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What to Look for When Buying an Elliptical

Shopping for an elliptical can be a little trickier than shopping for a treadmill or bike. The feel of an elliptical’s footpath is very personal. What may feel perfect to one person, may feel short and choppy to the next. Body size, hip width and upper torso dimensions can all play a role in choosing the elliptical that is right for you. It is important that you try a few different brands, preferably at a specialty fitness store where you can receive some expert advice as well. Here are a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a new elliptical trainer, or cross trainer.

The first thing you should think about when buying an elliptical is whether or not you are comfortable with the motion/movement of a particular brand’s unit. Unlike treadmills and bikes, each manufacturer’s elliptical will have a different feel. Some of that is due to a company’s philosophy, but in reality, much of it is due to the different patents that vendors have on their machines. Once you feel comfortable on a machine, you then have to analyze whether or not the design of the elliptical puts your body in a natural position for working out. Remember, you are going to be using this machine at least three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. If the elliptical is not designed properly, your body will eventually “rebel” in the form of discomfort and pain.

You need to pay attention to three things when analyzing whether or not the manufacturer took the time to design the unit properly.

  1. Pedal spacing
    This is the distance between the pedals. Many ellipticals, especially on the lower end, will have 5-6 inches between their pedals, placing the hips too far apart. This can lead to pain and discomfort in the hip joint. If you have ever seen your footprints in the sand or snow, you’ll notice how close together they actually are when you walk or run. Pedal spacing in the 2-inch range or less is the most desirable.
  2. Arm spacing
    Just as with the pedal space, the distance between the arms is important as well. Many elliptical arms measure 22-23 inches apart. This is too wide and will put undo stress on the shoulder joint. An acceptable range here would be from 16-18 inches apart.
  3. Posture
    While engaging the upper body, does the unit pull you forward causing a bend in the lower back? If it does, run – don’t walk – away from that elliptical because it will cause you lower back pain for sure.

Finally, if your budget allows, look for an elliptical with some sort of adjustable incline.

elliptical incline
By changing the elliptical incline, you can target different muscles and change the pedaling motion from a running feel to a stair climbing motion.

The ability to adjust the incline will challenge you more, help you achieve your goals quicker and will work the quads, hamstrings and glutes at different angles. This can better develop and tone your lower body. It also adds variety to your workouts and can help prevent you from hitting those dreaded plateaus that can happen from time to time, because you will be constantly challenging yourself and your muscles with new levels of intensity. Fitness and personal growth most occur when people are pushed outside of their comfort zone. The ability to adjust the incline on your elliptical will do just that.


Move to the rhythm: music and your run

Music has long been used to direct human movement. Ancient Romans would play drums on their ships to synchronize the strokes of their rowers. Our bodies just naturally want to move along with music and this can be a powerful tool when incorporated into your training.

Speaking to the American Council on Fitness, Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a leading authority on music and exercise, says that “Music is like a legal drug for athletes.” He went on to explain that well-selected music can not only reduce the perception of effort during a workout, but it can also measurably improve endurance.

Music is a powerful potential exercise aid. How can you incorporate it into your workout?

Timing Is Everything

The key is to capitalize on our natural tendency to make our movements match the beat of a given song. When we run, we do so with a certain amount of steps per minute – this is defined as our pace. By choosing music that has the same beats per minute (BPM) as our desired pace, we essentially give ourselves an entertaining and easy-to-follow coach.

For this reason, it’s important to pick songs that have a very distinct beat. There are programs, generally intended for DJs, that will tell you the BPM  of a song so that you can design your own playlist. But there are also several podcasts that have done this for you.

One of the most popular free programs is called PodRunner, produced by electronic music DJ and runner Steve Boyett. Each edition of PodRunner is designed to provide you with a specific BPM so that you can easily achieve your goal pace by following the music.

Additional Research and Considerations

Although the positive effects of music on exercise are well documented and have been used for centuries, recent research has shown just how deep and powerful the connection is. These studies also point to some interesting facts to consider when using music in your routine.

