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MISC.FITNESS FAQ and a little more.. Revision: 1.0.5 Created By Jeff Gleixner (email@example.com) with various contributions from people on misc.fitness. A big thanks to Katie Henry who created the home equipment section, and to Kyle Wilson for HTMLing this. This is the FAQ for misc.fitness. I'd like to thank everyone on misc.fitness for sharing their advice and experiences. I tried to keep names and addresses of articles that I included, but a few were lost. I'm sure this will grow over time. If you notice anything that's incorrect or if you'd like to add your point of view, please send some nice e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll correct, or add it, to this document. This is available via anonymous ftp from ftp.cray.com in the /pub/misc.fitness directory. I have also placed a supplemental document in there which is a collection of various posts from people on misc.fitness about protein, carbohydrates, muscle, supplements, etc. called "supplemental.doc" (see question #19). The URL for the HTML version is ftp://ftp.cray.com/pub/misc.fitness/. This document actually consists of 5 parts. Part 1: The FAQ. Part 2: Exercise Equipment information. Part 3: Listing of 2-4 exercises per body part and the areas they work. part 4: Listing of recommended books and magazines. Part 5: Glossary of Basic Definitions of fitness terms. Because of the size they will be posted as Part 1: FAQ Part 2: FAQ continued & Exercise Equipment Information Part 3: Exercises, Books & Magazines, Glossary This is part 2. - Continuation of Part 1: The Frequently Asked Questions (and answers :) -- 35. What's the best exercise to do and when is the best time to workout? The best exercise to do is whatever exercise you enjoy. Most people like variety and will run one day and play basketball the next day. Find an activity that you enjoy and stick with it. The best time to work out is, again, whatever time of day you like. Some people are morning people and they usually have no problem with going to the gym at 0600, others like to workout at night. What time of day you workout isn't important, what's important is how you're working out and if you're getting enough nutrients and rest. 36. Shin splints: What is it and what to do if you have it? From:email@example.com (Stephen Holt, CSCS) ** Stolen from the rec.running FAQ. ** ------------ START --------- Shin splints (Harry Y Xu firstname.lastname@example.org) (Doug Poirier email@example.com) (Rodney Sanders firstname.lastname@example.org) Excerpts from _The SportsMedicine Book_ by Gabe Mirkin, MD. and Marshall Hoffman: ``Shin splints is....condition that can result from muscle imbalance. They are characterized by generalized pain in front of the lower leg and are particularly common in runners and running backs.... The most common cause is a muscle imbalance where the calf muscles--which pull the forefoot down--overpower the shin muscles--which pull the forefoot up. As the athlete continues to train, the calf muscle usually becomes proportionately much stronger than the shin muscles. The treatment for shin splints is to strengthen the weaker muscles (shins) and stretch the stronger muscles (calves). To strengthen the shins, run up stairs. To stretch the calves,...(do stretching exercises for the calves, et. the wall push-ups)'' *end of excerpts. _________________________________________ In my experience, I have found that stretching is the real key to avoiding shin-splints. I believe there's a book with stretches by Bob Anderson that you may want to check. Also, back issues of running magazines sometimes have helpful information. Basically, I do the standard "lean on the wall stretch" and a stretch by standing flat-footed on one leg and bending at the knee to stretch the achilles. I then top these off with a few toe raises (no weights!) before I head out to run... If you're having trouble, I'd recommend stretching 2-3 times a day until you get over the problem. Start slowly! Also, you probably should avoid hills and extremely hard surfaces until the situation improves. I've known several people who've had shin splints and gotten over them by stretching. (Of course, you should be careful in case the shin splints are the result of a more severe problem...) ------------------------ Help with shin splints. 1. Try picking up marbles with your toes and holding onto them for a few seconds. 1A. While recovering from shin splints, it may help to use a wedge in the heel of your shoes. By raising the heel, you are reducing the pull on the muscles and tendons on the front. 2. Stand on the stairs with your heels out over the edge. Lower your heels as far as they will go without undue discomfort, and hold for 15 seconds. Slowly raise yourself up on your toes. Repeat 5 million times. (Sherwood Botsford email@example.com) 3. If you can, rig something with either surgical tubing or a large rubberband. For example: put the tubing around one of the back legs of your desk in some sort of a loop. Reach under the tubing with your toes, with your heel as a pivot pull the tubing toward you. This will work the muscle in the front of the shins. Repeat 6 million times. It's easier than the stair exercise 4. Run on different terrain, preferably grass. It'll absorb the shock. 5. This normally affects knees, but it might affect shins. Don't run on the same side of the road all of the time. It is sloped left or right to let the water run off. Running on the same slope for long periods of time will cause adverse effects to the ankles, shins...etc.... If you are running on a track, alternate your direction of travel, as the lean when you are going around the corners is at least as bad as the crown slope of a road. This is especially true of small indoor tracks. 