1. #1
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    2,180

    How Long/Often Should I Use Elliptical Trainer?

    I used to work out on the elliptical trainer for an hour, seven days a week. Then people at my gym started telling me that was too much - that after 20 minutes you're using muscle for fuel. So I cut down to 20 minutes, 7 days a week. But now I'm hearing that I should only work out every other day - that I'll wear down the muscles in my butt and thighs, and lose tone. So it's starting to sound like I should only do the elliptical for 20 minutes, 3-4 days a week. That doesn't sound like enough.

    Sometimes I suspect that the gym employees are just trying to cut down on the use of the machines.

  2. #2
    krj
    krj is offline
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,139

    Re: How Long/Often Should I Use Elliptical Trainer?

    Originally posted by Entre Nous
    I used to work out on the elliptical trainer for an hour, seven days a week. Then people at my gym started telling me that was too much - that after 20 minutes you're using muscle for fuel. So I cut down to 20 minutes, 7 days a week. But now I'm hearing that I should only work out every other day - that I'll wear down the muscles in my butt and thighs, and lose tone. So it's starting to sound like I should only do the elliptical for 20 minutes, 3-4 days a week. That doesn't sound like enough.

    Sometimes I suspect that the gym employees are just trying to cut down on the use of the machines.
    You won't start using "muscle for fuel" by doing an hour a day on an elliptical. Assuming that your diet is reasonably balanced (with a high percentage of carbohydrates), you can participate in cardio activities for approx. 1.5 hours before glycogen stores are completely depleted. Even then, these energy stores can be built back up efficiently through proper nutrition within the next 24 hour period (and prior to your next elliptical workout).

    Similarly, you also won't "lose tone" by wearing down muscles in your lower body if you do an hour of cardio each day. An hour of cardio a day is NOT overly long for a recreational athlete.

    If you want to continue with hour long cardio sessions on a daily basis I would encourage you to do so. There ARE a couple of reasons you may want to consider 'mixing up" your cardio sessions (rather than just doing the elliptical) though:

    1. Doing only one type of activity places strain on the same muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones (in exactly the same way) day in and day out - increasing your potential for an overuse injury

    2. If you ONLY do the elliptical you become very efficient - at doing the elliptical......That means that you will not burn as many calories in each workout (because over time your body becomes more efficient at performing all of the physical functions required of elliptical training - and increased efficiency = decreased energy output). It also means that unless you change SOMETHING (the type of exercise you do, the speed, length of workout, number of days/week you exercise, etc.) your progress will eventualy come to a standstill.

    To prevent boredom from setting in (and to prevent injuries), you may want to consider doing different cardio activities on different days (walk, run, swim, bike, elliptical, etc.).

    Also, I would strongly suggest that you "listen to your body" re: how often you work out, what activities you do, and at what intensity level you work at on a daily basis. If you physically feel fine, still continue to look forward to elliptical workouts, and still feel as though you are making progress (in terms of your fitness level) - then ignore what the people at the gym have to say.

    If you start to feel bored (or sore, or like your progress is stalling out) try something else for a few days, a week, a couple of weeks - or take some time off.

    Your suspicion re: staff wanting to cut down on use of machines - very possible. Cutting down on patron useage means less machine wear, maintenance and cleaning. It's also possible that the facility has had an increase in membership recently, meaning that more people are waiting to get on the machines. If that's the case the managers should either a) post signs stating a max. workout time on each machine (usually 20-30 minutes) or b) actually set the computers on each machine so that patrons cannot set the timers for longer than a certain period (again usually 20-30 minutes).

    Either way - if this fitness mis-information is coming from facility staff, I would be VERY cautious about getting ANY credible fitness information from them in the future.
    Last edited by krj; 10-15-2004 at 05:08 PM.

  3. #3
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Tempe Arizona (I love it here). If you see a guy driving a Red, stickered out 65 Mustang, say hi.
    Posts
    120
    You CAN NOT lift weights every day.

    You CAN do cardio 6 to 7 days a week.