A 2004 study in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation experimented with different genres of music on a cycling workout. The subjects were told to perform a normal workout and their exercise output was measured. What was interesting about the results of this study is that the subjects’ output increased in conjunction with the tempo of the music regardless of the genre. Specifically, the researchers looked at musical genres, such as Polka, that the subjects either hadn’t listened to before or didn’t enjoy. Performance improved regardless.

The lesson here?  Be willing to go outside of your musical comfort zone to new genres when building your playlist.

This was emphasized by a 2010 study that looked at specific components of music to find which was the most influential on exercisers. Subjects were played a song and then split into three groups. The groups heard either a percussion track of the initial song, a matching metronome track or a track with no rhythmic elements. The subjects all responded the same to the full song, the percussion track and the metronome. This study suggests that while we might enjoy all musical aspects of a song, it’s the percussion and rhythm that is the driving force of good workout music.

As with all things health and fitness, caution is necessary even when picking your workout music. A study published in the same journal in 2007 increased the tempo of music used in a chair aerobics class by 33 percent. The patients followed the music even when their heart rates increased to potentially dangerous levels. Based on these findings, it’s important not to underestimate the push you can receive from music and make sure that you don’t exert yourself beyond what you can handle based on your fitness level.

Equipment

Although music can be very useful for runners, and all endurance athletes, bringing it with you can be challenging. Many runners are sensitive to any additional weight slowing them down, so using small, lightweight devices are your best bet.

Storing these devices in your pockets can be difficult, too, since this can mess up your stride. Fortunately, armband cases are available and perfect for runners and endurance athletes. Make sure that your headphones are also comfortable and fit tightly. Few things can be as frustrating as fiddling with earphones while you’re trying to focus on your run.

Have you used music to improve your workouts? Please share your tips and experience in the comments section below.

Sources

http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/805/

http://www.djsteveboy.com/podrunner.html


Understanding sweat

Sweat is one of those aspects of exercise, along with exhaustion and muscle soreness, that we just learn to live with, as much as we may dislike it. Some people, though, learn to embrace sweat.

For these exercisers, sweat is a sign that they’re doing something right, that they’re releasing toxins and burning off all that fat. A lot of us may feel that we haven’t worked out hard enough if we don’t emerge from the gym dripping in sweat.

But is perspiration really an accurate measure of workout intensity? Let’s examine what purpose sweat plays and what factors affect how much we sweat to decide that answer for ourselves.

Purpose of Sweat

There are several methods your body uses to maintain a healthy internal temperature, with sweat being the primary tool.

When your body’s temperature rises, whether from external heat, exercise or a combination of the two, the hypothalamus sends an activation signal to the sweat glands that are spread throughout your skin. These glands produce the fluid we call sweat, which absorbs the heat and rests on the surface of the skin. Once the sweat evaporates, it cools the body.

Controlling Factors

Even when you aren’t exercising, your muscles are working constantly, and when muscles work, they produce heat. This heat, logically, increases when we exercise and demand more from our muscles. But more than exertion controls how much we sweat. Gender, age and fitness level all contribute to our sweat patterns, and the environment in which we are exercising plays one of the most powerful roles.

Men tend to sweat more than women and women seem to start to sweat at higher temperatures than men do. Statistically, as people age they seem to sweat less but this could be because of declining fitness levels. The more trained your body is, the fitter you are, the more efficiently it will process heat and you will sweat less.

When the air around you is cooler than your body, you radiate heat through your skin into the air. Conduction is the direct transfer of heat from contact, like when you swim in cold water. Convection is a reaction to cold air passing over your skin. Evaporation, from sweat, is perfectly suited for when the air around you is hotter than your internal temperature.

Confusion arises, though, when that hot air is also humid. In that case, sweat can’t evaporate and will just collect on the skin until it starts to drip, making it look like you’re sweating excessively.

