5 Reasons that I Think Treadmill and Elliptical Machine Workouts are a Waste of Time
Plus 10 workout ideas
that I believe are more effective and fun!
Why Big Box Health Club Memberships don’t make you Healthy, Fit or Happy!
I was reading an article the other day and while I agreed with its sentiments, it made me realise that we join gyms to Loose Weight, Meet People and have some Fun. But what actually happens is we join up and are immediately put on a treadmill – everyone can walk right! – and told to warm up before we do our ‘personal’ program.
If you’re lucky a member of the gym team will chat to you while you complete your induction, but soon, very soon, when you arrive you, like all the other members, will get onto your cardio machines, attach your ear phones and watch TV or listen to your iPod and training solo
Now, is it just me, but there seems to be a major mismatch between the reasons members join Health Clubs and what is actually offered to them.
Goal 1 – Lose Weight.
Doing more and eating less = weight loss, yes I hear you say.
Ok, so lets say that’s true. What happens if you keep that programme up? I’ve been training client for 30 years and no-one has faded away yet!
I’ve watched people jog, cycle and row for hours every week with ever decreasing rewards for their efforts as time goes on. If you’re lucky a gym team member will advise you to increase intensity (work harder) or if you’re unlucky they’ll advise longer sessions.
Cardio training has its place – but science has proven that in good studies it’s a really poor way to lose fat!! In fact there are 8 better ways to lose fat than long, slow duration cardio!!
Goal 2 – Make Friends.
I know lots of singles that hoped to meet a partner at the Gym. Sadly you might spot someone, but it’s tricky to get to know them if they’re isolated in their own TV world.
Most gyms don’t have regular social events. And if you’ve ever attended group exercise classes – you’d get withering looks from the Instructors if you dare speak to anyone.
Goal 3 – Have Fun.
Knowing how many and how quickly members stop going to the gym I don’t think there’s a whole lot of fun!
You’ll quickly give up on the promises that ‘This gym is friendly and Fun’. You’ll forget that everywhere else staff talk to their customers and that at your favourite coffee shop they chat, smile and even remember your order!! Of course eventually you’ll remember and that’s when you decide to stop your Direct Debit.
So, here we go-
Treadmill and elliptical training machines a waste of your fat burning time
Now that I’ve upset all of the treadmill and elliptical machine worshipers… let me say that if you really enjoy mindlessly pumping away on a treadmill or elliptical (or exercise bike for that matter too), then by all means, keep doing what you enjoy, because enjoying your exercise is one of the most important aspects to sticking with any exercise program… and I think enjoyment is THE most important factor!!
However, don’t say that I didn’t warn you that you were wasting your time with all that mindless cardio machine boredom.
If I haven’t said it before, I don’t believe in cardio machines, and to be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve personally used a treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike for at least 10 years. As a group exercise instructor I never had to use them for warm ups so don’t look to them for warming up now I’m a certified metabolic fitness coach.
Nowadays, I prefer to do mobility and ATR mixed with bodyweight exercises as the perfect full body warmup at the beginning of my workouts.
So why do I have such hatred for cardio machines?
Well, here are 5 reasons:
1) Treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes are mind-blowingly BOOOORING! Personally, I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing than pedaling my way to nowhere! There are so many more important things to do before any workout, like mental prep, working on postural imbalances, learning new exercises and improving muscle tissue quality.
2) Mindless steady state cardio exercise while watching TV or reading creates a mind / body disconnect resulting in poor results from your exercise routine. Instead of reading a gossip magazine or watching a cheesy reality TV show on the TV screen in front of the cardio machine, a REAL workout consists of actually having your mind engaged strongly in what your body is doing!
3) I’ve seen studies that indicated that treadmill running may be less effective than outdoor running for various reasons such as stride abnormalities on treadmills vs natural running, slightly less caloric burn compared to outdoor running, etc.
…although I never recommend just “jogging” anyway … Instead, variable intensity walks / runs or sprints are so much more effective, training your heart rate in a much wider range instead of just the same pace during the entire workout.
