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Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Posted by Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 09:21 (099003)

OK, guys, I just learned this morning that I've gained back nearly ten pounds of the 40 I've lost, so I need to make a decision pronto. I can't keep feeling like a slug anymore (and looking like one!)

I went to Wal-Mart last night and checked out the options there. That's where my current bike came from. They had a bike similar to the one I have now, and a recumbent bike for a little more money. The recumbent did have dual-action arms but I'm not sure that they really do much (you can move them but it's not like the resistance is adjustable, etc, as far as I could tell). There was also an elliptical trainer that looked interesting.

I like the idea that the upright is cheapest and is similar to what I already have.

I like the idea that the recumbent should be better for my back (though I'm not sure I can get as intense a workout from the recumbent bike--opinions?).

I like the idea that the elliptical uses a standing position and therefore probably works areas that the other two don't.

Can anybody help me make a decision here? What are your experiences with these three types of machines?

I appreciate your input. Thanks much.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 09:59 (099013)

The way I decided on mine, was to go to the Sports Authority store where they have lots of equipment set up so that you can actually try them and find out what feels best. I went when there weren't too many people, and tried them all. As usual there wasn't a salesperson to be found, so I took advantage of that to spend as much time trying them out as I wanted.

There was one with the dual action arms that I almost got, because that is what I thought beforehand that I was going to buy, but I finally ended up getting the Excel 395 recumbent magnetic bike. It's not really 'lying down' recumbent, but simply a comfy seat with a back to support my back. I still think it's a super great bike, even though I got PF due to misusing it.

I don't know if the prices normally are as good as Wal-Mart (my bike was on sale at less than half price at the time). Still, a visit to someplace like Sports Authority (at a time when they are pretty empty) might really help you decide on what type of exercise equipment you want.

Carole C

Re: P.S. about the dual action arms

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 10:06 (099017)

P.S., the reason that I decided against the dual action arms was that I found out I was using my arms to make it easier on my legs, to the point where my legs weren't getting much exercise.

My legs needed exercise more, in order to build up the muscles around my knees and hopefully combat my osteoarthritis in my knees. Although losing weight is the main purpose for getting it, I want to build muscles in my legs so that I can do more. My arms are already pretty strong.

So, that's why I decided against the dual action arms for me.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

wendyn on 11/02/02 at 10:29 (099022)

Nancy - I work just as hard on a recumbent bike as I do on a regular one. They are easier on your back and your bum.

Just make sure that you can adjust the seat so you are not too far away from the pedals.

Re: P.S. about the dual action arms

Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 10:33 (099026)

Carole--

I'm planning to head to Sears, Dick's, Sports Authority... one of those places, and check stuff out. I'm drawn back to Wal-Mart because it's easy and more likely to cost less, but I'm still investigating. The problem is that I really want something NOW because I do much better with the food-related issues when I've gotten some exercise, and I haven't had much in the past two months. I want to get off this part of the roller-coaster :)

I hear what you're saying about the arms. I really like the dual-action arms on my current bike, though. One of the bikes I saw at Wal-Mart had lockable arms, so you have the option of using them or not. I thought that was a pretty nice feature. I really want to work everything, but the cardio part is the most important to me, so it doesn't matter too much what's moving as long as I get there :) My legs are actually pretty strong, so maybe that's part of why it doesn't matter as much to me. I do feel less like I got a 'real' workout if I've only used one half of my body, though. Do you feel that you get a good workout on the recumbent bike? And is the magnetic resistance really as quiet as they say it is? (the downside of the air bike is that you have to crank the TV to hear over the fan)

Thanks for the input! :)

Re: P.S. about the dual action arms

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 11:07 (099032)

The magnetic resistance seems extremely quiet to me. Maybe quieter than you've heard! LOL I have my bike set up in front of the TV, so that I can just hop on and pedal while I watch TV. That way exercise is never boring. :)

I never have to turn up the TV when I get on the bike. It is very very quiet... much softer than, say, the A/C when it cycles on.

I really like having the digital output of time elapsed, distance traveled this time, and total distance traveled on the bike since purchase. I hardly use the rest of the digital output ever. Who cares about calories used, since that varies from person to person and since I'd really rather not adopt the mentality of riding so that I can eat more.

Those lockable arms sound like a really neat idea. I didn't know there were bikes like that.

I feel like I'm getting a good workout, and I get a lot of cardio benefit from it too. By the way, I have seen online that you can buy a little gizmo to hold which will measure your heartrate for $10-20 or so. That might be something to consider if the bikes that automatically do that, cost a whole lot more. I've never used such a gizmo, though, but some people told me the hand held ones are fine and you can use them elsewhere.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Julie on 11/02/02 at 15:52 (099068)

Nancy for me the crucial question would be - do I really like doing this thing (whatever it is!) because I'd persevere with an exercise machine (or anything else) only if I enjoyed it. So I agree with Carole that you ought to try both bikes out, ideally at a time when the store is least busy so that you can spend plenty of time on each of them and see which you like best. I doubt there is much difference, cardiovascularly speaking.