Warnings

If you are dripping with sweat, it’s a signal that your body isn’t cooling down effectively, and that you could be in danger of overheating. To help sweat serve its purpose properly, avoid exercising in extreme heat and humidity.

Certain forms of exercise, such as Bikram yoga, are specifically performed in hot, humid environments, though. If you partake in these forms of exercise, where the point is to work up an intense sweat, make sure to stay hydrated with electrolyte-enriched drinks.

Be careful to stay properly hydrated no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing. The typical recommendations for hydration are one to two cups of water two hours before exercising, a half cup to a cup during and two and a half  cups in the half hour following exercise. Your individual hydration needs will be different, so listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty.

Whew! Wipe your brow. So although sweat isn’t necessarily an accurate measurement of your workout’s intensity, it does play an important role in keeping your body healthy. Just don’t forget your sweat towel.

Sources

http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/3598/1/If-You-Dont-Sweat-During-Exercise-Is-It-A-Waste-Of-Time.html

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/information/anatomy/how-sweat-works2.htm


Using the Training Calendar on the Touch Console

One of the cool training tools you’ll discover on the new Vision Fitness® Touch console is the training calendar. For many, starting a fitness routine is not the difficult part; most often it is maintaining your program that is the challenge.

Why? Typically, it has to do with personal motivation (or lack thereof) and not being able to see results. If you can’t see your initial progress, it can be discouraging and cause you to give up on your program. The Vision training calendar is an easy to use tool designed to keep you motivated and allow you to see your progress.

Using your own personal user profile, the Touch console will keep track of various pieces of information that are important to you and will motivate you to keep going. Here is a quick guide to getting started with your calendar. Please note that you will need to create your own USER PROFILE to fully engage in the benefits of the workout calendar.

  1. From the home screen, press USER INFO and select a user from the list on the left. (The calendar can track as many as five users.)
  2. Now press the CALENDAR BUTTON on the right.
  3. SAVED WORKOUTS will be displayed by an asterisk (*) on the day they were saved.
  4. Press the * to select that day. A WORKOUT SUMMARY window will appear to the right of the CALENDAR. Press START to begin using the selected SAVED WORKOUT again.
    • Use the arrow keys (< January >) at the top of the workout calendar to scroll between months.
    • You can view the workout summary for each day and each week by touching the number of the week shown on the left-hand side of the calendar (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
    • If there is more than one workout, this will be indicated by arrow keys and the number of workouts (< 1 of 3 >) at the top of the workout summary. Use the arrow keys to scroll between the workouts.
    • The WORKOUT SUMMARY shows you the date and time of day of the workout, distance, time, pace and calories burned. To view a detailed summary, simply touch the WORKOUT SUMMARY box. On this screen you will find your workout averages (labeled WORKOUT DATA) and individual STAGE averages.

So where does the motivation come into play? Your motivation kicks in when you compare current results to past results and see improvement! You can choose to view your results on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. Now THAT’S motivation!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an avid fitness buff, the training calendar is designed to keep track of your personal information and show you the path to your own success.


Show your treadmill you mean business: The best stretches for runners

Although we all know it’s a good idea to mix flexibility training in with our cardio workouts, many runners are in the dark about how to get the most from their stretching sessions. Physical benefits of a consistent stretching routine include improved performance, reduced injury and muscle soreness and a better transition to post-workout activities. Stretching also offers psychological benefits, allowing you to prepare for the workout ahead or bask in the improved psychological well-being that comes from completing a good workout. If your current routine is limited to a few halfhearted quad stretches before your morning run, it’s time to rework your approach to flexibility training.

Flexibility work can be divided into pre-run and post-run. The best way to warm up prior to your run is to begin at a slower pace and to add in a few dynamic movements for areas that have been especially tight or prone to injury. In practice, this might mean starting with a walk or slow jog for five minutes, then completing a few stretches for your hip flexors and calves through some simple lunges and long stepping movements before continuing with the remainder of your run. Check out this link for a more detailed pre-run, dynamic stretching routine. (Hint, there are also some great static stretches here for afterwards.) If you don’t currently stretch before your runs and you’re not experiencing an injury or excessive tightness, there is no benefit to stretching prior to your run. In fact, some recent research has shown that stretching before a run does not appear to reduce injury at all, and there is always some risk of injury involved in starting any new routine.

Post-run stretching is the best time to work on improvements in flexibility. If your schedule permits, this can be a great time to enjoy a yoga or Pilates session for runners, but you can also gain benefits from as little as five minutes of targeted stretching. Your muscles are warm, so you’re less likely to injure yourself during your stretch and more likely to challenge the flexibility of your muscles. This approach also gives you a chance to target areas of your body that get especially sore after your workout, such as calves, quads, glutes and hamstrings.

Your post-run stretching routine should utilize more traditional “static” stretches, focusing on one muscle and holding a gentle stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds, up to 60 seconds. Avoid bouncing in and out of the stretch, and consider repeating the stretch gently once or twice instead to get even greater benefits to your flexibility. You should also avoid stretching to the point that you feel pain or feel the muscle begin to tighten up. A good stretching routine is highly individual, but areas that tend to need a little attention for runners include: glutes, hip abductors, hip adductors, hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, quadriceps and the IT band. For a good stretching routine targeting all of these areas, click on the link given earlier in this article. Foam rolling can also be a great post-run routine. Check out my last post for more info on that. With a little care, you’ll find that the five minutes of stretching at the end of your workout are your favorite of the day.

Weigh In: Are you a runner or walker with a regular stretching routine? What works for you?


8 Ideas to get fit on the cheap

A few years ago, I realized I was spending a good chunk of my income on fitness. Between my gym membership, regular classes at the hippest yoga studio in town, running a few races per month, and the stylish clothes I “needed” to participate in these activities, it was getting out of hand.

So I reined in my spending and learned an important lesson in the process: you can get and stay fit without breaking the bank. Here’s how:

1. Invest in the basics. Buy a couple of pairs of handheld weights, a jump rope and a fitness ball. These affordable equipment staples may cost you less than your gym membership this month.

2. But don’t buy what you won’t use. If you’re not into weight-lifting, it’s probably not a good idea to buy a kettle bell set. Likewise, don’t join the state-of-the-art health club with all the perks if you just plan on using the elliptical trainers. Only spend your hard earned money on products you’ll use.

3. Find affordable alternatives. As much as I enjoy practicing yoga in a studio, it was not ideal for my budget. I was taking three classes per week, at $16 a pop. This added up to $200 per month! Now I follow yoga DVDs instead. I buy them when they’re on sale, swap DVDs with friends and order them through my Netflix membership. This approach saves me so much money that I’m able to practice in the studio from time to time without feeling guilty about the cost.

4. Hit the great outdoors. Walking and running are some of the cheapest forms of activity. Just invest in a good pair of athletic shoes, find a safe route and you’re set. Nature lovers, take a trip to a national park and spend the day hiking and taking in the scenery. You’ll only need to spend a few dollars to use the trails.

5. Channel your inner child. What activities did you enjoy as a kid? Basketball, tennis, inline skating? Most of these sports require minimal equipment. It’s not too late — or too expensive — to take up these activities again.

6. Join a group. Running and cycling clubs and intramural kickball and softball leagues are a fun way to get fit and be social. Through these groups, your practice sessions, games and/ or routes will be planned for you. Most of these organizations just require a small seasonal membership fee.

7. Use online resources. Thanks to fitness websites, blogs and videos, great workouts and training plans are literally right at your fingertips. Many of these resources are free of charge.

8. Think long-term. Buying a piece of fitness equipment may seem like a high expense. However, look at it as a long-term investment in your health. Quality equipment lasts years and you can get an affordable treadmill for less than a one-year membership at most gyms.

How do you save money on fitness? My favorite workout is a 4-mile run around my neighborhood followed by jumping jacks and push-ups. I work up a sweat without spending a dime!