4) Treadmills and ellipticals are ridiculously expensive and a waste of money for people that workout at home… there’s so many better options for home workouts you could have spent your money on rather than wasting it on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical.
The perfect home gym setup is MUCH cheaper… there’s no reason you need anything other than a jump rope, bodyweight exercises, a few dumbbells, stability ball, maybe a few kettlebells (if you want to get fancy), and perhaps high tension bands for some more variety.
5) Treadmills and elliptical machines are just a very ineffective way to workout compared to other options. The metabolic response is much lower compared to the types of workouts ideas that I describe below. Why should you do treadmill or elliptical workouts when you can get better results by doing more interesting forms of training that actually stimulate a fat-burning hormonal response and stimulate your metabolism to a greater extent…
So what are the alternatives to treadmills, exercise bikes, and elliptical trainers? Here are TEN of my favourite types of alternative workouts:
Skipping rope – great mind-body connection – try speed jumping, crossovers, and double jumps once you get skilled at it. An amazing metabolic exercise with one of the cheapest pieces of equipment available. There’s a reason that every world class boxer uses this exercise!
Kettle bell training – nothing will get your heart pounding like high repetition KB swings and snatches or clean & presses (can be done with dumbbells too, but I prefer KBs). Personally, I think one of the most intense body changing exercises ever invented are double kettlebell snatches (snatching both kettlebells at the same time overhead from the floor).
Cardio sprinting (the ultimate exercise for a rock hard ripped body… just look at the chiseled powerful bodies of world class sprinters, and compare that to the weakling withered physique of a typical marathoner… enough said! We do sprint training 2-3 days a week. Short, all out intervals that raise your heart rate, make you breathe hard with very short rest intervals for over 20 minutes total time.
Metabolic Training – Total Body training of 20 – 60 seconds work with short rest intervals repeated for maybe 20-30 minutes.
One Amazing workout.
Rowing Machine – I don’t include this as a “cardio” machine like treadmills and ellipticals… I think the rowing machine is actually a great full body workout that actually uses resistance…
Just like the other classic…
Schwinn Air Dyne bikes – both use air resistance to give you a great intense workout.
The best results come from using variable speeds and really pulling hard to challenge your body.
Sprint style swimming workouts – a more muscular workout than steady state distance swimming… I actually love the upper body pump you get from sprint style swimming — this is the same concept as sprinting vs jogging but in a pool instead. It’s all about intensity!
Combat – heavy bag punching / kicking workout, speed bag, rebound bag – all are great forms of training and much more interesting than boring cardio machines. These exercises are also great examples of exercises that require an intense mind-body connection, which is missing in boring cardio equipment like treadmills and elliptical machines.
Shadow Boxing – This is an awesome workout, but if you’re shy, this is best saved for your home workouts since you’ll get some crazy stares doing this at a typical gym from people who think they’re “too cool” for stuff like this.
Dumbbell, Med ball, Kettle Bell Circuits — This super metabolic workout that involves alternating between various full-body multi-joint exercises to get a crazy fat-burning workout in minimal time. A good example would be alternating between dumbbell lunges, overhead presses, bent over rows, step ups, and squat presses all with minimal rest between. The sort we do 6 days a week to great effect.
Bodyweight Training – bodyweight squats, pushups, lunges, jumps, bear crawls, mountain climbers and jumpers, planks, and the list goes on and on. An example of great mind-body connection and much more metabolic than treadmills and ellipticals.
Well, I hope this article helps give you ideas on how you can get away from all of these mindless and ineffective treadmill and elliptical training machine (and exercise bike) workouts that are just wasting your time and energy that could be better spent on more effective workouts.
If you want maximum results, it’s all about your intensity levels and also your mind-body connection… and that all important mind-body connection is usually missing when it comes to elliptical and treadmill workouts, that most people do while watching TV or reading.
Get out there and actually ENJOY your workouts
Rember which would you rather be a sprinter or a marathoner?
Don’t be lazy, be lean.
Certified Metabolic Trainer
Pilates and Yoga Instructor
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