The elliptical is a great cardio option for most people. It is a low-impact activity that is not only easy on the joints but also easy to use. I only have one issue when it comes to the elliptical: Most people don't use them correctly!
It never fails. No matter where I am in the world, I always see them. They walk in to the gym, grab the remote, put their favorite TV show on and start happily peddling away on the elliptical. And then there's me – huffing, puffing and sweating my butt off while running intervals on the treadmill. When I am doing my workouts, there is no way I'd be able to leisurely watch TV for an hour!
Actually, because my cardio is high-intensity, I only do about 20 to 30 minutes before I cool down and head over to the weights. Almost 100 percent of the time, after I am done with my full-body workout, I'll look over at the elliptical and there they are, still peddling away without one bead of sweat on their brows!
[Read: How to Sweat With Soul.]
Another type of elliptical user not only watches TV but also chats to the person nearby or talks on the phone. Some people do all three of these things at once! If it isn't clear to you yet, seeing people "work out" in this way is a pet peeve of mine. When it comes to working out, my philosophy is quality, not quantity.
I just want to walk up to them and say: "You have made the commitment to come to the gym, and I commend you for that – but now you have to make it count!" Since I can't tell them, I will just have to tell you! Make sure your workouts count and that you are not wasting your time!
[See: 4 Exercises Trainers Hate.]
The unfortunate thing is these people are all using the elliptical to get a cardio workout. The truth is they'll never see results working out in this way. Don't get me wrong, some exercise is better than no exercise but the fact remains: These people are not making their workouts count!
Be Fully Engaged
If you want to make sure your workouts really count, no watching TV, flipping channels, reading books or magazines, chatting on the phone, surfing the Web or having long conversations with the person next to you.
To get the most bang for your workout buck, you have to be focused on the exercise you are doing. If you are not fully engaged, you will not work out to the best of your ability. The second you start to tune out, your legs will start to slow down. You might even notice the elliptical pause or turn off. Not good!
Use the Resistance
Another common mistake people make is not bumping up the resistance. What I have noticed is people like to peddle the elliptical really, really fast. I imagine most people believe the faster they move their legs, the better their workout will be. With other exercises, this might be true – but not on the elliptical.
[Read: Why You Should Try Tabata Training.]
The rotating mechanism used in ellipticals is a flywheel. This means it can use momentum to spin itself around. With the elliptical, fast feet equals lots of momentum. This means your muscles don't have to work very hard to move the peddles around. When you bump up the resistance, your arms and legs have to work harder to keep the elliptical moving.
Some ellipticals also allow you to adjust the incline. This is another great option for increasing the intensity. If you can bump up both the incline and the resistance, even better!
If you make these few small changes to your elliptical workouts, I guarantee you will burn more fat and calories, and you will also see greater improvements in your fitness level.
The important piece to remember here is your exercise should be hard! So how do you know if it is too easy? If you can have a full conversation, read a book, flip channels on the TV or text and email on your phone, you are not working out hard enough!
[Read: How to Run With Good Form.]
When I am at the gym busting out my intervals, I hope and pray nobody comes up to talk to me! There is no way I'd be able to talk back! It also breaks my focus. Being in the "zone" is important for getting the most out of your workouts. If working out this hard doesn't sound appealing to you, maybe this next bit will.
If you increase your intensity, you can work out for a shorter period of time! Working out for an hour or two simply isn't possible at high intensities. The good thing is that you don't need any more than 20 to 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio to see improvements.
The elliptical is a great machine but it is often used incorrectly. If you remember to stay focused and increase your resistance, you will have more results in less time.
Doesn't really get better than that, does it?
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Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN is a registered holistic nutritionist, fitness expert and highly sought-after high-performance health coach. He's also a former professional soccer player and served as the head strength and conditioning and nutrition coach for men's soccer at the University of Toronto for seven seasons. For more than 13 years, he's empowered more than 86,000 people to greater health with his no-nonsense approach to health, fitness, and nutrition. He's made it his mission to empower at least 10 million people to greater health and fitness by 2018. Get Yuri's free "Y-Factor" at www.yurielkaim.com.