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/HQ00694_D/NSECTIONGROUP=2

http://www.wisebread.com/frugal-fitness-twenty-five-and-a-half-ways-to-make-it-happen

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/on-fitness/2009/03/20/how-to-get-a-cheap-workout-8-ideas-for-building-a-100-home-gym


Ask an expert: Half marathon training questions answered

Ask Coach Jenny

Three Great Half Marathon Questions from Heidi: Cross-training, Long Runs and Nutrition

 Q: I am training for a half marathon and in my training there is one day of cross-training and one day of rest every week. Is it okay to run two days in a row or should I look at spacing out the day of rest and cross-training so I run in between?

A: Running back to back days is okay. However, if you are new to running or to the half marathon distance, running every other day will allow more time to recover and therefore allow you to run stronger in every running workout. It also depends on the age of the runner, as many 40+ year old runners perform their best on 3-4 runs per week and focus on quality over quantity. This is also the case for runners who struggle with recurring aches, pains and injuries. Cross-training, especially when it is low impact (elliptical, cycling) is a form of active rest for your running muscles and a fantastic tool for making it healthfully to the finish line.

Q: My training plan calls for three shorter runs, one speed or hill workout, one cross-training workout, one long run and a rest day per week. What is the best day to fit my long run in? After my day of rest? After a day of speed work? 

 A: Although the long run is run at an easy, conversational effort, due to the progressive distance, it is considered a hard run on the body. When you train at harder efforts during the speed/hill and long run workouts, it is optimal to follow up with rest or cross-training to allow the body to adapt and grow stronger.

Here is one example of how you could plan your training week:

Monday:  Short Run

Tuesday: Speed/Hill Workout

Wednesday:  Cross-Training

Thursday:  Short Run

Friday:  Short Run or Cross-Training

Saturday: Long Run

Sunday: Rest

A great time for the long run is on a day when you can invest the time to get it in and recover. For many runners, this is the weekend. It is also best to space the hard workouts a few days apart to assure recovery. The key truly is to develop a recipe that works for your body. If you find your energy levels fading, you’re developing aches and pains or just not feeling strong for more than a few days, you may need to tweak your program to match the flow of your life. For instance, if this is new for your body, you may recover faster by replacing one short run with a low-impact cross-training session. That can boost motivation, alleviate burnout and decrease the impact on your body – allowing it to adapt to the demands of the long and hard effort workouts.

 Q:  If I am training for a half marathon – what are the best supplements for me to take to get the most out of my runs and which ones are best for my body?

A: Nutrition plays a vital role in your overall life performance, not just on your runs. A good place to start is by taking a personal inventory of your fuel. That is, plug in what you eat on a daily basis for a week to evaluate the types of foods (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and the quality in terms of nutrients. Making sure to consume a balanced diet with clean foods is the first step in making sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Clean food refers to foods with a short list of ingredients (5 or less) that are natural in their essence – fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (including legumes, turkey and lean beef) and whole grains (brown rice, qunoa).

From there, taking a gender-specific multivitamin can be used to complement that part of your diet. It is common for endurance runners to have low iron, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. It is best to talk this through with a doctor, as taking too much of one vitamin can upset the balance in your system and create other issues. If you want to take it to next level, get tested to identify exactly what you need. It may cost a little up front, but you’ll know where your weak spots are and can make changes in your diet and supplements to create balance.

Hopefully these tips can keep you heading in the right direction in this complex game of race training. It’s great that you’re focusing on optimizing your workouts and nutrition. It will make you a stronger runner, not only in this race, but for life. Good luck in your training, Heidi.


Turn over a new leaf with fall resolutions

Fall has always symbolized a new start for me and many parents sending kids back to school. It’s been the time of year to shop for new clothes and school supplies; to start going to bed a little earlier as the sun sets sooner, and to plan for the months ahead.