6. For strengthening the front muscles: Make a training weight by tying a strip of cloth to a pop bottle. Sit on the kitchen counter top, hang the bottle from your toes, and raise it up and down by flexing your ankle. The weight can be adjusted by adding water or sand to the bottle. (Sherwood Botsford firstname.lastname@example.org) 7. Scatter a few chunks of 2x4 around the house where you tend to stand, say kitchen and bathroom. Now every time you are at the stove or at the bathroom (in front of either fixture) stand on the 2x4 and rest your heels on the floor. One in front of the TV and used during every commercial will either stretch you, or stop you from watching TV. (Sherwood Botsford email@example.com) ----------------------------END-------------------------------------- Also from David Will <david.will@ColumbiaSC.NCR.COM> Shin splints - Usually refers to damage of the connective tissue on the front of the lower leg (tibialis anterior). Shin splints usually are caused by putting weight/stress/shock on the ball of the foot. Causes include poor shoes (not much shock absorption), changes in surface, lack of stretching before and after exercise, rapid increase in intensity and duration. When walking or running make an effort to do this heel to toe. Heel comes down first, then let the toe come down. On the steps, you are probably flat footed. Basically do dorsal flexion (toe raises w/heel flat on ground). This can be done sitting or standing with or without weight on the top of your foot. This will strengthen the muscle. To stretch this muscle you need to do plantar flexion (point your toes). This should be done before and after the exercise. I sometimes stand with my heel on a step, and point my toes down as far as I can. There is another disorder called Anterior Compartment Syndrome. This is severe persistent pain in the shin area caused by build up of pressure in the connective tissue and fascia. This is probably what you've heard referred to as shin splints. I don't know of any exercise that makes shin splints heal faster (but maybe there is). I think they just get better with time. --David 37. Will muscle turn into FAT? No! They are two different things. Will an apple turn into an orange? The muscle, if not used, will become smaller and FAT deposits may appear over and within the muscle, but the muscle doesn't change into FAT. 38. What are Plyometrics? From: firstname.lastname@example.org Well, plyometrics are basically a form of modified power train- ing. However, generally speaking, only body weight is used due to the high impact nature of this technique. Similar power train- ing, plyometrics emphasizes speed of movement over anything else (well, perhaps not safety). The goal is to "teach" your muscles to respond quickly and powerfully. Also, some feel that plyometrics may improve neural pathways and improve muscle fiber recruitment over time. This makes it useful as well for athletes who don't necessarily need power but desire improved strength (i.e. power lifters and body-builders). So, what exactly is plyometrics. Well, before I get into the actual description of plyometrics and how to incorporate them into a work out routine, let me bore you with some physiology. Plyometrics relies on one of the basic facts of muscular physiology: a pre-stretched muscle is capable of generating more force. Basically, if two conditions are met during the performance of plyometrics, greater force output can be realized. The two conditions are this: 1. The muscle must be pre-stretched prior to the concentric movement 2. This pre-stretch must occur immediately prior to the concentric movement or nothing happens Actually, you've probably all done this if you've even jumped. Think about it, when you jump what do you do right before leaving the ground? You take a slight prep by bending your legs so that you can jump further or higher. Well, this prep movement satis- fies the above two conditions. This is why high jumpers do a quick knee flexion before jumping and basketball players do the same thing, so that they can go higher easier. Ok, enough phy- siology. Although plyometrics can be used for essentially any muscle, it is probably most frequently performed for the legs as most ath- letes require the majority in their legs. Probably the most basic plyometric exercise is depth jumps. Very basically, you stand on top of a box, chair or table and jump to the ground off of it. You should absorb some of the impact by bending your knees (which fulfills requirement 1) and then immediately jump as high as possible (which fulfills requirement 2). This can be performed for several repetitions. As you can imagine, the limit to plyometric exercises is really determined by one's imagina- tion. Plyometric push-ups are very possible by exploding the body off the floor, absorbing the impact with the hands, lowering the body slightly and then exploding again in rapid succession. Also, there are several books available which outline various plyometric exercises for various muscles. However, understand that there is a high injury potential as this type of exercise is extremely high intensity. Generally, box height on depth jumping should be kept between eight and sixteen inches (1) to minimize risk potential. Also, due to it's high intensity nature, plyometrics should probably only be performed at limited times during the year (preferably during the power phase if you are following periodization) and no more than once a week to avoid injury. Also, due to the high stress that will be felt on the connecting tissues (ligaments and tendons), at least six months or more of basic weight training should be performed before incorporating plyometrics into any routine. For more information, please see "Explosive Power: Plyometrics for Bodybuilders, martial artists and other athletes" available from Health for Life (1-800-874-5339), "Jumping into Plyometrics" by Donald A. Chu, PhD available from Human Kinetics (1-800-747- 4457). For a catalog of previous posts send requests to email@example.com along with questions/comments. Lyle References: 1. M.F. Bobbert et. al. "Drop Jumping II. The influ- ence of dropping height on the biomechanics of drop jumping" Med. Sci. Sports Exerc Vol 19(4), 322-346. 