I know that it is important to get aerobic exercise a few times each week, but I’ve avoided getting an exercise machine because I figured the best thing for me and the dogs is to take the dogs for a walk. I think dogs can be overwalked and that is one reason Austin started getting pretty stiff legged, but when we cut back from 2 miles to 1 mile, he started doing a lot better (I was thinking he might need the same surgery Katie got, but never went through with it). Now with Katie ailing, we are lucky to get a mile, even though we probably spend more time out. So the intensity of our walks, which wasn’t great to begin with, is very low.
I really don’t like running and when I have run regularly in the past I would actually start to ache while putting my shoes on. And I’d procrastinate all night. It was terrible. So I thought an exercise machine might be good, but they are expensive and the cheaper ones maybe aren’t that great. I still have an old Nordic Track cross-country ski machine that I never thought was that good, partly because I bought the cheapest one they had. You don’t hear much about Nordic Tracks anymore. Instead it is all treadmills and elliptical trainers. Well, a treadmill is just running, so I wasn’t crazy about that. Elliptical trainers are lower impact and supposed to be better for your joints, so that seemed like a good way to go. I thought it would be good to get a used elliptical trainer that someone had bought and never used. But it wasn’t like I was pursuing this.
On our local online bulletin board someone said they were looking to sell their elliptical trainer. It was a Spirit EX 550, which came out around 2006 and sold for $1700. It got some good reviews at the time as the best in its class (which is about mid-range for home use; some of these things are $3,000). I found some online classifieds where they were asking $400-$700 for used ones of this same model. Since the local ad was for best offer, I said I was interested for about $300. The person said that sounded pretty good and I could come look at it. This couple had gotten it from a friend who had moved, so it was already second hand (the electronic odometer says it has 204 miles on it, 74 hours of use). And I think they used it a good bit at first but had a new baby and needed some more room. This thing is giant: 6½ feet long by 5½ feet tall and you are least 15 inches higher when you stand on it (which put my head right about fan blade height when I first set it up). It is very heavy duty which means it weights a lot, about 200 pounds. It took me, the guy who sold it, and one Estonian to get it into the house, but once in the house it has wheels on the front. One neat feature is it comes with a chest strap that monitors your heart rate. You can also grab onto some posts that are supposed to measure your heart rate, but if you do that you can’t grab the moving ski poles that you can use to get some upper body exercise (not sure I want to do that, since that movement is a little weird). They said they didn’t have the chest strap, which I think is probably okay anyway because it would probably get pretty sweaty and disgusting. I think I can buy a new one for $40, which I might do as a reward if I actually use this thing. It is wireless and communicates with the machine using Bluetooth (and might work better than the hand holds which indicate my heart rate going down instead of up).
It doesn’t really do much. You just get on it and move your feet in circles, kind of like walking or climbing stairs. You can set up different resistance or choose different programs that change the resistance over time. I found the manual for it online and read through that and the control panel is kind of complicated, but it gave me a decent understanding of how the meter and programming work. You enter your age and weight, which it uses to figure out the ideal heart rate (and maybe resistance?), but you can also enter in the level of resistance. It asked me what level I wanted and the default was 12, but I chose 15 thinking that 12 was for a light workout. I was on the “cardio” program which starts out easy then gets hard, lets off a little, gets hard again, and eventually tapers off. You can stretch the program to as long as you want, so I chose 20 minutes.
It starts out fine, just like walking, maybe like walking up steps because there is some resistance. Then as each minute ticked off, it got harder. After three minutes it was pretty hard, and after that minute it went to maximum, which was just ridiculous. I could barely push the pedals down. Then I had to stop. I reduced the maximum level back down to 12 a little later and did another 4 or 5 minutes and was beat again. I’m in terrible shape.
The next day, I was able to do about 8 minutes all at once, stopping at the 0.5 mile point. I remember when Dad first started jogging and he couldn’t run up to the top of our street. Then he worked his way up to running up to the school and back which was only a half mile. That’s about where I am.