Personally, I prefer all the other cardio equipment to either style of bike. Why I find stationary biking boring, but like the treadmill, rowing machine and crosstrainer beats me, but that's just me, I guess.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 16:27 (099075)

Julie--

Is a crosstrainer the same as an elliptical trainer? I've heard ellipticals called 'elliptical crosstrainers' so I don't know if they're the same thing or not.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 17:42 (099086)

Here's a photo of my bike. You'll probably have to copy and paste the whole URL since it is so long. It takes a while to get to the URL.

http://www.shopnbc.com/famdetail.asp?sourceid=00398865436145722248&bfinfo=00adzu52b23avf3&familyid=V11730

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/02/02 at 19:17 (099094)

Nancy, congrats on deciding to take charge on this issue. Here are my thoughts:

The recumbent probably won't give you enough of a workout; it's a better choice for someone with severe back problems. The upright bike is OK but rather BORING, which is important because if you stop using it or don't use it much, you defeat the purpose. In my mind, the elliptical is the best bet (assuming it doesn't bother your feet). It will burn the most calories, uses more of your body, and likely will use it more regularly than the rest. If it helps, I've lost 15 pounds in around 4 months doing mostly the elliptical (I lose it slow, but it stays off, and I will lose more if I keep at it--this is continual progression and healthy, unlike a crash diet).

A few additional comments:

Sometimes they use the word crosstrainer after elliptical; doesn't mean anything.

I don't recommend one the arms; serious exercisers consider that to be a gimmick luring the masses with more features. Upper body (e.g. with a rower or weights) should be a separate workout.

I don't know how you'll react to this, but I recommend a precision machine the likes of a Precor 5.21

http://precor.com/hpr_efx_521i.php

costing around $3000, built solid and with numerous incline and resistance settings. It will last at least a decade. If you get a stinky machine that shakes and breaks, you just won't use it, making the whole thing a waste. An alternative is to try a trial membership in a fitness club if you can, either as a permanent solution or to get a better feel for the machines; the variety is also good for the body and helps keep you motivated. Good luck!

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 21:47 (099112)

Elliott--

Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately, I would have to mortgage my house to buy something that costs $3000. I'm talking the $300 or less category--off by an entire order of magnitude!

I've had an upright bike for years and never found it boring. It's in the living room in front of the TV, so I can focus on something other than 'How much longer do I have to do this?' If it weren't for the fact that this bike is at least half dead, we wouldn't be having this conversation because I'd be on it every morning. I've also never had trouble with the moving handlebars--in fact, I've always felt the difference in my shoulders and arms when I've been using the bike for a while.

I am intrigued by the concept of the elliptical, so I will have to go try one out. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I'll be able to buy something right away or not, because I decided today that I need to go see my doctor about my left arm. There's a spot near the shoulder that makes its presence known if I've upset it, and despite the fact that I've done nothing to annoy it for the past two months, it still seems to be a problem. I did part of a 'The Firm' workout video today and it's not being extremely fussy, but I know where it is. So I think I need to go to the doctor before I make any decisions and possibly end up really hurting myself. And of course, I probably won't be able to see her for another week, and will have to make a decision after that.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/02/02 at 22:38 (099123)

I didn't think you'd go for the $3000 thing. My wife and I talk about one for the home once in a while, but yes, that's an awful lot of cash, so we still keep talking about it once in a while. If you view fitness and weight loss as a lifelong endeavor and this is the ultimate answer, it's somewhat more justifiable, sort of. If you've ever been on one of these babies, you'd know what I mean. Is a fitness club an option?

I'm not saying moving arms won't do anything, just that it's not the best way to maximise your exercise efficiency; you're watering down the exercise of both your lower and upper body, and a pro fitness person will tell you that. Better would be a separate workout for your legs and a separate workout for your arms (when healthy), e.g. lift some weights a couple times a week and do the separate lower body aerobic stuff more intensively.

One further advantage of the elliptical over a bike is that the elliptical works more muscle groups (even more so by changing the incline settings), whereas the bike is working mainly the quads (and to a far lesser extent the calves), but it does nothing for the hamstrings.

For $300 you're not going to get an elliptical worth anything, certainly not one that will hold up. For that kind of money a bike is still your best bet.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Julie on 11/03/02 at 09:28 (099150)

Nancy

I think Elliott has answered your question (which is a relief because I wouldn't have known the answer, not being familiar with 'elliptical'). From his description it sounds as though yes, they are the same. Whether or not you use the arms it's harder work than either style of bike and more effective cardiovascularly speaking, or so it seems to me. But you aren't a millionaire and you've already said you don't want to join a gym, so I guess a bike is your answer.

If watching TV while you work is an essential, I'd guess you'd find that more comfortable from an upright.

I hope your arm improves!

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

john h on 11/03/02 at 11:34 (099161)

I think I have read that the exercise that burns the highest amount of calories is Cross Country Skiing. I gues the elliptical trainer comes closest to mimicing that sport.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/03/02 at 11:37 (099162)

It's called an elliptical because if you'd trace the path swept out by your feet, it is very nearly that of an ellipse. It is about as close as you can get to a running motion but without the impact. You can easily watch TV while doing it (but I find reading slows down the pace too much). It's also bigger and heavier, in case space and portability are problems.