1987. 39. I don't want to look like a bodybuilder. Should I still lift weights? YES! For most people, adding muscle is very difficult. Hard work, eating right, and having the right genetics are all needed to get the bodybuilder look. It also takes years, and most often a lot of steroids, to put on the kind of mass that you see in magazines. If you find yourself getting more muscle than you'd like, then you can stop training and they will shrink, due to lack of work. You can use weights, or progressive resistance, to make you stronger, faster and more explosive, as well as making yourself look the way you want. If you want bigger arms it's possible to train your arms and they'll become larger. Looking like a bodybuilder takes extreme determination and the right gene pool, it isn't something that "just happens". It is also important to note that most athletes use weights to improve their strength and their performance, and don't end up looking like a bodybuilder, even though they train very hard. 40. If I'm doing both aerobic exercise and weight training, which one should be done first? If you want to add muscle and lose FAT during the same workout you should do the weight training first. Why? First of all you'll have more energy, which usually results in a more productive weight training workout. Second, there is a time span of about 60 minutes, after starting the workout, where Growth Hormone levels are slightly higher than normal. You want to take advantage of that by making the workout not last more than 60 minutes. Weight training first may hamper the aerobic exercise because your tired, but you raise your chances of building muscle, which will burn more FAT in the long run. A better way would be to do them on different days and allowing yourself adequate rest between weight training sessions. 41. Is there a nutritional database available via FTP? The USDA Nutrient database is available from info.umd.edu in the directory /inforM/EdRes/Topic/AgrEnv/USDA/USDAFoodCompositionData/Data/SR10 It's pretty trivial to add fields to the numbers in the database, which is about 4.5MB. The following nutrition data files are available from anonymous ftp to ftp.cray.com in the /pub/misc.fitness directory: ABBREVIATED.DATA.gz Abbreviated database from the above site with each field labeled. NUTRITION.DATA.gz : Concatenation of the SR files from the above site. NUTRITION.LABELED.gz : Nutritional database with each field labeled. 42. How does form affect the muscles that are worked? From: Tim Mansfield <firstname.lastname@example.org> This is a summary of an interview with John Parillo entitled "Form vs Structure" by Greg Zulak, Musclemag International, #136, September 1993. Parillo argues in the interview that what some people take to be genetic differences between two trainees, who do the same exercise but gain different results, may in fact be the result of differing exercise form. Small differences in the execution of the exercise can stress entirely different muscles or parts of muscles. Exercise variation muscles exercised ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Bent Row pinch shoulder blades rhomboids, trapezius shoulders down lats, teres bar to stomach rear delt, lower lat as well Chins lean back upper lats, teres lean forward, knees up lower lats Pulldowns stay vertical, pull elbows to bottom, not back, shoulders down at bottom of movement lower lats arched back, elbows behind upper lats Bent Lateral straighten arms at top rear delt leave arms bent, pinch shoulder blades rhomboids Behind Neck Press keep shoulders lowered at the top Bench Press sternum arched, shoulders down and back pecs chest flat, shoulders raised front delt Flyes as for bench press Tricep Extensions elbows wide, bar moves straight tricep belly elbows in, bar moves in an arc tricep heads Bicep curls supinated (palm down?) at top outside head pronated (palm up?) at top inside head Squats hips forward at start of raise thighs hips back and up at start lower back, glutes narrow stance, toes forward, push with balls of feet front thigh wider stance, toes out, push with heels outer thigh Calf Raises toes straight, heels turned in at the top inner head toes straight, heels turned out at the top outer head seated, feet under body soleus Stiff-Legged Deadlifts arched back, pivot from hip hamstrings rounded back, pivot from lower back lower back (dangerous) arched back, pivot from hips drive hips forward at 2/3 point, squeeze glutes glutes 43. Supplements (Chromium Picolinate, Met-Rx, Vanadyl Sulfate, Cybergenics, etc. ), Do they work? Supplements don't have any anabolic affect. They may provide extra protein or calories, but they won't build muscle for you. Those ads sure do look nice don't they? Look carefully at them. The before picture is low light, gut hanging out, bad pose, and usually no tan. In the "after" picture they're sucking in the gut, doing a descent pose, good light, oiled skin, and are usually very tan. All of that is done to make them appear larger and more defined. Supplements may have a psychological affect, which could easily make you work harder and gain muscle, but it's not the product that's making you gain muscle, it's the extra work you're doing. The bodybuilders are