Cardio; you either love it or hate it in most cases. I personally love it. I was actually pretty amazed at how much stamina I was able to build from using cardio equipment in a relatively short period of time of only a couple of months. I find that cardio also helps me with overcoming stress, too. It’s a great boost for moods!
Most gyms have 4 basic cardio machines; treadmills, indoor bikes, ellipticals and stairclimbers. My personal favorites are the treadmill and the indoor bikes, but I like to switch things up and do the others as well so I don’t get bored. Additionally, each one offers different benefits. I found that at first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the buttons on each machine. As I got used to using them, I figured them out, but if you are intimidated, here are some basics to using cardio equipment.
What it is: An elliptical is similar to a treadmill in that it is a full body cardio workout that can be high intensity, but it is much lower impact. It’s the machine that has the paddles your feet go on and the bars to hold onto that move with your body. The elliptical is great for people who have foot pain and need a low impact cardio workout. The movement is great because it mimics cross-country skiing and uses your arms, legs and core.
What the Buttons on the Machine Do: The buttons help you add more resistance if you are seeking a tougher workout. The higher the number, the tougher the workout.
Cautions and Tips: Make sure you have good balance to use this machine. Never use it when you are dizzy and if you get light headed, get off of it right away. Don’t lock your knees or you will feel a lot of pain when you get done. Before switching between stationary handlebars and moving ones, slow down or stop to avoid losing your balance.
What it is: The treadmill is probably the most recognized piece of equipment in the gym. It is basically there so you can run, walk or jog in place. Treadmills have come a long way and now offer more shock absorption and incline.
What the Buttons on the Machine Do: The buttons will make your workout more challenging and can change both the speed and incline of your workout. Play around with both speed and incline to find a combination that works for you. I like to jog at a 4.0 speed. I also use treadmills for interval training as they are great for that.
Cautions and Tips: Start at a slow speed and work your way up to a faster one. Don’t use a tablet or phone on the treadmill until you are really good at a slower rhythm as you can easily fall and I don’t recommend doing it at all above a fast walk. Always make sure to attach the emergency stop clip to your clothing.
What it is: The stair stepper is basically a machine that mimics the movements of walking up a flight of stairs. They are the tall machines in the gym that have stairs on them that move as you move.
What the Buttons on the Machine Do: The buttons can add resistance as well as speed. The stair stepper is actually one of the more challenging machines in the gym in my opinion, but it can really work up a sweat. Start on a low speed and resistance.
Cautions and Tips: Make sure you are extremely careful getting on and off the stair stepper. Never just climb up it on the steps without first getting onto the side step platforms. Don’t try to get too fancy and do it sideways until you understand how the machine works and at what level you are at.
What it is: The indoor bike is a machine that mimics the movements of an outdoor bike. There are a couple of different kinds of bikes in most gyms. I prefer the ones that are upright. There are also recumbent bikes that are more like leaning back with the pedaling motion.
Both bikes are pretty low impact and great cardio workouts. It's more of a personal preference on which you use although upright bikes tend to use more core and upper body strength.
What the Buttons on the Machine Do: The buttons will adjust your resistance similar to if you were riding a bike around and hit hills and inclines. More resistance equals a tougher workout as if you were going up a steeper incline.
Cautions and Tips: Hold onto the handlebars for stability. Don’t use the machine if you have any dizziness or feel light headed as it will require you to be stable.
Things to know about all 4 pieces of equipment:
Always ask your doctor before beginning a cardio workout routine. He or she should clear you for any heart, breathing or musculoskeletal issues before you get going.
Don’t try to over-do it on any of the machines. Try to work up to your time so you don’t hurt yourself, especially if they are all new to you. It’s perfectly acceptable to only do 10 minutes at first if that’s all you can do.
Switch things up once a while so you don’t get too bored with the same routine. This will keep your workout fun and keep you focused.
Don’t forget to add in your weight when you do use the cardio equipment. You will get a more accurate calorie burn displayed. Even though it is more accurate, keep in mind that these machines are usually not perfectly on when it comes to the calorie counts in general.
Read more by Christine here.