I agree that with or without arms, the elliptical is a better workout than the bike, although not tremendously so. Despite standing (you barely feel that you are), you could probably stay on an elliptical for a very long time without hurting, whereas a bike seat often gets uncomfortable. The better ellipticals, including the $3000+ one I gave a link to, do not have moveable arms, for reasons I elucidated.

Nancy, any chance at all of a one-month trial at a gym? That would give you a very clear picture of all the machines, precision ones too. You may even find you like it; real good way to make friends too.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/03/02 at 11:42 (099164)

Perhaps (actually, running still beats it), but somehow I gather Nancy will not find the outdoor version a practical alternative; seasonal too. Actually, a Nordic Track is closer to CCS, but that can be tough on your hips, especially if you do nothing but.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 15:30 (099180)

Elliott (and everyone else who's responded)--

Thanks for the information. I have seen some elliptical trainers in the $300 neighborhood that are rated highly by people who own them, but I'm not going to run right out and get one. I've never even used one, for one thing, and I think this whole issue merits some more thought. They are especially appealing to me because of the many different muscle groups they work--because I have some arthritis in my back, I'd really like to strengthen that area, and I know a bike won't do that for me.

I'm sure that some of my 'conditions' look arbitrary and unreasonable to an outside observer. But they come from years of trying to figure out what to do, and noticing what things don't work for me. A gym membership is a) too costly and b) something I would almost never ever use. Not only because you're on display to anyone else in the gym (and I'm sorry, but I find that extremely intimidating--exercise is a very private matter for me), but also because I'd have to go somewhere else to use it. That requires extra time to get there and get back. And all these things would provide so many excuses for me never to go--especially if it means that I have to get up at 4:30am in order to get there before work. Seems kind of counterproductive to me, don't you think?

I know from my own experience that the only thing that will work for me, in the sense of being something I'll do on a regular basis, is something that's in my house, where there are no excuses (time, distance, weather, daylight, etc). This is largely, but not only, because of my morning requirement. I am not a naturally athletic person by any stretch, but I have discovered that I feel so much better for the rest of the day when I exercise in the morning that I am just not interested in doing it at any other time, unless there are some sort of extenuating circumstances on a certain day. It also has the benefit of being done for the day, so there's less worry about scheduling conflicts at other times of day. So it just has to be something I can do in my own home, or it's not going to happen--plain and simple.

Now, I might look around and see if anyone locally has a free trial period just so I could go try out some machines--if the local sporting goods stores don't offer enough of that sort of thing in their showrooms.

I did try the 'The FIRM' video I bought yesterday, and boy, can I tell that I worked a LOT of different areas. So I think I will try the video route for a while, and see what happens (I think I can modify it so that I don't aggravate my arm, and I am going to make an appointment with the doc tomorrow to have it checked out). That's both inexpensive and also doesn't occupy half of my living room, which is an added bonus. I still like the idea of having some sort of cardio equipment, but I don't have to do it right away.

I'll take all your suggestions under advisement (and am still interested in other ideas if you have them), but for now, I think that's my plan, unless I come up with a better one.

Re: Nancy

Julie on 11/03/02 at 16:02 (099181)

Nancy

An elliptical trainer won't help you to strengthen your back muscles. I would guess that using one could exacerbate any weakness. You need to work specifically on your abdominal muscles, for which you don't need equipment, just your own body and some good instruction. Pilates is good for strengthening the 'core' muscles - abs, back, hip flexors. Weren't you doing Pilates for awhile - or am I making that up?

Check your standing posture. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the heels and the balls of the feet so that your legs are perpendicular to the ground and your pelvis centred and upright. If you tend to take the weight forward, your pelvis will tip forward, causing your lower back to arch with consequent compression of the lumbar discs. Poor pelvic position is a common cause of low back problems, and if you already have a problem there, it will aggravate it.

I suggest you think separately about your requirements for cardiovascular training and for back strengthening. Just make sure that whatever bit of cardio equipment you eventually buy, it isn't going to make your back problems worse. From that point of view the recumbent bike is probably the best bet.

Re: Nancy

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 16:07 (099182)

Hmm, that's interesting, because everything I've seen indicates to me that ellipticals do work the abs and the back muscles. I'll have to see what I can dig up on that. But for now I'm going to keep going with the videos to see how that goes, so we'll see. I haven't ever done Pilates, though. I don't really know much about it, to be completely honest. I've never been able to figure out if it was mostly stretching, or if there are strength/cardio elements to it (though truth be told, I've never really looked into it much!).

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/03/02 at 18:48 (099203)

I definitely understand your reasoning for not joining a gym and I feel the same way. I don't think your choices are arbitrary or unreasonable at all. Even if the gym is only 10 minutes away, and if one get from the car to being in place on the desired equipment in a couple of minutes and vice versa, it adds up to 25 minutes a day of nothing added to the time it takes to exercise.

Some of us are just more comfortable with a routine that's at home where we live our lives rather than feeling that exercise is a something that we do in a special place. Others prefer buying a gym membership. Some people do well with gyms. Some don't and end up wasting their money and being down on themselves. I don't think anyone should have to defend their choice of exercising at the gym or exercising at home. That's an individual decision.

