The Ups and Downs of Cardio Equipment

Posted by Filed Under: Health & Fitness

It’s been getting tougher to run in colder corners. If you aren’t careful, frozen hair breaks off. Exposed skin chaps. The brutal air can compromise vulnerable bronchial passages, leading to illnesss or exercise-induced asthma. Water bottles turn solid quickly, spelling trouble for those trying to stay hydrated on long runs. The slick roads and snowy sidewalks are dangerous, too.

The gym suddenly seems a lot more inviting.

Whether you wish to cross-train or substitute an outdoor run with indoor cardio equipment, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer recently broke down some pros and cons of the most popular pieces in the Los Angeles Times.

Here are some highlights:

Treadmill: Upside: The cushioned surface is more forgiving than frozen terrain, so you can go further and faster. Downside: It can be mighty boring, plus you can’t condition those quads for downhills. Interesting tidbit: Research has shown that many people can push themselves the hardest on treadmills (versus other cardio machines).

Stair stepper: Upside: Great way to build up a good sweat within 10 minutes; this is tougher than it first looks. Downside: It’s easy to drop proper form, stick out the butt and grab the support bars, reducing its effectiveness. Interesting tidbit: It’s the recommended equipment to prepare for travel; people tend to climb more on a trip.

Elliptical: Upside: Less jarring on the joints; good for anyone suffering ankle, knee or back injuries. Downside: You use less energy too, so it’s harder to burn the same amount of calories as other cardio equipment. Interesting tidbit: It’s easy to cheat on the elliptical by just going through the motions, and letting the machine dictate the movement instead of really pumping the arms and legs to raise and sustain a heart rate.

Stationary bike: Upside: Another good one for those recovering from some injuries. Downside: Has potential to perpetuate poor posture, resulting in back aches. Interesting tidbit: This is the best equipment if you like to multitask (watch TV, read a book) or socialize (talk to someone next to you) while working out.

What’s your favorite cardio machine? Leave me a comment and let me know.

About Anne

Anne’s been running for so long that when two paths diverge in the woods, not only she does she know to go for the one with the most foreboding weeds, swarms of bees and steep, rocky climbs, but she convinces everyone else to come along. Then, before people are done cursing and nursing insect bites, bloody knees and poison oak outbreaks, she’ll again run — away. She eschews a lot of the newfangled devices that are supposed to make you a better runner because she believes it’s what you put into your body, not on it, that really matters. (Footwear is the exception.) That includes proper nourishment of the mind, which we all know is what really makes the difference on the road…and the trail…and the track. At some point she started to realize that not everyone has run into an Alaskan grizzly bear, been pegged by police as a robber, lost her shorts in a major marathon, rubbed elbows with Olympians, mistaken movie stars for beach bums and watched a wildfire consume her suburb - yes, while she was on a long run. Whether it’s these unique situations, or the universal ones every recreational runner encounters, after she lives it, she loves nothing better than to write about it at Run DMZ.

  1. Lukas McKnight on February 13th at 6:40 am

    Good insight. I’m in Western New York, and the amount of snow and ice and the roads coupled with the frigid arctic blasts of Lake Erie have confined me to the treadmill for the last month. It’s not fun, but I’m learning to enjoy it more.

    It’s hard for me to keep interest past 5 miles; however, one thing I would add to this piece: the one thing that’s better about a treadmill is it makes it innately easy to sustain a certain pace. I think this has great value for when I return to the outdoors.

  2. Rick O on February 13th at 8:28 am

    The CrossRamp style machine. I find it is the best and one of the few taht actually leave my legs feeling like they have been pushed to their limit.

  3. 21stCenturyMom on February 13th at 10:24 am

    I like the elliptical the best – probably because it is relatively easy. I detest the dreadmill due to extreme forced ennui but at least using it constitutes running. Thank goodness for audio books.

  4. thodarumm on February 14th at 6:51 pm

    Hands down treadmill for me with Cardio Coach, absolutely the best workouts I have used, in my ears because I like sprints and I can do it only on treadmill. I just cannot pedal furiously without fatiguing my legs easily. Also, I do tend to let my guard down easily on the bike and trhe arc trainer and workoiut out at lower levels whereas that cannot happen on treadmill.

  5. E. harding on February 15th at 12:35 pm

    Since it’s -28 C chill factor in southern Ontario today, the treadmill is going to be useful…..

    Since it is a boring piece of equipment, I usually do interval and hill training on it.
    That makes the workout go much easier/faster and adds interest to it!

  6. David Smith on September 10th at 4:32 am

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