The crispness in the air invigorates and inspires me. It’s a perfect time to make changes as we hit the ground running after a lazy summer. And it seems like a better time to tackle the world — or at least our own imperfections — than waiting till January 1 and the dead of winter when all you feel like doing is hibernating and drinking hot tea!

But I’m not talking about making resolutions that you can’t keep — lose 10 pounds, organize the house, etc. When goals are too big, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

Fall resolutions, on the other hand, can be realistic goals you hope and plan to accomplish, even if it’s just one modest step at a time. And if you haven’t reached any by New Year’s Day, there’s a second chance to make that list!

So here are some of my resolutions/goals for the rest of the year to keep me happy, healthy and sane. Will you join me?

1. Help the environment more by reducing, reusing, recycling. I’m already pretty good at this, but I think it’s a great idea to try to discard as little as possible. I bring my used batteries and ink cartridges to Staples for recycling. I drop off my husband’s old socks and t-shirts at the church around the corner for the homeless. I bring books to the library for their book sales.

2. Try something new. I often walk around a farmer’s market eyeing the vegetables I don’t know, but somehow I still seem to head for the tried and true. For my fall resolution, I vow to try a strange new vegetable. Who knows? I may have a new fave to add to my repertoire and liven up my cooking and my health.

3.  Start meditating a little each day. I’ve heard it does wonders to step off the merry-go-round of life for just 10 minutes when you are at your wits’ end…or even better, before you get there. According to Stephan Bodian, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Meditation For Dummies, meditation lowers stress, increases energy and creativity, reduces pain and helps create more loving relationships. Sounds good to me!

4. Move more. I try to exercise frequently, but I still wait for the elevator. No more. Unless I’m carrying heavy items, I’m taking the stairs. Did you know how much electricity you can save this way, never mind the calories you burn?

5. Take smaller bites. And I don’t mean of food. We all get overwhelmed by too big a plan, so I’m going to start small. I’m going to clear out one drawer at a time, not tackle a whole room. It’s all part of having a well organized life; take it one step at a time and it will add up.

6. Do something for myself every day.  After 23 years of parenting, both of my kids are on their own. Now that my daily duties are cut drastically, I should have more time for myself. So this fall I will allow myself the time to play Words With Friends without feeling guilty; to watch a reality TV show or to window shop. I deserve it. We all deserve it.

7. Do it now!  And I mean everything. Don’t put off anything from a doctor’s appointment to calling an old friend. Waiting can never help, but it can hurt you with missed opportunities or worse. I’ve learned this the hard way, yet I am still putting things off. I’m going to try to be better….I promise.

What goals have you set for yourself for the rest of the year? Let us know if you are able to keep them.


7 Helpful Tips to Consider When Purchasing Cardio Fitness Equipment

Choosing the right piece of fitness equipment can seem very daunting these days for the average consumer. The Internet is flooded with information, and there are so many choices. The truth is, there are many good options out there. However, there is a lot of misinformation as well. Here are a few tips to help you wade through the overload of choices and information to choose the best cardio fitness equipment for your home gym.

1) Where to Buy

There are essentially three places to purchase a piece of exercise equipment: online retailers, big-box retailers and specialty retailers.

Online Retailers

Online retailers are convenient and may offer a good price. However, there are numerous concerns and potential hassles with buying a piece of fitness equipment online. These include shipping damage, assembly issues and lack of service support, among others. I strongly suggest that you test drive any product at a retailer before making any online fitness purchase. It’s very easy to make something look good on a website or TV (i.e., your typical infomercial), but the final product may not be what you initially thought. Not taking this step of trying a product out in advance can lead to disappointment.

Big-Box Retailers

These retailers typically offer a selection of fitness equipment that is very feature-heavy with varying levels of quality. Usually the products found here stress style and features over quality and durability. The depth and breadth of fitness or exercise equipment knowledge can vary widely among the staff. Don’t expect much on the service side either, as some stores do not have a dedicated service staff, which means you will likely be calling an 800 number if you have problems.