I've heard that 'The Firm' is pretty good. I do have some tapes and do them once in a while, though I sometimes get bored because I can't watch TV while doing the exercises. My favorite ways to get moving are my good ol' bike, doing chores around the house and yard at a good pace, or walking briskly.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 19:03 (099206)

Carole--

Thanks for your comments. I didn't mean to say that I was being misinterpreted, but I could see how easily someone might have done so, so I figured it didn't hurt to explain my reasoning (especially since that might come in handy to anyone who's making a suggestion!)

I just did the Firm's 5-day Abs video for the second day. Not sure if I should have done that, since I could still feel the after-effects from doing the Day 1 segment yesterday. Jeez-o-man, but they know how to work every single muscle you own! I've only tried two of the videos so far, but they're really intense. (I went out and bought a Kathy Smith Latin dance video today, too, for something that's really just cardio that should be good on days when I don't do the Firm stuff--and it sounds like a lot of fun!)

I didn't buy the beginner tapes, but got the 'Firm Parts' set that was $17.99 at Sam's. I don't think they're classified for beginners, but I also figure you can do the things that you're able to do, and go from there. I can't wait to see how I do with these over time, but if yesterday and today are any indication, hopefully they'll be very helpful. I confess, I kind of enjoy that 'sore muscles' feeling because I know I DID something--though it gets to be kind of old when you feel it every time you move, too :)

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/03/02 at 19:31 (099211)

I have the Kathy Smith 'fat burning workout' tape and some others, but believe it or not the one I do most is Richard Simmons Sweatin' to the Oldies. I like the music so that makes it fun. They definitely get me up and moving. At my age I'd probably be 3/4 dead if I'd tried to do the tapes you have! They sound HARD. :) But then, you're young and it sounds like you are doing really well with them!

I know what you mean about enjoying the 'sore muscles' feeling. I felt that way after moving all that furniture. It wasn't too bad, but I could feel it all over.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 19:41 (099215)

Carole--

I'm not at all sure that I won't end up being 3/4 dead from these videos! But I am hoping that the first few times will be the hardest, and then I'll get the hang of it. Some of the coordination is really hard for me, and there were a few moves on the tape I did yesterday where I couldn't figure out what the heck they were doing. So I did the best I could, and went from there. The Firm stuff definitely ain't easy, though they do have beginner tapes (though I have yet to see them in a store). I think they're probably better for strength training even though some of them are considered cardio. They all use weights, though you can do them without weights when you're starting.

Yeah, sore muscles are a nice feeling--sort of :) We'll see how I feel tomorrow--I might take a day off from the 5-day abs! That's the only one I did today, since my quads are so very vocal today. I didn't want to risk hurting myself.

Re: Nancy

Julie on 11/04/02 at 02:01 (099236)

Nancy, yes, the elliptical (as I shall now call it) does work 'everything', especially if the arms are used, but in a non-specific all-over way. It's essentially a cardio machine. If you want to strengthen, you need to work specifically on individual muscle groups, which is where weights and machines that use weights come in. I expect this is the basis for Elliott's suggestion that you join a gym, where you'd have access to equipment of all sorts. I suggested that earlier on too, but I understand why you don't want to do that, and there is no point in wasting your money on a facility you won't use regularly.

If you want to strengthen your lower back, you need to work specifically on your abdominal muscles, and the elliptical wouldn't be of great help there. Do look into Pilates: it's very effective and I think you would like it. There are plenty of books and videos, though it would be better to have instruction from a teacher.

Re your hurting muscles: working out causes tiny microtears (i.e. injuries) to the muscle fibres. This is why it's usually suggested not to work out every day, but only three or four times a week to give the fibres 48-72 hours in between to recover.

Careful with the videos. A video can't correct you when you do something wrong.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

JudyS on 11/04/02 at 09:49 (099258)

Nen - I have a piece of exercise gear I bought at Sears a couple of years ago - it is a recumbant bike that can, with one or two movements, convert to an elliptical trainer. It has variable pressure and a heart-rate monitor. I use the recumbant bike function, John likes the elliptical function. It took me a bit of time to keep from pushing too hard with the ball of my foot and I'd encourage warming up the lower-leg muscles first. I do not like the elliptical function because, on this particular machine, it tends to force the foot to slide forward and downward with each revolution. That creats a bunch of pressure on the forefoot.

Re: Nancy

elliott on 11/04/02 at 10:06 (099261)

I agree with Julie in not placing too much faith in home exercise videos, epsecially if no one's supervising; you may end up constantly repeating improper methods. I also agree with her that an elliptical will do next to nothing for your back and abs; I can tell you that firsthand. Of course, there are back- and abs-specific machines at a gym.:-)

Look, I'm not trying to push you into a year's membership at an expensive and inconvenient place you'll never use. I avoided these places myself for years, even one right in my own work, for reasons somewhat similar to yours. But I do urge the one-month trial thing if you can (if nothing else to get a good handle on what these machines really are or are not doing). Just one month. You can consider a female-only place if that makes you more comfortable. I admit I often change in the bathroom instead of the public changing room; you could do that too. The variety of machines helps keep one motivated. (Having a stationary bike or whatever at home is still a good idea even with the membership.) After spending some time there, you may start to think a home gym of sorts, containing all the machines you'd ever need, is somewhat impractical. If you get in a groove at the gym, you may actually look forward to going there, both for the exercise and the people you meet there (I'm telling you, you *will* meet people you like, this coming from a self-declared anti-social loner), and soon you won't be self-conscious that people are looking at you. Three years down the road, they may be looking at you for other reasons. :-)

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 09:59 (099013)

The way I decided on mine, was to go to the Sports Authority store where they have lots of equipment set up so that you can actually try them and find out what feels best. I went when there weren't too many people, and tried them all. As usual there wasn't a salesperson to be found, so I took advantage of that to spend as much time trying them out as I wanted.