getting paid very well for saying that a certain product made them who they are. The fact is that they are approached well after they win a few contests and after they are already huge. The only supplement that works is anabolic steroids, which won't be discussed in this document. Use supplements only if you're having trouble eating a well balanced diet or are trying to increase your calories or protein intake. Don't buy them with the thought that they will suddenly pack 10 pounds of muscle on your body, they won't! Your money would be better spent on a hiring a good trainer or on buying better food. If you are going to buy a supplement, Twinlab has a good reputation for high quality products. Don't buy any Weider product. Many of their products have been tested and found to be very low quality. What do some supplements really do? Boron: - Research found incidence of impotence & infertility in males. - Increase absorption of Calcium & Magnesium, which stimulates alertness in the brain. - No anabolic effect. Vanadyl Sulfate: - Increase glucose transport into muscles. - Muscles will appear larger in approx. 80% of the people who use it. Once it is discontinued, the muscles go back to normal. It should be cycled, and it could be used to give you an advantage for a contest. Order it from Sports Pharma. - No anabolic effect. Chromium Picolinate: - Insulin boosting action. Will provide energy for people with low blood sugar. - No anabolic effect. Cybergenics: - Good, detailed training program, the supplements provide no anabolic effect. Met-Rx: - Good when used as a meal replacement. - Expensive. - No anabolic effect. If you're looking for mail order places here are some recommended 1-800 numbers. Most, if not all, offer a catalog and very cheap prices. Hardbody Enterprises NJ 1-800-378-6787 Iron Warehouse -Canada 1-800-561-3856. open 24hrs. Power Store 1-800-382-9611 Vitamin Wholesalers 1-800-848-6896 DPS Nutrition 1-800-697-4969 Nutrition Discounters 1-800-362-3306 L&H Vitamins NY 1-800 221-1152 Price Destroyers 1-800-xxx-xxxx (number unknown/changed) (If you know their number please fwd to email@example.com) Warehouse Sport Sales 1-800-677-4810 Health Depot 1-800-786-4611 Nutrition Warehouse 1-800-362-3306 JBN 1-800-487-2111 DSS 1-800-666-6865 S&S Enterprises, Inc. 1-800-456-3955 44. How much protein is in an egg? The egg is the most complete souce of protein. White Yolk Protein 3g 3g Fat Nil 5g Calories 15 60 ------------- Part 2: Exercise Equipment information --------------- This section consists of responses to the FAQ Exercise Equipment survey, plus miscellaneous opinions found in misc.fitness. Thanks to everyone who answered the survey. If you would like to share your experiences with exercise equipment (good or bad), write to Katie Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Equipment is grouped by category: Inline skates RollerBlade Zetra Exercise bikes LifeCycle Rowing machines Concept II Cross-country skiing machines General information Nordic Track Pro Nordic Track 900 Precor Treadmills General information LifeStride Jane Fonda's Treadmill Precor 905 Home gyms/weight equipment The Hammer Parabody EX350 BMI 9700 Step machines/stair-climbers Slideboards Other equipment HealthRider VOICES OF EXPERIENCE -------------------- The majority of home exercise equipment is no longer in use within a year of purchase. Why? Frankly, it is boring to run on a treadmill, ride an exercise bike, ski on a ski machine, etc. Think _very_ carefully before spending your money. I like my treadmill because I can train hard in the winter for the summer racing season. Without that goal, I doubt I'd use it very often. .......... I've now spent $600 for the NordicTrack, $1100 for the Parabody EX350, about $1500 for new CDs of music to work out with, about $3000 on new clothes and alterations to the old, and $300 for a new CD player stereo for my little gym. So, the actual retail cost of losing 65 lbs is just $6500, $100 per pound. Maybe I should have thought of this when I was putting that weight on. Ah well, it was money well spent, I think. .......... >What is better for shedding fat? The [x-equipment] or [y-equipment]? It doesn't make any difference. Any exercise that allows you to maintain a training heart rate (60% to 75% of HR reserve) for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times a week will help you to lower your levels of stored body fat (assuming nutritional intake is appropriate). Other than that, you should choose a machine (and activity) that you like and that is of good quality to keep you motivated. The idea that one machine or another (or that one intensity of aerobic exercise or another) will burn more fat or cause you to lose your stored body fat faster is mostly a bunch of marketing crap. Stick with what you like. INLINE SKATES ------------- ROLLERBLADE I own Aeroblades by Rollerblade. They use a three-buckle system that makes it easier to get in/out of. Same w/the Cool Blade, which is a cheaper version and I think may have been discontinued. I've seen a few comments on the Metro, usually complaining that they don't support the foot well and/or convincingly. If you don't get a lot of feedback in this group, I suggest posting to rec.skate. ZETRA I own a three-year-old pair of Zetras, now called the Zetrablade. They've been great for getting me to class on time and for touring the regional parks around the Bay Area (again, the moderate recreation/ exercise motif). And, they have heel brakes on both skates, which is nice for beginners who aren't necessarily left- or right-footed. If I had to buy another pair, I'd definitely get a model with at least one ski-boot type bracket on it (there's probably a term for it that I don't know) which helps a lot with the