Every once in a while I write something that upsets the few - outside of my immediate family and some close friends - who actually take the time to read this blog. Many of them overlook the caveat I shamelessly adapted from the blog of Canadian triathlete & two-time Olympic medalist Simon Whitfield: "Whatever is said here - as with any blog/"tweet"/mountain top announcement - is an opinion, a perspective, a rant, a cry for help; some innocent chest-thumping, painfully-inane humour, useless/useful banter and/or all of the above. Take all that is written within with the amount - grain, shake, shaker or entire box - of salt to make it palatable. Heck, you can even apply that to this disclaimer..." Today's thoughts may do exactly the same. However, these are my thoughts, supported (on many occasions) by reading, research & - at times - trial & error.
My body loves working out twice a day but my joints & tendons are too old to handle the cumulative stress of running on pavement for 60-to-70 miles a week. When I lived in Tampa I could drive 15-to-20 minutes from my home and run on dirt trails. However, I haven't seen trails like those where I now live, & I only get to run trails now when I travel up north. Thank heavens for Jay Yanovich at the gym on the base where I work, as well as my wife, Suzanne.
Jay is an ultrarunner & served as my strength coach in years past - he suggested using the elliptical trainer as a way to get that second workout without beating my achilles' tendons to death. My wife managed fitness centers in her younger days, she also knew the benefits of ellipticals. So when I've done a little too much on the pavement & I'm eating ibuprofen like candy I take a couple of days to do the elliptical at our local gym.
There are some people in this world who have high sweat rates. I'm one of them. The easiest warm-up leading into a workout or race can have me soaked within five minutes. When the comments begin, I often inform the source, "I sweat when I think." Naturally, when a person with a high sweat rate works out indoors on an exercise machine, all that sweat stays in one confined area. And when the workout is over the majority of my cool-down before going home is taken up by toweling down the machine & the area immediately surrounding.
The other day, the gym owner stopped to talk to me; I had just started my workout on one of the machines. "Mike, some folks have commented to me about your dedication & your effort, but they complain that you leave the machine soaking wet when you're done." I told him, "Ed, I wipe off the machine after every workout, believe me. I know what my sweat can do to machines...and electronics..." I - pun intended - stewed in my own juices for the 40 minutes of my workout, then walked to the office to get Ed's attention. I then showed him my exact post-workout wipe-down of the elliptical trainer. When I finished, I pointed to the footpads, which were still damp, & said, "This morning, the footpads were a little less damp than that, but everything else I showed you was the way I just wiped." Ed smiled, shook his head, & said: "Yes, I guess this is a gym, right?" The tone of his voice told me we were on the same page of sheet music.
I guess people look as critically at the way I work on machines as I look at the way they, um, don't work on the machines.
I marvel at elliptical trainer users who never get the RPM count above 60 per minute. I also marvel at users who never get their heart rate any higher than 50 percent of their maximum rate. And what really gets me spinning like a top is the user who decides to use the reverse pedaling workout. Really? Do you, when walking or running, go that slowly? Do you spend 15 to 20 minutes of your life continually walking or jogging in reverse? Unless you're an offensive lineman or a defensive back for the Saints I can't see any need for going in reverse on an elliptical trainer.
The objective of an elliptical trainer is to simulate the act of running without the potentially damaging impact. The most efficient runners, according to research done by Jack Daniels, Ph.D., & other coaches, have an average footstrike of 160-to-180 steps per minute...that's 80-to-90 RPM on the elliptical trainer.
I know the objective of most elliptical users is to burn fat rather than to maintain or build cardiovascular fitness, but most fat burning programs on the elliptical trainer are assuming a heart rate at least 50 percent of maximum heart rate. Ellipticals, for dinged-up runners like "yours truly," are used both to burn off that excess fat & to maintain or build the cardio. In that case, getting to 50 percent is not so much the issue...cardio enhancement needs a heart rate closer to 70 or 80 percent of maximum.
So, if you see me sweating all over an elliptical trainer, don't worry: I promise to wipe down everything that might potentially be touched by your skin. Now, let's talk about this time you're wasting on the machine, shall we?