There was one with the dual action arms that I almost got, because that is what I thought beforehand that I was going to buy, but I finally ended up getting the Excel 395 recumbent magnetic bike. It's not really 'lying down' recumbent, but simply a comfy seat with a back to support my back. I still think it's a super great bike, even though I got PF due to misusing it.

I don't know if the prices normally are as good as Wal-Mart (my bike was on sale at less than half price at the time). Still, a visit to someplace like Sports Authority (at a time when they are pretty empty) might really help you decide on what type of exercise equipment you want.

Carole C

Re: P.S. about the dual action arms

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 10:06 (099017)

P.S., the reason that I decided against the dual action arms was that I found out I was using my arms to make it easier on my legs, to the point where my legs weren't getting much exercise.

My legs needed exercise more, in order to build up the muscles around my knees and hopefully combat my osteoarthritis in my knees. Although losing weight is the main purpose for getting it, I want to build muscles in my legs so that I can do more. My arms are already pretty strong.

So, that's why I decided against the dual action arms for me.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

wendyn on 11/02/02 at 10:29 (099022)

Nancy - I work just as hard on a recumbent bike as I do on a regular one. They are easier on your back and your bum.

Just make sure that you can adjust the seat so you are not too far away from the pedals.

Re: P.S. about the dual action arms

Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 10:33 (099026)

Carole--

I'm planning to head to Sears, Dick's, Sports Authority... one of those places, and check stuff out. I'm drawn back to Wal-Mart because it's easy and more likely to cost less, but I'm still investigating. The problem is that I really want something NOW because I do much better with the food-related issues when I've gotten some exercise, and I haven't had much in the past two months. I want to get off this part of the roller-coaster :)

I hear what you're saying about the arms. I really like the dual-action arms on my current bike, though. One of the bikes I saw at Wal-Mart had lockable arms, so you have the option of using them or not. I thought that was a pretty nice feature. I really want to work everything, but the cardio part is the most important to me, so it doesn't matter too much what's moving as long as I get there :) My legs are actually pretty strong, so maybe that's part of why it doesn't matter as much to me. I do feel less like I got a 'real' workout if I've only used one half of my body, though. Do you feel that you get a good workout on the recumbent bike? And is the magnetic resistance really as quiet as they say it is? (the downside of the air bike is that you have to crank the TV to hear over the fan)

Thanks for the input! :)

Re: P.S. about the dual action arms

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 11:07 (099032)

The magnetic resistance seems extremely quiet to me. Maybe quieter than you've heard! LOL I have my bike set up in front of the TV, so that I can just hop on and pedal while I watch TV. That way exercise is never boring. :)

I never have to turn up the TV when I get on the bike. It is very very quiet... much softer than, say, the A/C when it cycles on.

I really like having the digital output of time elapsed, distance traveled this time, and total distance traveled on the bike since purchase. I hardly use the rest of the digital output ever. Who cares about calories used, since that varies from person to person and since I'd really rather not adopt the mentality of riding so that I can eat more.

Those lockable arms sound like a really neat idea. I didn't know there were bikes like that.

I feel like I'm getting a good workout, and I get a lot of cardio benefit from it too. By the way, I have seen online that you can buy a little gizmo to hold which will measure your heartrate for $10-20 or so. That might be something to consider if the bikes that automatically do that, cost a whole lot more. I've never used such a gizmo, though, but some people told me the hand held ones are fine and you can use them elsewhere.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Julie on 11/02/02 at 15:52 (099068)

Nancy for me the crucial question would be - do I really like doing this thing (whatever it is!) because I'd persevere with an exercise machine (or anything else) only if I enjoyed it. So I agree with Carole that you ought to try both bikes out, ideally at a time when the store is least busy so that you can spend plenty of time on each of them and see which you like best. I doubt there is much difference, cardiovascularly speaking.

Personally, I prefer all the other cardio equipment to either style of bike. Why I find stationary biking boring, but like the treadmill, rowing machine and crosstrainer beats me, but that's just me, I guess.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 16:27 (099075)

Julie--

Is a crosstrainer the same as an elliptical trainer? I've heard ellipticals called 'elliptical crosstrainers' so I don't know if they're the same thing or not.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/02/02 at 17:42 (099086)

Here's a photo of my bike. You'll probably have to copy and paste the whole URL since it is so long. It takes a while to get to the URL.

http://www.shopnbc.com/famdetail.asp?sourceid=00398865436145722248&bfinfo=00adzu52b23avf3&familyid=V11730

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/02/02 at 19:17 (099094)

Nancy, congrats on deciding to take charge on this issue. Here are my thoughts:

The recumbent probably won't give you enough of a workout; it's a better choice for someone with severe back problems. The upright bike is OK but rather BORING, which is important because if you stop using it or don't use it much, you defeat the purpose. In my mind, the elliptical is the best bet (assuming it doesn't bother your feet). It will burn the most calories, uses more of your body, and likely will use it more regularly than the rest. If it helps, I've lost 15 pounds in around 4 months doing mostly the elliptical (I lose it slow, but it stays off, and I will lose more if I keep at it--this is continual progression and healthy, unlike a crash diet).