    I am on a 1 on, 1 off schedule with my weights. I will do cardio for 6 days (done after weight training if done in the same workout), and I will have 1 day where I am just off.

    I decided to really lower my cardio time. I was using the elyptical trainer. It gives me a good sweat with the right resistance level, but I needed a change.

    Now I am using the treadmill for 12 to 20 minute workouts (not counting cooldown). The trick is to up the intensity. You can do that with the speed setting and the incline setting.

    I am training for realistic endurance. I will not be running after someone for 30 to 45 minutes as a cop, so I don't train like that. I want to be able to have explosive power and speed.

    EXAMPLE TREADMILL WORKOUTS - short but intense

    5 -7 min - put treadmill on maximum speed (assuming you are warmed up) and keep up the pace for 5 -7 min.

    12 - 15 minutes - Pick an incline and speed that challenges you and keep it for 12 to 15 min and then cool down.

    20 minutes - start at 2deg incline with a constant speed. Do that for 2 min and increase to 4 deg. Do that for 2 min and increase to 6deg. Do that for 2 min and decrease to 4 and then to 2deg. Do that twice and then cool down.

  4. #4
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Tempe Arizona (I love it here). If you see a guy driving a Red, stickered out 65 Mustang, say hi.
    Posts
    120
    I forgot -

    I won't do the intense running workout 6 days a week. I would do it 4 days a week or so. Sometimes I will do elyptical training for the other 2 scheduled days of cardio, sometimes I will just take them off. Just listen to your body. More is not always better.

  5. #5
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    2,180
    Thanks for your answers. I really appreciate the help.

  6. #6
    Banned

    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Cleveland,Ohio
    Posts
    1,086
    I'm going to disagree with some of what was said. While it's true you can't wear down muscles with cardio you can definately starve them of muscle gylcogen. Also the body really only adapts the most efficientlty to one kind of stimulas: cardio or strength. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a hard core marathoner bench over 300lbs and vice versa? For those of us who want both muscle size and strength and still have a good cardiovascular system we have to decide how we want to balance it. One who wants cardio to have as little effect on their lifting as possible whould do best by not doing more than two or three days of cardio a week for less than 30 min a session. Ectomprophs would do best to keep their MHR % in the 70 range or less. Now those who want to be able to motor on the track, and strength is secondary, would do well with four or five days.

    Some people can run everyday. Most of can not especially those of use in our 30's whose joints are starting to wear down from being in shape(nothing is free). Also remember that the more you weight the harder it is on the body. I weight 240 and have high maintance knees. Therefore I run three days a week on an orthpedic treamill with only one day or two being taxing.
    Last edited by JRT6; 10-21-2004 at 04:15 AM.

  7. #7
    krj
    krj is offline
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,139
    Originally posted by JRT6
    While it's true you can't wear down muscles with cardio you can definately starve them of muscle gylcogen. Also the body really only adapts the most efficientlty to one kind of stimulas: cardio or strength. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a hard core marathoner bench over 300lbs and vice versa? For those of us who want both muscle size and strength and still have a good cardiovascular system we have to decide how we want to balance it. One who wants cardio to have as little effect on their lifting as possible whould do best by not doing more than two or three days of cardio a week for less than 30 min a session. Now those who want to be able to motor on the track, and strength is secondary, would do well with four or five days.

    Some people can run everyday. Most of can not especially those of use in our 30's whose joints are starting to wear down from being in shape(nothing is free). Also remember that the more you weight the harder it is on the body. I weight 240 and have high maintance knees. Therefore I run three days a week on an orthpedic treamill with only one day or two being taxing.
    JRT I agree with most of what you've said here. I have some thoughts in response to your post:

    1. My reply was specific to EN's questions, and as I mentioned, if he/she wants to continue with hour-long elliptical trainings, continues to make progress in terms of fitness level, is not becoming injured, and is not bored with the workout then the workouts can probably continue as-is. Muscles CAN easily become starved of glycogen if particular attention is not paid to diet - both immediately after the workouts and throughout the rest of the day. But for those who are able and inclined, one hour cardio workouts are just not that physically taxing if they are getting adequate rest and food in between workouts.

