Buying Home Cardio Equipment:
Where To Shop and What To Ask
© Joan Price. May not be reprinted without permission.
You were going to the gym to work out, not to wait for your favorite cardio machine. If you're a busy person, the last thing you need is to waste your precious minutes of workout time waiting for fellow enthusiasts to vacate your favorite treadmill or stair machine. Buying your own quality cardio equipment is a financial investment, but it pays off in time and convenience--no wait, no driving, no scheduling, no hassles.
Today's technology not only gives you a biomechanically engineered piece of equipment built to last, the better models perform amazing feats. Whether you're biking, running, walking or stepping, most cardio machines have built-in programs so you can do hills and intervals. Some machines come equipped with a wireless chest-strap heart monitor which reads your heart rate and adapts your workout to keep you in your target range, easing up when your heart rate goes too high, and adding speed or incline if you're too low. Some let you create customize programs, with exactly the speed, intensity, variety and resistance that you want. A few do everything but sing to you and wash your socks.
These bells and whistles may make the difference between a workout that is terminally bor-r-r-ring and one that motivates you to come back day after day, but they'll also raise the price. If they'll get you to stick with your workout program, they're worth the extra expense. But if you don't care about these features, you'll pay far less for comparable equipment.
While you don't have to buy top of the line, do shop at exercise-equipment specialty stores. You won't be happy or motivated with the cheap machines you'll find in sporting goods or department stores. They're flimsy, noisy, uncomfortable and often too easy for a fit exerciser. The salespeople are not trained about the nuances or even the bare essentials of the equipment; often they don't have the vaguest idea what a good machine looks, feels or sounds like, or what's inside.
For example, I asked a department store salesperson if a cheap treadmill which proclaimed "2.5 hp motor!" was "peak" or "continuous duty." ("Peak" horsepower is a meaningless, deceptive term used to sell inferior equipment--it indicates the machine's maximum horsepower. "Continuous duty" is the power of the machine use after use, day after day--the meaningful figure.) My salesperson stared blankly for a moment, then answered, "continuous duty." When I told him that was impossible for a treadmill of that size and price, he confessed, "I don't know anything about that. I never heard of those terms."
Exercise-equipment specialty stores, on the other hand, have knowledgeable salespeople who make it their business to know the machines inside and out. They can help you choose a machine that will please you and keep you exercising.
The bottom line: Don't buy it before you try it. Allow plenty of time, wear workout clothes, carry a towel and water bottle, and become your own personal tester. Ultimately, you are the judge of what machine fits you, suits you, works you out the way you like, and motivates you to hop on and keep going.