A few additional comments:

Sometimes they use the word crosstrainer after elliptical; doesn't mean anything.

I don't recommend one the arms; serious exercisers consider that to be a gimmick luring the masses with more features. Upper body (e.g. with a rower or weights) should be a separate workout.

I don't know how you'll react to this, but I recommend a precision machine the likes of a Precor 5.21

http://precor.com/hpr_efx_521i.php

costing around $3000, built solid and with numerous incline and resistance settings. It will last at least a decade. If you get a stinky machine that shakes and breaks, you just won't use it, making the whole thing a waste. An alternative is to try a trial membership in a fitness club if you can, either as a permanent solution or to get a better feel for the machines; the variety is also good for the body and helps keep you motivated. Good luck!

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/02/02 at 21:47 (099112)

Elliott--

Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately, I would have to mortgage my house to buy something that costs $3000. I'm talking the $300 or less category--off by an entire order of magnitude!

I've had an upright bike for years and never found it boring. It's in the living room in front of the TV, so I can focus on something other than 'How much longer do I have to do this?' If it weren't for the fact that this bike is at least half dead, we wouldn't be having this conversation because I'd be on it every morning. I've also never had trouble with the moving handlebars--in fact, I've always felt the difference in my shoulders and arms when I've been using the bike for a while.

I am intrigued by the concept of the elliptical, so I will have to go try one out. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I'll be able to buy something right away or not, because I decided today that I need to go see my doctor about my left arm. There's a spot near the shoulder that makes its presence known if I've upset it, and despite the fact that I've done nothing to annoy it for the past two months, it still seems to be a problem. I did part of a 'The Firm' workout video today and it's not being extremely fussy, but I know where it is. So I think I need to go to the doctor before I make any decisions and possibly end up really hurting myself. And of course, I probably won't be able to see her for another week, and will have to make a decision after that.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/02/02 at 22:38 (099123)

I didn't think you'd go for the $3000 thing. My wife and I talk about one for the home once in a while, but yes, that's an awful lot of cash, so we still keep talking about it once in a while. If you view fitness and weight loss as a lifelong endeavor and this is the ultimate answer, it's somewhat more justifiable, sort of. If you've ever been on one of these babies, you'd know what I mean. Is a fitness club an option?

I'm not saying moving arms won't do anything, just that it's not the best way to maximise your exercise efficiency; you're watering down the exercise of both your lower and upper body, and a pro fitness person will tell you that. Better would be a separate workout for your legs and a separate workout for your arms (when healthy), e.g. lift some weights a couple times a week and do the separate lower body aerobic stuff more intensively.

One further advantage of the elliptical over a bike is that the elliptical works more muscle groups (even more so by changing the incline settings), whereas the bike is working mainly the quads (and to a far lesser extent the calves), but it does nothing for the hamstrings.

For $300 you're not going to get an elliptical worth anything, certainly not one that will hold up. For that kind of money a bike is still your best bet.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Julie on 11/03/02 at 09:28 (099150)

Nancy

I think Elliott has answered your question (which is a relief because I wouldn't have known the answer, not being familiar with 'elliptical'). From his description it sounds as though yes, they are the same. Whether or not you use the arms it's harder work than either style of bike and more effective cardiovascularly speaking, or so it seems to me. But you aren't a millionaire and you've already said you don't want to join a gym, so I guess a bike is your answer.

If watching TV while you work is an essential, I'd guess you'd find that more comfortable from an upright.

I hope your arm improves!

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

john h on 11/03/02 at 11:34 (099161)

I think I have read that the exercise that burns the highest amount of calories is Cross Country Skiing. I gues the elliptical trainer comes closest to mimicing that sport.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/03/02 at 11:37 (099162)

It's called an elliptical because if you'd trace the path swept out by your feet, it is very nearly that of an ellipse. It is about as close as you can get to a running motion but without the impact. You can easily watch TV while doing it (but I find reading slows down the pace too much). It's also bigger and heavier, in case space and portability are problems.

I agree that with or without arms, the elliptical is a better workout than the bike, although not tremendously so. Despite standing (you barely feel that you are), you could probably stay on an elliptical for a very long time without hurting, whereas a bike seat often gets uncomfortable. The better ellipticals, including the $3000+ one I gave a link to, do not have moveable arms, for reasons I elucidated.