    Personally I DON'T recommend working out 7 days a week (because our bodies need healing/repairing/building time). But I know many people who DO work out 7 days a week (including me on different occasions - depending on what I'm training for, and the time of year), and they do it with few ill effects. But it's a very foolish person who works out 7 days a week even when they are becoming physically or psychologically worn down or becoming prone to injury. Time off is important for so many reasons.

    2. Your comment re: our bodies adapting most efficiently to only one kind of stimulus - yes and no. Our bodies (given time) adapt to ALL physical stimuli ie. no matter what our muscle-fiber types (fast vs slow twitch), our genetic predispositions or our personal interests. If we stimulate our bodies through specific physical activities our bodies WILL adapt and become more efficient.

    Marathoners don't bench 300lbs because they don't train for that specific activity, and because they are not genetically pre-disposed to be able to lift that amount of weight. They're also built the way they are because of a combination of a) genetics b) diet c) running-specific training. They are, however, physically able to improve in muscular strength (and to a smaller scale muscular size) through regular strength training. However, most marathoners who DO strength train don't do it to improve in size - they do it with the goal of improving muscular strength and endurance (which in turn improves their running performance).

    The other thing I'll say about the marathoner analogy is that I don't place 7 hours of cardio a week (for a recreational athlete) and the 100+ miles a serious marathoner puts in each week in the same league. Two completely different animals.

    3. I agree completely with you that those people who want it all (cardio endurance, running efficiency, and increased muscular strength) need to find balance somehow in their workouts. I DON'T think that 2-3 days a week for efficient cardio training (and for less than 30 minutes each workout) is enough though. The minimum would be 3 times a week for at LEAST 30 minutes.

    4. Re: the "over 30" "high maintenance knees" thing. Totally agree - as we get older we gotta train smarter.

    I fit both of those things - made my share of training mistakes over the years. Pretty much every injury (not all, but most) that I've incurred over the years have been because of my own dumbass mistakes. From a personal perspective I'm a proponent of cross-training in a big way. I work out now sometimes for extended periods of time, and have been injury free since I have taken the cross-training approach.
    Last edited by krj; 10-22-2004 at 08:56 AM.

  8. #8
    Banned

    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Cleveland,Ohio
    Posts
    1,086
    Forgive my spelling:

    Muscles adapt to a stimulant by replicating "organelles" within the muslce cell. Aerobic causes such organells such as mitochondria to multiply and resistance training effects such organelles as myrofibrills. The research and experience on this is clear: both adaptions do not go on at the same time. When there is both kinds of stimulas the muscle tries to alternate it's adaptation.

    A runner who can bench 300lbs or more has to have the muscle mass to do that. That very same mass requires energy and when running the heart has to push blood through all that mass and the body has to haul that mass around. 200lb guys can not win marathons, or almost any distance race, with todays current training methods and supplementation.

  9. #9
    Littering and...
    SinePari's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Big Road
    Posts
    1,403
    My workout success was recently confirmed by reading the Body For Life outline. I have over the last few years as I approached my mid 30s, realized that to keep optimum fitness for my career choices (military/police) this program coincides with my goals.

    Strength training one day, strictly cardio the next has worked out well for me. On the cardio days I definitely agree to mix up the routine. For me cardio is Tue/Thu/Sat. The stairmaster for 30 min followed by the treadmill for 30 min is my program when running outside isn't an option. Saturdays is my endurance day rain or shine and yesterday I hit my goal of 8 miles on the road.

    This program outline has allowed me to keep a good strength routine with enough rest in between workouts, and get a good cardio program with plenty of rest as well.

  10. #10
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    2,180
    Thanks again to everyone who's posted. I haven't participated much in the discussion because it's gone a little over my head. But I've read everyone's input with interest, and you've given me a lot to think about.

    One of the things I've been wondering about is this: I now understand that it would be better to vary my workouts. But other than the elliptical, there are few machines or sports which are appealing to me. The elliptical has several settings: Cross Training, Gluteal, Weight Loss, etc. Would changing the setting every day provide enough variation? Or I might try the Star Trac Natural Runner, but that involves a very similar movement to the elliptical. Is that just more of the same old thing I'm trying to get away from? I'd appreciate hearing your opinions on this.