fit of the boot. I always have to stop after the first 10 minutes and tighten my laces. EXERCISE BIKES -------------- LIFECYCLE IC>I am considering buying a LifeCycle. Could anybody give me IC>advice on where and for how much I could expect to buy one? New ones run anywhere from a $700-$1,500. I highly suggest a used one. In Los Angeles, we have a newspaper of classified ads called the Recycler and I see used ones listed all the time. Check out the fitness equipment section of your local paper as well. (Keep in mind that in the L.A. overload of fitness fanatics makes for me used LifeCycles available) IC>I saw an ad recently from LifeFitness of Irvine CA. Are they IC>reputable? LifeFitness INVENTED the LifeCycle. Can't get any more reputable than that! IC>Finally, if there is another make I should consider, please let IC>me know. Primarily I'm interested in a reliable bike that can IC>simulate hills (I miss New York!). Go to your local Fitness store. You live in a big enough city where they are going to have a high end fitness equipment store (vs. a sporting goods store). You might also consider calling some of your local health clubs to find out who services their LifeCycles. Then call the servicing companies to see if they have any units for sale used or who else might in the area or who sells them new. Good luck and happy cycling! .......... Best aerobic bike ever built (IMHO). I own a 5500 that I bought new four years ago, still runs great. A friend found a 6500 at a flea market for $200, cleaned it up--it runs great. I have no reason to mistrust LifeFitness. .......... Buy the LifeCycle from LifeFitness. The best model is the recumbent 5500r. It will run you a little over $2,000, but it's worth every penny and LifeFitness offers financing, which makes it relatively painless to buy. .......... Tectrix is also very good and Trotter is comming out with a bike soon. .......... ROWING MACHINES --------------- CONCEPT II >Is the Concept II worth $700? Yes. you could easily spend $300-$400 on something not even 1/10 as good. If you really think rowing is the thing for you, the Concept II is hard to beat. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING MACHINES ----------------------------- GENERAL ADVICE X country ski machines are great---IF---that's an activity that you will enjoy and stay with. Don't listen to the marketing BS about "world's best aerobic exercise." That claim is based on arcane scientific distinctions that have no practical worth to the average exerciser. If you like to do it, they will be effective and help you attain goals if done properly (correct intensity, frequency, duration). >From the owner of the Nordic Track PRO, below: I have since also used some of the lesser NordicTrack models and would suggest that anyone considering purchase should spring the extra bucks and get one of the models that allows the front end to be elevated. It's not so much that elevating the front is, in and of itself, that great, but that the design of these units gives a more stable base. NORDIC TRACK My experience says, stick with the Nordic Track machines. (Their advertising may be BS but the products are good.) I have tried the "lever arm" type of machine (costing $350.00) and fond it uncomfortable and difficult to achieve a quality workout. As for price, the best Nordic Track machines are in the $450-600 range. For your long-term enjoyment, I strongly advise not settling for anything less in price. IMHO, it is good $$$ after bad. See if you can't try out a Nordic Track in a club or with a friend before you buy. Good luck. .......... I bought a NordicTrack PRO from NordicTrack by mail order. When it arrived, I hauled the box upstairs and proceeded to get out my tool box figuring that I would now have to spend the next six hours assembling the thing. It slid out of the box, unfolded and was operational in a matter of minutes without even opening my toolbox. (Oh, I do think that I had to get a screwdriver to attach the stupid electronics thing that Nordic tried to convince me was worth $150, though they threw it in free, which is a good thing since it most certainly isn't worth $15 much less $150.) I decided to begin slowly, so I decided to do just ten minutes. After about eight, I fell off exhausted and seriously considered calling 911 for myself. However, after about two months of gradually working up, I began doing four one-hour runs a week. In seven months, I lost 60 lbs and now weigh 165. I feel great. The NordicTrack itself is none the worse for wear after all of that hard work (and I do go at it rather aggressively). It showed some alarming signs of wear early on, but that has now settled in. It seems like it just needed to break in like a new pair of shoes. In the almost nine months that I've had it and used it regularly, I've had no problems with it at all. It got rather noisy at one point and the neighbors complained. I hadn't noticed it since it apparently got noisy gradually. I just cranked up the tunes to compensate. ... Anyway, I called the Nordic people and they suggested oiling the idler wheels with light, household oil. The noise disappeared and I was surprised. Now I seem to notice it starts to get that noise back every few months. A quick drop or two of oil and she runs smooth again. Aside from the expected exhaustion and the initial adjustments of my heretofore idle body at the onset of this regime, I have not felt any injury or other adverse effects of "tracking," even as aggressively as I do it. I've now changed to NordicTrack only three hours a week in order to keep from losing any more of what's left of me. The problem is that I really have come to enjoy running on my NordicTrack. I'd do it everyday if I could. My major complaint with my Pro is