Nancy, any chance at all of a one-month trial at a gym? That would give you a very clear picture of all the machines, precision ones too. You may even find you like it; real good way to make friends too.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

elliott on 11/03/02 at 11:42 (099164)

Perhaps (actually, running still beats it), but somehow I gather Nancy will not find the outdoor version a practical alternative; seasonal too. Actually, a Nordic Track is closer to CCS, but that can be tough on your hips, especially if you do nothing but.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 15:30 (099180)

Elliott (and everyone else who's responded)--

Thanks for the information. I have seen some elliptical trainers in the $300 neighborhood that are rated highly by people who own them, but I'm not going to run right out and get one. I've never even used one, for one thing, and I think this whole issue merits some more thought. They are especially appealing to me because of the many different muscle groups they work--because I have some arthritis in my back, I'd really like to strengthen that area, and I know a bike won't do that for me.

I'm sure that some of my 'conditions' look arbitrary and unreasonable to an outside observer. But they come from years of trying to figure out what to do, and noticing what things don't work for me. A gym membership is a) too costly and b) something I would almost never ever use. Not only because you're on display to anyone else in the gym (and I'm sorry, but I find that extremely intimidating--exercise is a very private matter for me), but also because I'd have to go somewhere else to use it. That requires extra time to get there and get back. And all these things would provide so many excuses for me never to go--especially if it means that I have to get up at 4:30am in order to get there before work. Seems kind of counterproductive to me, don't you think?

I know from my own experience that the only thing that will work for me, in the sense of being something I'll do on a regular basis, is something that's in my house, where there are no excuses (time, distance, weather, daylight, etc). This is largely, but not only, because of my morning requirement. I am not a naturally athletic person by any stretch, but I have discovered that I feel so much better for the rest of the day when I exercise in the morning that I am just not interested in doing it at any other time, unless there are some sort of extenuating circumstances on a certain day. It also has the benefit of being done for the day, so there's less worry about scheduling conflicts at other times of day. So it just has to be something I can do in my own home, or it's not going to happen--plain and simple.

Now, I might look around and see if anyone locally has a free trial period just so I could go try out some machines--if the local sporting goods stores don't offer enough of that sort of thing in their showrooms.

I did try the 'The FIRM' video I bought yesterday, and boy, can I tell that I worked a LOT of different areas. So I think I will try the video route for a while, and see what happens (I think I can modify it so that I don't aggravate my arm, and I am going to make an appointment with the doc tomorrow to have it checked out). That's both inexpensive and also doesn't occupy half of my living room, which is an added bonus. I still like the idea of having some sort of cardio equipment, but I don't have to do it right away.

I'll take all your suggestions under advisement (and am still interested in other ideas if you have them), but for now, I think that's my plan, unless I come up with a better one.

Re: Nancy

Julie on 11/03/02 at 16:02 (099181)

Nancy

An elliptical trainer won't help you to strengthen your back muscles. I would guess that using one could exacerbate any weakness. You need to work specifically on your abdominal muscles, for which you don't need equipment, just your own body and some good instruction. Pilates is good for strengthening the 'core' muscles - abs, back, hip flexors. Weren't you doing Pilates for awhile - or am I making that up?

Check your standing posture. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the heels and the balls of the feet so that your legs are perpendicular to the ground and your pelvis centred and upright. If you tend to take the weight forward, your pelvis will tip forward, causing your lower back to arch with consequent compression of the lumbar discs. Poor pelvic position is a common cause of low back problems, and if you already have a problem there, it will aggravate it.

I suggest you think separately about your requirements for cardiovascular training and for back strengthening. Just make sure that whatever bit of cardio equipment you eventually buy, it isn't going to make your back problems worse. From that point of view the recumbent bike is probably the best bet.

Re: Nancy

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 16:07 (099182)

Hmm, that's interesting, because everything I've seen indicates to me that ellipticals do work the abs and the back muscles. I'll have to see what I can dig up on that. But for now I'm going to keep going with the videos to see how that goes, so we'll see. I haven't ever done Pilates, though. I don't really know much about it, to be completely honest. I've never been able to figure out if it was mostly stretching, or if there are strength/cardio elements to it (though truth be told, I've never really looked into it much!).

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/03/02 at 18:48 (099203)

I definitely understand your reasoning for not joining a gym and I feel the same way. I don't think your choices are arbitrary or unreasonable at all. Even if the gym is only 10 minutes away, and if one get from the car to being in place on the desired equipment in a couple of minutes and vice versa, it adds up to 25 minutes a day of nothing added to the time it takes to exercise.

Some of us are just more comfortable with a routine that's at home where we live our lives rather than feeling that exercise is a something that we do in a special place. Others prefer buying a gym membership. Some people do well with gyms. Some don't and end up wasting their money and being down on themselves. I don't think anyone should have to defend their choice of exercising at the gym or exercising at home. That's an individual decision.

I've heard that 'The Firm' is pretty good. I do have some tapes and do them once in a while, though I sometimes get bored because I can't watch TV while doing the exercises. My favorite ways to get moving are my good ol' bike, doing chores around the house and yard at a good pace, or walking briskly.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 19:03 (099206)

Carole--

Thanks for your comments. I didn't mean to say that I was being misinterpreted, but I could see how easily someone might have done so, so I figured it didn't hurt to explain my reasoning (especially since that might come in handy to anyone who's making a suggestion!)