  11. #11
    Littering and...
    SinePari's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Big Road
    Posts
    1,403
    Originally posted by Entre Nous
    Would changing the setting every day provide enough variation?
    Anytime you're burning calories it's better than nothing. I don't think that varying the settings on the same machine is what we're talking about. Your muscles are growing accustomed to the movement on the machine.

    A cycle machine or stair climber will give a better variance to your routine, if running is not an option.

    Remember in order to improve in something like a PT test for a PD, you must train in those events to make progress. IE the only way to get better at running, pushups and situps, is running pushups and situps.

    It all comes down to goal setting.
    Good luck.

  12. #12
    krj
    krj is offline
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,139
    Originally posted by JRT6
    Muscles adapt to a stimulant by replicating "organelles" within the muslce cell. Aerobic causes such organells such as mitochondria to multiply and resistance training effects such organelles as myrofibrills. The research and experience on this is clear: both adaptions do not go on at the same time. When there is both kinds of stimulas the muscle tries to alternate it's adaptation.

    A runner who can bench 300lbs or more has to have the muscle mass to do that. That very same mass requires energy and when running the heart has to push blood through all that mass and the body has to haul that mass around. 200lb guys can not win marathons, or almost any distance race, with todays current training methods and supplementation.
    Dammit JRT - you're making work for this. After I read your post I had to go look **** up! Look, you and I are both in agreement that a marthoner can't bench 300 - because, as you stated, he doesn't have the muscle mass to be able to produce that kind of physical effort.

    And actually, I never said that a marathoner, even with focused muscular S&E training, would EVER be able to lift that kind of weight. What I said was that ALL individuals (irrespective of their "twitch status", genetics, athletic goals, nutrition and personal interests) will physically adapt to the loads they place on their bodies ie. if you DO, you WILL improve in performance. Having said that of course, it's with the understanding that we all have a finite ability in all aspects of our physical performance based on the above listed tangibles/intangibles.

    Here are a couple of paragraphs that I came across re: the body's response to exercise that I thought were interesting (it's interesting stuff to me, and will be for you also I suspect.....).

    Source: Anatomy and Physiology 6th Edition, Published by McGraw-Hill 2003:

    "Neither fast-twitch nor slow-twitch muscle fibers can be easily converted to muscle fibers of the other type. Training can increase the size and capacity of both types of muscle fibers to perform more efficiently. Intense exercise resulting in anaerobic metabolism such as weight lifting, increases muscular strength and mass and results in an increased enlargement of fast-twitch muscle fibers more than slow-twitch muscle fibers. Aerobic exercise increases the vascularity of muscle, and causes enlargement of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Aerobic metabolism can convert some fast-twitch muscle fibers that fatigue readily (type IIx) to fast-twitch muscle fibers that resist fatigue (type IIa). Aerobically trained fast-twitch muscle, with more type IIa fibers, can be called fatigue-resistant fast-twitch muscles. In addition to changes in myosin, there is an increase in the number of mitochondria in the muscle cells, and an increase in their blood supply. Weight training followed by periods of rest can convert some muscle fibers from type IIa to type IIx. Through training, a person with more fast-twitch muscle fibers can run long distances, and a person with more slow-twitch muscle fibers can increase the speed at which he or she runs.

    A muscle increases in size and increases in strength and endurance in response to exercise. Because muscle cell numbers don't change appreciably during most of a person's life, atrophy and hypertrophy of muscles result from changes in the size of individual muscle fibers. As fibers increase in size, the number of myofibrils and sarcomeres, in the cell increase in response to exercise, but the nuclei of muscle cannot divide. New nuclei are added to muscle fibers because small satellite cells near skeletal muscle cells increase in number in response to exercise then fuse with the skeletal muscle cells. Other elements, such as blood vessels, connective tissue, and mitochondria, also increase.