the stupid electronics. All right, the clock is accurate and will tell you how long you've been at it, but that's about it. Nothing that a $10 stopwatch wouldn't do. The distance run measurement is something I can't comment on, though when I go X-country skiing for real on measured trails, I seem to be able to go about ten miles an hour, but my NordicTrack only seems to indicate about six miles for much more constant and intense (or so it seems to me) work. The calories used measurement is a joke. It seems simply to integrate your speed over the time that you worked. In this respect, I do use this thing just to judge the relative merit of my workout. A typical one-hour session seems to run this number up to 600. If I get off and find this only went up to 500, I consider myself to have been dogging it. If I find it at 700, I wonder about overworking. The pulse monitor is totally worthless. It can almost find a steady pulse if you're standing still and hold your breath and stand perfectly motionless holding your head as some totally unnatural angle. If you want to check your pulse while you're working, don't even try. It will gyrate all over the scale. It's also very uncomfortable to wear. You can't even stop and stand still for a few seconds to take your pulse since it takes it a minute or so to get a valid reading. So, don't let the NordicTrack sales people talk you into paying extra for the fancy upgraded electronics. Speaking of talking to the NordicTrack sales people, they actually do have some range to bargain with you on the phone. I talked them into giving me $50 off the price, throwing in the $150 electronics upgrade free, and paying the shipping. Anyway, I can enthusiastically recommend the NordicTrack Pro. NORDIC TRACK 900 I used a Nordic 900 at a health club on a recent trip and was surprised that it didn't have as smooth an action as my much less expensive PRO does. PRECOR >From the owner of the Nordic Track PRO: I used Precor's new X-country skier at the local fitness store the other day and found it not very smooth and, in fact, difficult to get a good stride on. TREADMILLS ---------- GENERAL INFORMATION > I'm looking at buying a treadmill. Does anyone have any advice on > which ones are better. I'm trying to stay in the moderate range. > Is motorized best? Thanks True, Precor and Trotter are three of the better-known brands for home use. I'm sure there are others that are just as good. A couple of tips: 1. Go to a store that specializes in fitness equipment, rather than a large department store like Sears. Fitness stores usually carry the best equipment, they usually have the best-trained personnel and they usually carry 10-15 different models in different price ranges so that you can compare. (Note the recurring use of the term "usually." I know the good stores in Chicago but you must always exercise consumer caution.) 2. Look for a good motor (at least 2 hp), stable walking bed. Think about the use of the treadmill. If you will use it only for walking, you can save a few $$ by getting one with a shorter length. Sometimes, the higher price models feature only more sophisticated electronics, rather than better hardware. You need to decide what features you want (like a motorized elevation control). 3. As far as I can tell, motorized is still best. I've seen the commercials for Nordic Track and Jane Fonda, but I'm not yet convinced. Usually, non-motorized TMs do not have enough inertia to be comfortable. 4. You probably need to spend $1500 to $2000 for a good TM with what I would consider minimum features. If you can't afford that, you might want to consider another piece of equipment or delay the purchase. It has been my experience that $500-$1000 TMs usually are unsatisfactory in the long run (and you still have spent a lot of $$). LIFESTRIDE I have been using a LifeStride treadmill for the past 6 months and find it to be an excellent machine for the price. I bought it for $550.00 and it seems to be a durable product that will last a lifetime. It had a fitness test, hill climbing, random hills, manual settings available. It shows you the size of hills to come, current elevation, calories burned, calories per hour, miles run, time etc. and literally raises and lowers itself up to a 15% grade. A super product! IMHO JANE FONDA'S TREADMILL I have heard that the quality of these treadmills is quite lacking in that they do not provide a consistent "feel" throughout training on them. The best way for you to be certain if the look and feel you desire is to take the thing for a test drive and scope the quality for yourself. This is not something you would want to mail-order. PRECOR 905 Cost: $3,500 Speeds from 1.0 to 10.0 mph, motorized incline from 0-15%. This model is about 7 years old and has a ton of mileage on it. I would estimate 3000-5000 miles without any breakdowns. It has a heavy duty motor which maintains a constant speed. Treadmills with lower horsepower motors have noticeable lurching at high speeds, but the Precor has never shown that tendency. Also, in spite of the high mileage on part has needed to be replaced. The belt on which you run is in excellent condition. Compared to many treadmills, it has a long running surface which means less opportunity to fall behind and end up off the back of the track. Most retailers of Precor will deliver, assemble and demo the machine for you, which is the least you can expect for the price tag. Every fall I spend $35 to have a service guy come out and perform preventive maintenance. It is an excellent value and I would definitely go with Precor again. HOME GYMS/WEIGHT EQUIPMENT -------------------------- THE HAMMER Manufacturer: Vital Form Where Purchased: Direct Price: $1130 for complete unit with all options. $699 