Specialty Retailers

They will typically carry products that stress quality and durability over features and fluff. Many specialty retailers have staff that have a background in fitness and are trained by factory representatives on all the key details of the products they carry. Plus, they’re a reliable source to contact if you have any questions or equipment troubles after the purchase. Many offer assembly and delivery to your home. Overall, you can expect a higher level of service after the sale and their prices can be very competitive.

2) Why are you buying cardio equipment?

Things to consider when selecting which piece of equipment will work best for you:

Why are you purchasing it? Are you purchasing this equipment to train for a marathon, and do you need a place to work out safely in inclement weather? Are you looking to rehabilitate from an injury, heart attack or surgery? Or maybe you’re just trying to get serious about your fitness or your family’s fitness? What do you hope to accomplish with the purchase of this machine?

Who will be using it? Are you the sole user? Will it be a piece of equipment used by the entire family?

Where are you putting it? Will it be need to be stored away, or will it be a permanent fixture?

With these things in mind, take a look at the deck length, motor size, folding and non-folding options, program options, etc.  However, don’t get too caught up in comparing the specs of one manufacturer to another because:

3) It’s not necessarily about the specs!

If you plan on buying a treadmill, for example, based only on how big the motor size is versus the other guy, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Different brands and different manufacturers have different philosophies on how to build treadmills. A bigger motor is not necessarily a better motor. A longer deck with a fan and speakers doesn’t mean your treadmill is a better value than one without.

Specialty brands typically will use higher-quality motors that run cooler and more efficiently than models or brands you find at a big-box store. They use thicker, higher- quality decks, better belts and larger, higher-quality rollers. There is less plastic and more steel for a sturdier feel. Get the idea?

Similarly, exercise bikes and elliptical trainers have a variety of flywheel weights, but it’s important to also consider the gear ratio. The faster the flywheel spins, the smoother the ride. With either, it’s also important to consider the feel of the machine, whether it be pedal spacing or seat comfort.

Just remember to ask yourself if you want a product that is loaded up on the specification sheet, or a product that doesn’t sacrifice durability and performance in order to look good on paper. Make sure you see the products in person and talk to a knowledgeable fitness consultant before making your choice.

4) Long Warranty = Best product???

Consider the car industry. The best cars don’t necessarily carry the best warranties, do they? Warranty in the fitness industry can be used for a few reasons:

  1. To maintain market share due to lack of innovation.
  2. To BUY market share because the company or product has not been around very long or they are battling another competitor.
  3. Or they simply make a very good product and are willing to back it up.

My suggestion is to be careful buying a cardio machine based only on the warranty. You may get a long warranty but an outdated product. Also, be aware that the warranty is only good if the company is in business, so be sure to check the history of the manufacturer you are considering to make sure they have a track record and have a good chance be around long enough to honor that warranty.

5) What a great deal

We all love a good deal, but if you think you are getting a “Great Deal,” you should be aware that it is commonplace for many online treadmill brands and big-box fitness equipment brands to inflate MSRP to give you the appearance of a “Great Deal.” The reality is the treadmill that is priced at $1,000 off online or in the Sunday ads of the local newspaper is likely $1,000 off almost every day of the year. That high MSRP and huge discount do not mean the product is not a good product – just understand you are not necessarily getting a great deal.

6) Do your research

However, make sure you understand that those “reviews” you are seeing on the Internet are likely marketing sites that get paid to tell you how great a product is. Many of these sites have disclaimers hidden on the site, which will disclose how that site makes money. It may be a situation where the manufacturers for the products they are promoting pay them commission or fees to promote them. So it is in your best interest to be skeptical. Visit the manufacturer’s website, and visit your local retailer to try out the products and ask questions.

7) Put it in perspective

There are too many customers that don’t put things in perspective when purchasing exercise equipment. Exercising regularly has the ability to improve every aspect of your life, but too many people want to put a $500 price tag on it. Purchasing a piece of exercise equipment is an investment in yourself and your health. There is nothing more valuable than that. If you spend X amount on a treadmill or an elliptical, but it lasts you 10 years, you essentially have invested how much per day? How much do you spend a day on coffee? How much money do you spend on your cell phone bill per month? If you don’t look at the overall picture and try to buy the cheapest product, you are likely to be very disappointed and probably are not going to achieve your goals.