    The increased strength of trained muscle is greater than would be expected if that strength were based only on the change in muscle size. Part of the increase in strength results from the ability of the nervous system to recruit a large number of motor units simultaneously in a trained person to perform movements with better neuromuscular coordination. In addition, trained muscles usually are restricted less by fat. Metabolic enzymes increase in hypertrophied muscle fibers, resulting in a greater capacity for nutrient uptake and ATP production. Improved endurance in trained muscles is in part a result of improved metabolism, increased circulation to the exercising muscles, increased numbers of capillaries, more efficient respiration, and a greater capacity for the heart to pump blood."

    Again, I don't think that we're actually in disagreement on the basic principles of this discussion. However, I DO think that the bodys' responses to exercise are extremely complicated - but also extremely integrated.
    Last edited by krj; 10-26-2004 at 04:25 PM.

  13. #13
    krj
    krj is offline
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,139
    Originally posted by Entre Nous
    Thanks again to everyone who's posted. I haven't participated much in the discussion because it's gone a little over my head.

    Would changing the setting every day provide enough variation?
    EN - speaking for myself, if there were things that I wrote that you are not sure about, please let me know and I'll break it down a little better. If that's the case, also please accept my apology. I broke one of the cardinal rules of writing - assume that your reader knows nothing about the subject.

    As you can see in my discussions with JRT - we both love this field and get very excited about it - so sometimes get carried away. Well that, and the fact they both seem to have a short attention span (the thread started out about ellipticals.......if I remember correctly )

    Re: the cross-training thing, SinPari is correct. Changing the settings on the same machine will still place the same stress on the same parts of the body in the same way. Varying your workouts means changing some of the following (eg):

    1. Type of exercise that you do - run, walk, swim, bike, dance, ski, lift, team sports etc.

    2. Surfaces you exercise on - treadmill, trail, asphalt, gym floor

    3. Amount of effort required - being upright (run/walk) takes more effort than sitting (biking); sitting takes more effort than lying prone (swimming)

    4. Impact level of the activity - running is higher impact than walking, swimming is lower impact than basketball etc.

  14. #14
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    2,180
    Originally posted by krj
    please accept my apology. I broke one of the cardinal rules of writing - assume that your reader knows nothing about the subject.
    Not a problem!!! I usually get the gist of what you're saying, but it just takes me a while to digest all the information.

    It was probably wishful thinking for me to imagine that changing the settings would be sufficient to vary my workout. My first choice of exercise would probably be running. But I have a partially paralyzed leg which is only slowly coming back. I can't take the risk of it tripping me up if it decides not to behave. It also tends to fall off of a bicycle pedal. On the elliptical, I can just plant it on the foot pedal and not worry about it.
    I was wondering if anyone has any experience with these machines
    http://www.startrac.com/products/natural/index.asp
    My gym has them, and they might be ideal for me. But the movement is pretty similar to the elliptical, and I wondered if that would provide enough variation.

  15. #15
    krj
    krj is offline
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,139
    EN - the machine looks pretty similar to what you're already doing. Something to keep in mind though - the stuff I wrote about cross training is a general principle. Generally, it IS more effective to vary workouts - different activites, different intensity levels, different stresses on the body etc. Eventually (if you do the same workout everyday) you WILL plateau and have to change something if you want to continue to improve.

    But as I mentioned before, if you're:

    a) fitness level is continuing to increase
    b) you're not injured
    c) you're still motivated to do workouts (ie. boredom hasn't set in)

    In short, if the workouts are still working for YOU, don't get too caught up in having to vary your workouts.

    These kinds of things have a way of working themselves out without a whole lot of effort. If you have been working out regularly, and your exercise habit is firmly established, you will (almost) automatically seek out variety when the time comes. If you're paying attention, you'll KNOW (without any prompting for me or anyone else) when it's time to change something.

  16. #16
    Banned

    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Cleveland,Ohio
    Posts
    1,086
    Something to put some of this in perspective:

    I was in a foot pursuit a couple of weeks ago and my legs felt like lead and I wasn't able to safely keep up. What's the point of being able to run a searing 1.5 mile run if I'm too tired all the time to chase anyone?

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Log in

Click here to log in or register