for base unit. This device is essentially a multi-exercise device based on a T-bar row system. Weights are placed at one end of an arm; the other end is attached to a vertical post which attaches a seat to the base. An adjustable (height, distance from seat) rest is located between the seat and the weights. Lifting attachments are attached to the T-bar arm; load is adjusted by the amount of weight and where the lift attachments are connected to the weight arm. The optional lat tower is fastened behind the seat. The basic unit occupies about 48 inches by 24 inches. I've been able to use the Hammer to perform about 50 different lifts. It seems to provide a very good range of motion. The position of the lift attachment on the weight arm can significantly multiply the effect of the weights loaded on the arm. There are 11 lift positions on the arm. With 100# of plates on the arm, the effective load varies from 131# (position 11) to 365# (position 1). Not all positions can be used with all exercises. The Hammer seems very durable, with the exception of a distance scale which is used to position the movable rest--it's just tape & wears off. The Lat tower is a great attachment, but it introduces some lateral instability--the tower is about 80 inches high. There is a post to hang excess weights behind the seat. It should be loaded up to prevent the rear of the device from lifting when performing cable curls with heavy weights. I have modified the Hammer to serve as a Glute-Ham machine as described by Michael Yessis by adding an adjustable foot platform to the lat tower. With weights removed, the Hammer is quite movable but since I keep mine in one place I've mounted it to a heavy sheet of plywood to provide additional stability. I've also developed additional lifting devices to extend it. PROS-- Very easy to assemble. Little or no maintenance required. Device is very simple--little can go wrong. Gives the feeling of free weights. Since the weights are never above you, no workout partner is required. Extremely flexible. I use it to perform more than 60 different lifts. Very amenable to creative modification to create new lifts. CONS-- Maximum plate capacity is about 150# (6x25 regular plates). This should only be a problem for very serious lifters. Lateral stability with lat tower. You have to buy plates in addition to the machine--figure on 4x25, 2x10, 1x5, 1x2.5. I find the press bar to be a little difficult to work with. OVERALL Yes, I would buy it again.. Good value for money. PARABODY EX350 ... I bought a Parabody EX350 from the local dealer. I started with this thing three times a week in mid January, so I'm just finishing my sixth week with it. I'm very glad that I talked the local dealer into delivering and setting up this little contraption for free, though, since the assembly drawings are virtually unreadable and the assembly looked rather complex. However, the fellow from the dealer knew exactly what he was doing and it all went fine. I selected this machine since it seems particularly well built. ... I wanted a serious weight machine right out of the starting blocks. So many of the cheap units available just don't seem like they're intended to be seriously used. The Parabody EX350 has a very heavy frame (at least as home units go), good pulley and cable parts, and good, heavy hardware. All of the mechanisms seem to work smoothly and I have not noticed any wear or breaking except as noted below. I'm also pleased with the minimal amount of setup and reconfiguration that is required (as contrasted to comparable home units) as you go through a workout. After about three weeks with my Parabody EX350, I noticed some rather bad wear abound the leg curl part. The dealer sent Steve back over (a house call) and determined that I needed an extra washer. With that installed, the mechanism seemed a bit tight for a while but now seems to have worn in nicely. My one complaint about the Parabody is that it comes with virtually no instructions. If you don't have a good dealer who can show you how to raise and lower the seats, attach the various parts, etc. you'll have a hard time figuring it all out. After three workouts a week on this thing, alternating with my NordicTrack, I've noticed that God has again blessed my efforts with rather nice results. I've also not gained any weight, so I must still be losing fat. ...[T]hough I have only had mine for about six weeks, [I can] give a guarded recommendation to the Parabody EX350. [Info about unrelated equipment deleted.] BMI 9700 There are several moderately priced but good home gyms on the market. I would recommend the BMI 9700 home gym for strength training. It offers good resistance training up to 330 lbs and has exercises for both upper and lower body. It will run you around $400-500. Good quality at a low price. Of course it can't match more expensive, professional equipment. STEP MACHINES (STAIR-CLIMBERS) ------------------------------ MISCELLANEOUS Last year, I spent just under a hundred dollars on one of those "cheap" stair climbers at Target. The center linkage broke with just a few weeks of only moderate usage. I repaired it myself and it broke again and again and again. Finally, I installed a number fifty roller chain and a stainless steel sprocket mechanism of my own design. This worked wonderfully until one of the shock absorber things broke. I gave up at this point. ... When it was working, the stair climber gave me sore knees constantly. SLIDE BOARDS ------------ The October, 1993 issue of Shape magazine contains an article about the latest fitness craze, slideboarding. I got an e-mail request for more info and thought other folks might like a synopsis, too. Here goes: Slideboarding looks easy, but isn't, at least at the beginning. Several