Keep these seven tips in mind the next time you’re looking to add some fitness equipment to your home gym.


Shin splints: Causes, prevention and treatment

Shin splints are one of the most frustrating things a runner will ever encounter. And chances are, most runners will deal with them at one point or another. In fact, shin splints make up more than 13 percent of all injuries suffered by runners.

Since this condition is so common, it makes sense to prepare yourself for it by learning how to prevent, identify and treat shin splints.

Causes and Symptoms

Shin splints, known in the medical community as tibial stress syndrome, are not a condition in and of themselves but are generally just a symptom of some other underlying problem. Since, like all pains, shin splints can be a signal that something else is going on, it’s important to know whether or not what you’re dealing with is indeed shin splints.

The pain we call shin splints is a dull, throbbing ache in the front of the lower leg. This can manifest during or after exercise, either along the edges of the shin bone or deeper in the muscle. In some cases, the pain is constant but the area can also be more sensitive to touch. As with any persistent pain, you should get your doctor’s opinion on the best course of treatment.

 

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A medical professional’s input is especially important in shin splints because they can be a symptom of stress fractures. These tiny, hairline breaks in the bone can happen without your knowledge and require medical attention so that your bone heals properly.

Over-pronation, an incorrect stride associated with flat feet, can also cause shin splints. In these cases, the natural arch in the soles of your feet are pressed flat when from the impact of each step. This stretches the muscles and tendons in an unhealthy and unnatural way that will lead to tibial stress. Many people have flexible flat feet and don’t realize it until they run on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt.

The most common cause of shin splints, though, is overuse. Working your lower legs too hard or too often will cause the muscles to swell and become irritated. Of course, what is too hard or too often will depend on your fitness level and may take some experimentation at first.

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and shin splints are no exception to this rule. Even when the pain is minor, shin splints can potentially keep you from running for weeks and slow you down even once you start your training again. Fortunately, preventing shin splints is pretty simple.

Before you even hit the road, the first thing you need to do is select your perfect running shoes. These shoes will have good padding and promote a healthy stride, with a mid-foot strike.

Be warned: too much padding is very possible. If the soles of your shoes are overly-thick, it will be more tempting for you to adopt a heel-strike and several other bad habits. You want to land on the middle of your foot and roll forward to the balls of your feet. Also, consider investing in arch-support inserts if you have flat feet. Even once you have your ideal shoes, avoid running on inflexible surfaces that can wreak havoc on your arches.

Once all your footwear is in order, you’re almost ready to run. First, don’t forget to stretch and warm-up. These are often neglected aspects of runners’ training, generally left out to save time. All it takes, though, is a 5 to 10 minute warm-up, including a few stretches before and after, to help prevent shin splints.

Finally, don’t overdo it. Runners, and athletes in general, have a habit of pushing through pain, but this could just cause more injury and keep you down for longer periods of time. If you feel pain during your workout, stop running.

Treatment

If, despite your best efforts, you have shin splints, the best possible treatment, regardless of the underlying cause, is something terrifying to all athletes: Rest.

Your body will act to repair the damage on its own if you give it the chance. One of the most productive things you can do is work to lessen the inflammation. Ice your shins for 20 minutes every three hours until the pain goes away. Aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory painkillers can also help, but should only be taken regularly under a doctor’s direction.

Once the pain subsides and you decide to brave another run, start slowly. Don’t try to pick up your training right where you left off. Start with slow jogs and listen to your body for any signals. Your legs will tell you how much they can take.

For more serious and persistent cases, your doctor may recommend physical therapy and mobility exercises.

Have you struggled with and overcome shin splints? Please share your tips with us in the comments!

Sources

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/shin-splints

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shin-splints/DS00271