I just did the Firm's 5-day Abs video for the second day. Not sure if I should have done that, since I could still feel the after-effects from doing the Day 1 segment yesterday. Jeez-o-man, but they know how to work every single muscle you own! I've only tried two of the videos so far, but they're really intense. (I went out and bought a Kathy Smith Latin dance video today, too, for something that's really just cardio that should be good on days when I don't do the Firm stuff--and it sounds like a lot of fun!)

I didn't buy the beginner tapes, but got the 'Firm Parts' set that was $17.99 at Sam's. I don't think they're classified for beginners, but I also figure you can do the things that you're able to do, and go from there. I can't wait to see how I do with these over time, but if yesterday and today are any indication, hopefully they'll be very helpful. I confess, I kind of enjoy that 'sore muscles' feeling because I know I DID something--though it gets to be kind of old when you feel it every time you move, too :)

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Carole C in NOLA on 11/03/02 at 19:31 (099211)

I have the Kathy Smith 'fat burning workout' tape and some others, but believe it or not the one I do most is Richard Simmons Sweatin' to the Oldies. I like the music so that makes it fun. They definitely get me up and moving. At my age I'd probably be 3/4 dead if I'd tried to do the tapes you have! They sound HARD. :) But then, you're young and it sounds like you are doing really well with them!

I know what you mean about enjoying the 'sore muscles' feeling. I felt that way after moving all that furniture. It wasn't too bad, but I could feel it all over.

Carole C

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

Nancy N on 11/03/02 at 19:41 (099215)

Carole--

I'm not at all sure that I won't end up being 3/4 dead from these videos! But I am hoping that the first few times will be the hardest, and then I'll get the hang of it. Some of the coordination is really hard for me, and there were a few moves on the tape I did yesterday where I couldn't figure out what the heck they were doing. So I did the best I could, and went from there. The Firm stuff definitely ain't easy, though they do have beginner tapes (though I have yet to see them in a store). I think they're probably better for strength training even though some of them are considered cardio. They all use weights, though you can do them without weights when you're starting.

Yeah, sore muscles are a nice feeling--sort of :) We'll see how I feel tomorrow--I might take a day off from the 5-day abs! That's the only one I did today, since my quads are so very vocal today. I didn't want to risk hurting myself.

Re: Nancy

Julie on 11/04/02 at 02:01 (099236)

Nancy, yes, the elliptical (as I shall now call it) does work 'everything', especially if the arms are used, but in a non-specific all-over way. It's essentially a cardio machine. If you want to strengthen, you need to work specifically on individual muscle groups, which is where weights and machines that use weights come in. I expect this is the basis for Elliott's suggestion that you join a gym, where you'd have access to equipment of all sorts. I suggested that earlier on too, but I understand why you don't want to do that, and there is no point in wasting your money on a facility you won't use regularly.

If you want to strengthen your lower back, you need to work specifically on your abdominal muscles, and the elliptical wouldn't be of great help there. Do look into Pilates: it's very effective and I think you would like it. There are plenty of books and videos, though it would be better to have instruction from a teacher.

Re your hurting muscles: working out causes tiny microtears (i.e. injuries) to the muscle fibres. This is why it's usually suggested not to work out every day, but only three or four times a week to give the fibres 48-72 hours in between to recover.

Careful with the videos. A video can't correct you when you do something wrong.

Re: Recumbent bike vs. upright bike vs. elliptical trainer

JudyS on 11/04/02 at 09:49 (099258)

Nen - I have a piece of exercise gear I bought at Sears a couple of years ago - it is a recumbant bike that can, with one or two movements, convert to an elliptical trainer. It has variable pressure and a heart-rate monitor. I use the recumbant bike function, John likes the elliptical function. It took me a bit of time to keep from pushing too hard with the ball of my foot and I'd encourage warming up the lower-leg muscles first. I do not like the elliptical function because, on this particular machine, it tends to force the foot to slide forward and downward with each revolution. That creats a bunch of pressure on the forefoot.

Re: Nancy

elliott on 11/04/02 at 10:06 (099261)

I agree with Julie in not placing too much faith in home exercise videos, epsecially if no one's supervising; you may end up constantly repeating improper methods. I also agree with her that an elliptical will do next to nothing for your back and abs; I can tell you that firsthand. Of course, there are back- and abs-specific machines at a gym.:-)

Look, I'm not trying to push you into a year's membership at an expensive and inconvenient place you'll never use. I avoided these places myself for years, even one right in my own work, for reasons somewhat similar to yours. But I do urge the one-month trial thing if you can (if nothing else to get a good handle on what these machines really are or are not doing). Just one month. You can consider a female-only place if that makes you more comfortable. I admit I often change in the bathroom instead of the public changing room; you could do that too. The variety of machines helps keep one motivated. (Having a stationary bike or whatever at home is still a good idea even with the membership.) After spending some time there, you may start to think a home gym of sorts, containing all the machines you'd ever need, is somewhat impractical. If you get in a groove at the gym, you may actually look forward to going there, both for the exercise and the people you meet there (I'm telling you, you *will* meet people you like, this coming from a self-declared anti-social loner), and soon you won't be self-conscious that people are looking at you. Three years down the road, they may be looking at you for other reasons. :-)