Exercise Equipment... Sweat... but no tears

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Getting Started

It's easy to purchase exercise equipment on ebay... what isn't so easy is picking the right equipment... and actually using it is harder still! This Guide will help you make an informed choice in choosing exercise equipment from ebay.

Clothesline or doorstop?

Many of the people who make the deicision to purchase exercise equipment at home use it for less than 4 weeks.  Your treadmill then becomes a place to hang your washing or your weights become an expensive doorstop.  Before you chose what equipment to buy, ensure you have the motivation and discipline to stick to an exercise program.  An investment in expensive equipment may be better spent joining a gym.

Cardio vs weights

Exercise equipment can broadly be broken down into two categories... resistance and cardiovascular.  Resistance equipment is bascially weights or equipment that makes your muscles work (also called anaerobic exercise)... cardio equipment is things like treadmills and stationary bikes that make your heart and lungs work - and is sometimes called aerobic exercise.

Don't bother trying to chose which type of exercise (cardio or weights) you should do, because you should do both.  And here's why...

Weights

Lifting weights is an ancient form of keeping in shape... just look the Statue of David, The Venus De Milo or The Venturian Man to see how long ago the human form has been admired.

Lifting weights is probably the most effective way to lose weight.  Why?  What basically happens is, when you lift weights, you tear apart muscle fibres (don't worry - that's a good thing!).  When these muscle fibres heal, they create myscle 'bulk'.  This increase in muscle mass requires a 24-hour-a-day supply of food (being energy).  The best place to get this energy from is your body's stores of fat.  The more muscle you have, the more energy you burn... this is called your basal metabolic rate.  The higher your metabolic rate, the faster you'll lose body fat.

Keep in mind that not everybody is going to be an 'Arnie'.  Women and aged poeople still need to lift weights.  The difference being that instead of lifting huge, heavy weights to build up bulk, women should lift lots of smaller weights.  Often, women will baulk at lifting weights, thinking they will look 'manish' (or stockings full of walnuts as I call it!).  For this to happen, a women would have to lift an incredible amount of weight, or have an 'unnatural' amount of testosterone in her body... so you know what I mean by that!  Women also need to lift weights if they want to prevent or even reverse the symptons of osteoperosis... so girls, start lifting! 

A note for anyone thinking about doing resistance training... the general rule is you should exercise a major muscle group (such as legs, back, chest, arms) and then give it a day to rest - this allows the muscles to 'heal' like I mentioned before. The only muscle group that defies this trend is the abdominals, which can be exercised everyday.  Also, if you don't exercise a muscle within 48 hours it begins to weaken, so consistency is the key.

What weights?

Bascially, you could use bricks tied to a mop handle to do a workout, but who wants that?  Ebay has some great bargains at Exercise Equipment - usually the Strength Training section has what you're looking for.  There basically two sorts of strength training equipment on offer - pin-loaded and free weights.  Pin loaded is the type of machine that has plates attached to a machine that has a defined range of motion.  This is great for beginners, as it is safe for two reasons - you can't go beyond what the machine was designed to do and you also don't have to lift weights to change the intensity - you just change the pin position.  However, Free weights - which is basically things like barbells and dumbells, are a lot more effective, because as you lift them you are engaging a whole range of secondary muscles to lift the weight and this gives you a more effective workout.  Whatever you decide with weight or strength training, make sure you do it safely - and the only way to do this is with expert advice and guidance... (and that doesn not mean your mate who goes to a gym 5 days a week - usually they are the worst at giving proper technique and program advice).  Consult a personal trainer or exercise physiologist to know what type of weight training you should do and always consult your doctor before making lifestyle changes.

Cardio

Once again, you don't need facny equipment to get a good aerobic workout, however with some great ebay buys on Step machines, bikes and treadmills - you'd be mad not to at least have a look.  The good thing about cardio equipment is, you can use it even when it's raining, or too hot, etc... it's great to watach a bit of telly while running or biking and it's safe.  The safety is a big issue... if you ride a road bike for 20 kilometres but are too tired to get home, you're in trouble!  An indoor bike means you can just hope off.  Also, you are not at the mercy of hoon drivers, 'weird people' and the elements... all in all, a much more pleasant experience.  The only downside of cardio equipment is, it's not as effective as really going for a run, running up stairs or riding a bike... but hey, it's a small compromise.  Cardio equipment can also be very easy on your joints... especially knees.  If you have specific inuries, make sure you see a doctor.

Which one for me?

If you do have sore knees you are best off using a 'recumbant bike' - this is bike that has a seat with a back and you sit with your back straight(ish) and your legs out in front of you like on a lounge recliner (hence the term recumbant).  However, this is usually the least effective of the cardio machines.  An upright bike is more like a 'real' bike and is the next most effective piece of equipment.

