Exercise Machines

ROWING MACHINE: If you don't have access to a canoe, indoor rowing is a low impact total body workout. It works your hips, abdominals, arms, trunk, legs, and shoulders. Rowing can help tone muscles as well as improve your cardiovascular system. I have my rowing machine in front of the television because it is the most boring indoor exercise in existence.

SLIDING: Sliding, or lateral training, is a new fitness fad. You slip booties over your shoes and move side to side on a slideboard. Sliding burns twice as many calories as treadmill training, according to Robert Otto, Ph.D., director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Adelphi University. He claims the extra resistance is similar to walking while dragging your feet.

TREADMILL: According to Men's Fitness magazine, beginning treadmillers should walk at a comfortable pace for three to five minutes, then walk fifteen minutes at a faster pace by taking longer strides, followed by a five minute cool-down. Advanced treadmill trainers should warm up, repeat the second phase of the workout, and then raise the angle of incline to ten percent for fifteen minutes, with a five minute cool-down.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKI MACHINE: Cross-country skiing exercises both the lower and upper body. Research demonstrates that cross-country skiers are the most aerobically fit individuals on the planet. More calories are burned during cross-country skiing than during other aerobic activities. The large amount of muscle mass involved makes cross-country skiing intense, but it places little pressure on joints. There is even less pressure on joints when your indoor cross-country ski machine doubles as a coat rack.

STAIR CLIMBING MACHINE: An even safer method of step-ups is the stair climbing machine. Researchers at California State University, Northridge, found that runners and stair climbers improved their maximum oxygen consumption equally; but the runners had injuries and dropouts while the stair climbers had no injuries or dropouts. Stair climbing is considered low impact because the feet never leave the machine. There is no strain on ligaments or joints, and the intensity is monitored and controlled by you. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst studied twenty college students and discovered that running burned an average of fifteen calories per minute, in-line skating burned fourteen calories, and stair climbing burned eleven calories per minute.

FREE WEIGHTS: Power lifters and bodybuilders use free weights primarily because they require the use of stabilizer muscles.Stabilizer muscles help to balance the weights through the full range of motion. Free weights are relatively inexpensive and are found in many home gyms. PowerBlocks are the most efficient and effective free weight dumbells in existance..

MACHINE WEIGHTS: Machine weights are safer than free weights because you do not have to balance them. To change the weight you simply use a selector pin. Disadvantages include cost, size, and a restricted range of motion.

SPORTCORD: If you do not have access to free weights or machine weights, tubing is okay. Tubing is inexpensive and portable, but it is difficult to measure progress.

JUMP ROPE: Warm up thoroughly before you start. Never jump on concrete. Look for wood floors, rubber floors, or rubber tiles. Jump lightly on the balls of your feet with your knees bent to make your calves work and take the pressure off your shins and knees. Use your wrists to turn the rope. Hold your hands at your waist about two inches from your body. Jump low. A jump rope may be your least expensive investment.

INDOOR CYCLING: Virtual reality (VR) cyclists can spin down winding roads, around lakes, and through small towns. The pedal resistance increases depending on the terrain. If the VR cyclist leans, the seat tilts causing an on-screen turn. An increase in speed blows air into his face. VR cycles cost more than two thousand dollars.

At the other end of the indoor spectrum, my favorite rainy-day activity is to rent a two-hour video, fill up my water bottles, turn on the fan, and ride my stationary bike until the movie's over.

If the weather is nasty for several consecutive days, indoor training can keep you fit. According to Arnie Baker, M.D., a San Diego cycling coach and United States national masters champion, you can get all the workout you need on a home trainer. Training on the road can be somewhat haphazard. Traffic lights, barking dogs, and potholes can slow you down. Training partners may interfere with your program. Baker claims competitive athletes need a track or an indoor trainer to fine-tune their program.