At the cardio machines, sometimes you see folks clinging on the hand bar during workouts.
- At the stepper, they hold on to the handrails by the side so that the arms end up supporting most of their body weights.
- At the treadmill, they put the treadmill on an incline (uphill) but hold on to the support with dear life (the moment they release, they’ll probably fall backwards)
- At the elliptical machine, their legs are the ones doing all the movement. Their hands are on the handle.
These people are found on every gym- doing the workouts, having the calorie burned going up but basically achieving nothing much.
And one such person….. is me. Yes, guilty as charged.
How I cheat on my favourite machine
My favourite machine is the stepper- at first when I tried on it, I could hardly support my weight on the machine. Then, I used my hands to support on the railings. And I felt the machine is built for my height because my hands just supports nicely on the machine without my butt jutting too much out.
I’ve read reviews by sites run by personal trainers on how a person actually cheats doing the exercise by leaning on handrails- at the same time- they are risking injury to the wrist and back. But that never bothered me- at least I am still getting my workouts. And I do have weak knees that I should not strain too much. Furthermore, over time, I am able to increase my effort levels and trying to shift more weight towards my legs- which is an indication of increased endurance level. Heck, I still thought I am throwing in a free workout for my arms.
This went on for months. In fact, it was after using the stepper (with the handrail holding) that I thought my arms, butts and thighs did look firmer. Somehow, I must have done something right because it shrank my tummy size too.
But, I realised later that by doing this, yes, I do get results but it will mean stretching my cardio sessions longer. Or else, it will take longer for results to show. And 2 months ago, when I started developing chest muscle pain that shot up all the way to my armpits, it had me rethink if the shortcut is worth it.
No more cheating
So I decided to stop all shortcuts once and for all.
- When I go for the treadmill, I walked up the incline at a the level that I can maintain without falling backwards. And I do not hold the handrails (I can go up to incline 4.0 at speed 6.1km per hour as opposed by 9.0 at speed 6.3km/hr holding the handrails).
- I do my stepper exercises without leaning against the handrails- instead, I just hold on to the handle at the front lightly for balance. It’s challenging at first because habits are hard to break
- I am doing push ups now for my arms- a few rounds and it’s more effective than leaning my body weight on the railings.
- if I get too tired to do cardio and tempted to cheat, I’ll just get off the machine and do something else instead- stretching, attend a stretching class or strength training for other parts of my body that are not tired. Sometimes, drinking lots of cold water helps ease the muscle tiredness.
- going to gym more frequent instead of squeezing myself dry on every session
Takes discipline at first and the ability to let go of quantity, in exchange for quality. Yes, according to the calorie burner, I am burning less that what I used to.
But you know what, I’ve done this for 2 weeks now: less cardio, more effort every minute. The results? I achieve more in 2 weeks than in 2 months.
I have tried all the points above and I can say that my new strategy works- that’s why I wait for a few weeks before I post this. And my knees, well, since I have taken up core exercises and increased weight training, my knees felt stronger.
Take home message:
Please don’t cheat in your cardio sessions. Especially on machine with meters- because it will give you a false sense of security that you are burning more calories that you actually are. Do it slowly and patiently and you will gradually built your endurance and increase the incline.
This is the lesson I’ve learnt. And by the way, I will also be doing more strength training and core exercises to complement my program.
You mentioned you have weak knees? Is it due to an injury? While workingo n strengthening your knees, it may be useful to know that stepper/jogging type exercises (weight bearing) are generally harder on the knees compared to the elliptical trainer or bicycle (non weight bearing). So you may find that you are able to push yourself harder in these machines.
Thanks for the tips. I am quite addicted to the stepper unfortunately but I will try to use other machines more 🙂