How to Start Out on the Elliptical

The elliptical machine is gentler on your joints than jogging.

The elliptical machine is gentler on your joints than jogging.

If you're looking for an alternative to jogging that still provides an effective calorie burn, try an elliptical machine. Also known as an elliptical trainer, these machines simulate the motion of running but without the impact on your joints. Better yet, you use them indoors, which allows you to work out even when it's sweltering, freezing or raining outside. According to Dr. Edward R. Laskowski at MayoClinic.com, advantages of the elliptical include the ability to pedal backwards for an effective hamstring and calf workout.

Grasp the handles or sidebars of the elliptical machine with a firm grip and place one foot on each pedal.

Move your feet forward one at a time, pushing down the pedals while still hanging onto the handles or sidebars for support. The pedals will begin to move in a circular motion, similar to pedaling a bicycle.

Adjust the level of resistance by pressing the "level" buttons with one hand while hanging onto the handles or sidebar with the other. Start your workout with minimal resistance, such as level one or two, then increase gradually until the motion of the pedals is smooth. You should feel challenged but not overworked.

Select the workout you prefer by pressing the corresponding buttons. Most elliptical machines will allow you to simulate hills or level ground.

Set the timer for five to 10 minutes if you've never used an elliptical. Increase the time by five minutes per week, gradually building up to 30 minutes, which burns approximately 300 calories. As your fitness level increases, you can work up to 45 minutes or an hour if you choose.

Alternate pedaling forward and backward every five to 10 minutes to work different muscle groups.

Tip

  • Elliptical machines with moving handles allow you to work your arms as well as your legs. When using the handles, concentrate on using an equal amount of effort with your arms and legs rather than allowing your arms to move the pedals.

Warning

  • Stop using the elliptical machine if you feel pain or shortness of breath. Gently cool down by walking and stretching until your heart rate returns to normal.
 

About the Author

Neville Smithson did his undergraduate work at Hampshire College and earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. Having had a change of heart about his passions, Smithson is now back in Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a combined MA/PhD physical therapy program.

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