Is working out better in the gym? The benefits of cardio machines

Readers, it probably won't come as a shock to you that after getting my groove on at Zumba last week, it was tough to drag myself into the cardio room at Hart House. But, even though there are tons of fun drop-in fitness classes at both Hart House and the Athletic Centre, like Bootcamp and Step, this week, I had trouble fitting the class times into my busy schedule.  The tedious routines of pedaling on the stationary bike or holding a steady pace on the treadmill were the more convenient options for me. And, I reminded myself, a little Katy Perry could make any workout fun. So during one of my study breaks, I was venting to my friend while gearing up for my "exciting" 30 minutes on the elliptical. She told me to stop my whining. "You get a much better cardio workout on machines anyways," she claimed. "I push myself way harder on the treadmill than I do when I run outside." someone who has climbed mountains in the Rockies and cycled in the Dolomites, I couldn't imagine how anyone could possibly prefer to workout in a stuffy gym over the great outdoors. But are there benefits to working out inside? I decided to investigate... When I went into the Hart House gym, I asked Kevin, the friendly and very approachable red-shirted staff on duty about the benefits of doing cardio in the gym.  As a third-year phys. ed. student, he could easily rhyme off a list of reasons why cardio machines are great. PROS of using cardio machines:
  • They help you keep a steady pace. For example, you can set a treadmill to a certain speed, which forces you to maintain a pace that might be difficult to motivate yourself to hold outside.
  • They give you the option to add resistance. There aren't too many hills to cycle up around campus, but on the stationary bike, you can crank up the resistance to challenge yourself to a killer hill climb.
  • They are located in a public space so you are motivated by other people. (The classic " if-she-can push-it-so-can-I" treadmill race)
  • There is a variety of equipment. You might not have cross-country skis to use, but you can mimic the motion on the elliptical!
  • You've already paid for it in your student fees, so you may as well get your money's worth! (I hadn't thought of this point, but I guess I don't take enough advantage of this service!)
For me, the biggest CON for using cardio machines is the enjoyment factor, or rather, the lack of it. Sitting on a stationary bike or running on a treadmill is just sooooo boring. I asked Kevin for a bit of advice to spice up the experience. He warned against the slump of doing the same routine day after day. "Try the treadmill one day, the rowing machine the next," he advised. I find listening to music helps a lot! I often see people reading when they are on machines, but I get that queasy car-sick feeling so reading is not an option for me. Readers, do any of you enjoy using cardio machines? If yes, what are your secrets to making the workout interesting? Tae Kwon Do Update: Last week, we kicked people and not pads. They were protected by padding, but still, it was tough to make the first contact in fear that we would hurt each other. It ended up being pretty fun, even though I did miss the padding once or twice and kicked my partner's arm. She did the same to me though, and it wasn't too painful! -Shannon

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