consecutive minutes will leave you huffing and puffing. Getting from one side of the board to the other requires just about every muscle in your lower body, which is why slideboarding is an excellent, and tough, workout. You'll condition your heart and lungs, work on your balance and coordination and burn a lot of calories. Slideboarding is used by physical therapists to rehabilitate knee injuries, especially tears of the anterior cruciate ligament behind the knee cap. It's effective because it strengthens your quadriceps without having to straighten your knees. It's important to use proper technique. Improper technique can place too much stress on your ankles, knees and lower back. One reason sliding probably will be tough at first, even if you're in good shape, is that it's different movement from most everyday movement patterns. This makes sliding great training for several sports that require you to constantly shift your weight and move from side to side, such as volleyball and tennis (and basketball). Because sliding is so new studies haven't been done to determine exactly how many calories it burns, but it seems to burn as many as running an eight-minute mile or cycling at a brisk cadence. Because sliding is so tough, it's not something you can do for hours at a time. Start by interspersing short bursts of 30 seconds with other aerobic activity and work up to 20 to 30 minute sessions. A flimsy board will travel halfway across the room with each pushoff or buckle in the center and require constant straightening. Others make a noise like the tearing of paper, which may make sliding to music difficult. Portable units are available, but some weigh up to 30 lbs. Make sure you get one with high enough bumpers so you won't go sailing over the end every time you build up some momentum. Square bumpers give a faster, more explosive skate, whereas angled end ramps slow things down. The board should be slick, but not so slick that you feel you're skidding across an icy sidewalk. Wearing slide socks without shoes will give your feet more of a workout, but you'll get a smoother ride and more support with your shoes on (and booties over your shoes). Booties come in different speeds. Goretex or silky fabrics send you flying; rougher material will slow you down but make you work harder. A short list of slideboards Shape magazine has "seen": Slide Reebok (formerly Kneedspeed) -- Rubberized end ramps curve slightly upward to ease stress on ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Slide, socks and an instructional video are $99.99. Call 1-800-REEBOK-1 or 1-800-843-4444. Body Slide Club Pro (formerly The Training Camp Slide) -- The top-of-the-line model for $199, is self-polishing, so it gets faster and smoother with use. Other pluses: adjustable stop-block to vary the length of the glide and rubber webbing underneath to prevent the board from sliding as you do. Call 1-800-238-5241 The Original Slide Board -- Well-crafted, it's the best board around. Stop blocks can be set up as either vertical or angled. Hinged in middle for easy fold-up and storage. All models under $200. Call 1-516-921-2003 (This takes you to an answering machine which may or may not have anything to do with the Slide Board. If anyone knows a better number for the Slide Board please let me know. Jeff Gleixner -email@example.com- ) Body Slide -- Hawked on late-night TV, is cheap ($50) and slow. Collects dust easily and must be polished frequently with a soft cloth. Each pushoff sends both you and the slide flying. The article also includes instructions on how to slide. Topics include "The Basics," "What to Do with Your Arms," "How Fast to Slide," and "Making Your Workout Tougher" including subtopics "Kicks," "Turns," and "Lunges." Sorry, I don't have time to type in all the instructions (besides, the article is copyrighted). You might try checking your library for a copy of the magazine if you want more info. HEALTHRIDER ----------- >>I'm thinking about buying either a Nordic Track Pro or a HealthRider (the >>one endorsed by Covert Bailey). I am currently previewing the NT at home >>(30 day trial) but I find that I feel very unsteady using it...at times I >>feel like I'm off balance. I'm sure that most get more sure-footed with >>practice, but I can't shake this fear of falling. Has this ever happened >>to anyone else? I had a choice between Nordic Track and HealthRider and went with the HealthRider mostly because of Covert Bailey. I think I made a mistake. The HealthRider seemed better because: 1. It was supposed to include a newsletter that I thought would give me more ideas for the HealthRider and keep me motivated. 2. It sounded like the HealthRider would be better for my back. I don't have back problems but I have a wheelchair-bound 13 yr. old and I need to keep away from back problems. 3. I like x-ctry skiing and I thought the Nordic Track would make me sick of it. Actuality was different. 1. The newsletter never showed. The HealthRider arrived without any documentation of any kind even on how to put it together (which is very easy BTW). 2. The HealthRider can cause back problems. This happens when the seat is too far back. An adjustment of the seat fixed this problem but I had to learn the hard way. 3. I didn't go X-ctry skiing at all this winter anyway. But the real bottom line is the biggest problem of all. 1. I gained 10 lbs. during the first 3 months I had the HealthRider. 2. I don't feel that I am in better shape because of the HealthRider. 3. It is BORING. OTOH, I don't know if I will try NT next or not. The limited $469 model seems interesting but maybe I should try to increase my jogging miles and do more weights. -- firstname.lastname@example.org === "Difficult tasks are never easy..."