Are they implements of torture or vehicles geared for a fitness joy-ride?
Ranged in orderly ranks across entire walls of most gyms, exercise machines can intimidate even the most enthusiastic novices. Yet these machines maintain their relevance amid most fitness clubs' complement of classes and even back-to-basics programs that use little equipment.
"They really do have their place for speed and efficiency — safety," says Bryan Turner-Gerlach, exercise specialist at Medford's Superior Athletic Club.
"Start on machines if you have little to no experience," Turner-Gerlach says. "They're going to keep you in relatively the right body position."
Limiting the body's range of motion, exercise machines help gym newcomers — or longtime absentees — reacquaint their bodies with movement, whether that's cardiovascular activity or targeted muscle exertion. And because cardio conditioning, experts agree, is the foundation of effective workouts, a large number of machines in any gym are designed for just that: moving the body to elevate its heart rate.
"If you have a half-hour to spend — cardio," Turner-Gerlach says.
Most local gyms house five basic types of cardio machines: ellipticals, stair-climbers, treadmills, stationary bicycles and rowing machines. Gym-goers typically have a favorite, but "there's no magic machine," says Jeni Beck, fitness coordinator for the Rogue Valley Family YMCA in Medford.
"Pick the one that feels best for your body," she says, adding that she encourages new members to try a few minutes on each one, building up to 20 nonstop minutes on one of the following machines: