February 12, 2013

Hit The (Home) Gym!

Row, ride, run or simply sit (actively) – you can do it all in the privacy of your own home.


It’s mid-February and you have a major case of the blahs. That 10 pounds you put on over Christmas is not melting away like a freak Vancouver snowfall that turns to rain. Yes, you purchased a community centre membership but all the equipment is being used both before and after work by dozens, okay, let’s make that hundreds, of others who have made similar resolutions. What’s the answer? Well, you could install a gym of your own. Exercise machine companies recognize that space inside a home or apartment is often at a premium, and given the choice, homeowners will convert that spare bedroom into a media den or “man-cave” as opposed to your own personal sweat lodge.

To accommodate lack of space, many popular machines – from rowing machines to exercise bikes to elliptical trainers to running treadmills – come in stationary and folding models. Whether you’re working out at a community centre, Y, or at home, one basic maxim holds: the hardest step to take is the first one. From low to high tech, here are some home-gym options.

Nordic Track: Now entering its 34th year with very few changes – including the sturdy mid-western oak frame and smooth-action patented flywheel, the Nordic Track Classic Pro mimics the stride-and-glide of cross-country skiing. (Fact: Nordic Track was also one of the first companies to sell its products via TV infomercials.) The adjustable, independent resistance controls for the arms and legs let you vary the intensity of upper- and lower-body workouts. In a nod to contemporary exercise machines, the Nordic Track now comes equipped with a LED-computerized display that measures time, distance, calories burned, and heart rate. Stows away easily when not in use.

Suggested model: Nordic Track Classic Pro – $999 (mail order only).


Bike rollers: Stationary bikes are usually the first stop for people trying to lose weight and get into shape, but experienced cyclists utilize training rollers for that true-road feel. Unlike more popular wind trainers (which clamp your bike onto a resistance flywheel) rollers are tricky to use – the balance required to keep the bike upright is, well, almost like learning how to ride a bike all over again. Don’t don the headphones until you can comfortably ride with one hand on the handlebars.

Suggested model: CycleOps Aluminum Rollers – $329.


Elliptical trainer: The elliptical trainer is standard equipment at most gyms and it’s easy to see why. Similar to Nordic Track, elliptical trainers work both the upper and lower body, though instead of striding as you would on a Nordic Track, ellipticals utilize foot pedals which mimic climbing up and down stairs – but without the wear and tear you would get on your muscles and joints. You can spend upwards of $6,000 on a Cadillac-style elliptical, more than $2,000 and you’re paying for bells and whistles such as more advanced data capture, more durable fittings and mechanisms than you’d find on a cheaper product.

Suggested model: Precor 5.37 Home EFX – $3,988.


Treadmill: How ironic that we refer to being on a treadmill at work and then, at the end of the day, sprint off to the closest gym (or go home) to actually run on a real treadmill. The reasons for purchasing a treadmill are threefold – you won’t be able to use crummy weather as an excuse for not going, you can adjust the speed of the treadmill to accommodate your level of activity – more advanced machines have a built-in incline feature that mimics running up hills – and, perhaps most important, the bouncy, forgiving track is much easier than pounding the pavement.

Suggested model: Power First T1600.3 folding treadmill – $1,388.


Exercise balls/Bosu Balls: You likely work with someone who sits on these oversized beach balls in order to “engage the core” while they are moving between computer and smartphone, believing that they are getting in a workout by partaking in something called “active sitting.” Truth is, a well-made (meaning thick rubber) exercise ball and some free weights can provide an enormous number of balance and strength-training exercises. Made of the same tough rubber, a Bosu (short for “both sides up”) ball looks like an exercise ball that has been cut in half. It sounds easier than it is – try to stand on it while doing exercises like leg raises and yoga positions in order to increase the level of difficulty.

Suggested model: Fitter Exercise Ball – $35 to $50 (depending on size). Fitter Bosu Ball – $139.95.


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