I had forgotten the joys of using a fitness center.
Remaining stationary during a workout is not my forte. The whole idea of exercise with minimal movement is a bit strange; there was a time, in college, when I was definitely a gym rat. Hours were passed on the exercycle, a textbook propped up on the screen, covering my average calories lost. At the end of a session, I’d cast a cursory glance at* the numbers, and hop off to use my walk home as my cool down. These days, as most of my friends can attest to, I am more of a “go-see-the-world” exerciser, rather than one who sweats in a tiny room much too close to others.
Today, however, was a day for change. Or at least, a day to revert to college tactics. In my new apartment complex, I am privy to a “fitness center,” and after five days, it seemed there was no time like the present to check it out. Part of my rent is paying for its upkeep, right? Might as well make the most of it. Besides, if I hated it, I could always swagger over to the hot tub instead (anyone jealous of Orange County living, yet?).
Before I go any farther, I have to state something that really intrigued me about the fitness center: There is a poster detailing how to have an effective workout on a StairMaster hanging on the wall; but there is. no. StairMaster.
Anyway. The fitness center was much more like a fitness room. Even more accurately, it was as though someone had crammed my college dorm room with four pieces of fitness equipment and put mirrors on two walls to give the appearance of a center to any passerby who happens to be passing by. But that’s okay, and in a way, it’s part of the charm. Complexes often tout fitness centers and swimming pools, but it seems that so rarely people actually utilize them. Why have a large center when a small one will do?
I choose the elliptical machine for my workout, because I have fond memories of it from my college days. It was a newer piece of fitness equipment back then, and there was always a line. In fact, you could sign up for some of them early in the day and come back at your designated time slot and flash your ID lest someone be on the machine instead of you. That’s how popular it was. Today, there was not a soul in sight, so I started a podcast episode of This American Life and let my legs do the rest.
As I pumped away, I noticed the numbers on the machine, a running total of how fast I was moving, how far I had gone, my time, and the number of calories I had burned. And that calorie number is what had me floored. After 45 minutes on “Random,” I was told I had burned 600 calories. Part of me wanted to run across the street to TK Burger and have an order of onion rings. And the other part of me became gravely concerned for the accuracy of any of the numbers being tallied, other than the time.
So, I did what I usually do in these scenarios: I went to the internet for advice. This, despite an agreement I have with Ken that we are not to use the world wide web in order to answer questions anymore, but are to either get information via real live articles, real live people, or the encyclopedia. The first person to answer any question posed wins. But I just had to know. The internet is staggeringly low on information regarding elliptical equipment accuracy.
About.com does a good job of detailing why the machines are probably not accurate. About states:
“…most machines don’t take into account your body fat percentage. A person who has a higher percentage of body fat will usually burn less calories than a person with more muscle mass. It also doesn’t take into account your fitness level…if you’re new to an activity, you’ll usually burn more calories than a fit person doing the same activity.”**
Oh. Good to know. The article goes on to say that the machines are often about %15 off. With the running and swimming, perhaps that 600 calorie workout should have looked more like 400. No wonder I was not ravished with hunger the way one ought to be after that kind of expenditure.
Another source on FindArticles.com gives an even more inaccurate rating to the machines. It says:
“They can be anywhere from right on the money to 50 percent off,” says John Porcari, Ph.D., a cardio-machine researcher and professor in the department of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse. Machines that require you to enter your body weight tend to be more accurate than those that don’t, Porcari says. But even that feature does not ensure accuracy.”***
Scary. However, Dr. Porcari goes on to say most women will burn 500 or so calories in an hour of working out. That seems like a whole lot of calories. Maybe I should be eating more Soy Dreams after all.
*Cursory glance at = In-depth analysis of