Steppers work you a little harder, as they isolate the big muscle groups in your legs (quadriceps and hamstrings)... and they are great for toning glutes (that's your bum!).  However, if you're going to use a stepper and it has handles, try not to use them as you'll get a much better workout without the 'support'.

Cross-trainers are, as their name imples, a cross between a stepper and a treadmills.  They work the legs and arms, as you have 'paddles' that you can hang onto while working out.  Cross-trainers give the second best workout in terms of calorie-consumption, and are fantastic for people with knee problems, as there is no impact and you can use your arms to help with momentum... this is one of my favourite machines.


Treadmills are the king of the cardio equipment world.  Easy-to-use, effective and relatively-safe.  I say relatively because I have often seen people get used as a human cannon-ball trying to get on and off these machiens while they are still in operation.  Some treadmills come with safety straps that disengage the motor if the strap is 'pulled' from the machine.  The strap is attached to the runner via an alligator clip and to the treadmill via a magnet - it's a great feature to look for.

Buying tips

Some of the things to keep in mind when looking at cardio equipment....

Treadmills - have a look at the motor size.  A small motor will only drive the machine to a minimal top speed - the top speed is one of the indicators you should use to find out how good the machine is that your buying.  Also, be wary of consumables, some treadmills require 'wax cylinders' that spit wax onto the treadmill belt to keep it slick as it moves around.  These can be expensive and hard to install.  Also, worn belts can add to your ongoing costs as well... make sure you find out how much replacment belts and motors cost.  Some treadmills also feature inclination settings, which will raise the front of the machine to make you work faster - this is an awesome feature but it adds to the cost.  Also, some machines will display your heart rate and caloeir expenditure if you're wearing a heart rate transmitter... again this is an effective way to see how hard you're working and is definitely worth looking for in any purchase.  Finally, some treadmills will have 'logs' of how they have been used, electronically stored in their memory.  Do a bit of research and see if you can access this for the machine you're looking at.  A final tip - a good, used treadmill can often be a lot better than a new 'cheapie'... remember, you get what you pay for (but on ebay you usually get a great bargain as well!).


Cross-trainers are relatively safe to purchase, just find out how much they've been used if you can.  Like treadmills, some cross-trainers 'store' usuage logs.  Cross-trainers have very different 'actions' so try some out before you make a purchase to ensure the way the machine moves is suitable for you.  A big tip for cross-trainers... see what happens to them when you go really 'fast'... if they start to wobble, consider another brand.  As you get fitter, you'll want to work harder and having a flimsy piece of equipment will actually discourage you.


Steppers (see cross-trainers).


Bikes - most indoor bikes are pretty bullet-proof.  The only things you have to consiuder are replacement chains and foot-straps, on-going maintenance costs and comfort.  A tip for indoor Lance Armstrongs... because you are usually on the same seat for your workout, the beads of sweat can rapidly start to corrode your equipment.  Make sure you keep an eye on where the sweat goes when you're working out and keep your equipment clean using warm, soapy water on plastic and silicon spray on metal parts (use a light chain oil on bike chains).

Final advice

Before you do any exercise program or change your lifestyle, make sure you see a doctor.  Just like learning to drive, consider using a professional to show you how to undertake an exercise a program... The Australian Fitness Network can point you towards Personal Trainers and exercise Physiologists who can design an exercise program to help you get the most from your equepment.  Also, do think that just because you have equipment at home, you don't have to join a gym... usually the two strategies work best together.  And finally, some words on nutrition (not diet!).  If you exercise regularly, your appetite will increase and this is a great thing - it means your body is awakening and functioning so well it requires more energy to fuel itself.  But just like your car, don't put in bad fuel.  A packet of potato chips can have 1,000 calories in it... and it would take around 3 hours on a treadmill to burn off that sort of energy... so make your decision - watch Titanic while pounding away or 'skip the chip'. 

Also remember - cardio training will burn lots of training for as long as you do it - up to 1,000 calories in one hour, but many people can't maintain this intensity for very long.  However weight training will burn a small amount of energy for up to 36 hours after your workout.  Which is better?  Well, if you HAD to chose one, probably weights, but remember, I said you have to do both - so get moving!

The most important advice - whatever you chose to do, make sure you enjoy it.  There's no point punishing yourself doing exercise you hate.  Just be consistent and don't expect results overnight... remember, it takes a long time to put weight on and a long time to take it off.  If you chose a form of exercise equipment you don't like... don't give up!  Just sell it on ebay and get another piece you do like!


Take care - flavourd



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