machines are probably the most successful machines ever. (The “Easy Rider” type was very popular for a while until people realized it causes quite a lot of strain on the back and knees.) Secondly, whether you decide to spend a couple of thousand on a treadmill or five dollars on a skipping rope, you’ll need to make sure burnout and boredom don’t turn your investment into a waste of money. I’ve been using my ski-machine for twelve years, but my success with it is due in large part to my conscious decision to include as many other forms of exercise in my program as possible. I walk my dog, (weather permitting); jump rope to music; do a rather clumsy form of aerobic dance and swim whenever I can. Always, though, I return to old faithful! Third, stick with the basics. Even if you choose the expensive variety. Find a machine that requires you to do the work and that doesn’t stress or strain any part of you. Choose a machine that suits your personality and you’ll never have to worry about losing it under a mountain of laundry!

Karen Millard (11 Posts)

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Cindy Rowe
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

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