The treadmill is great for pushing yourself to higher intensities because you can dictate your pace by adjusting the speed. Raising the incline will help you boost power and push your heart rate . And it’s a little more forgiving than running outdoors.
How to use it: Just walk or run the same way you would outside. Running at an incline of 1.0 feels more like an outdoor environment compared to running without an incline. You may need to hold onto the supports for balance while you’re adjusting speed or gradient (incline, decline), but try not to shift your weight onto the supports. Focus on staying tall and keep your torso still so that your only moving parts are your legs and arms. And keep your mouth slightly open. Seriously. A clenched jaw signifies a tense body, which can slow you down and possibly even cause injury.
“If you’ve been sitting in a car or at a desk all day, consider the elliptical so that you can get some hip extension to lengthen out the muscles around your hips and take stress off your back,” says Slater. It’s also low-impact on your joints, making it ideal for recovery days in the Blue zone.
How to use it: The motion will vary depending on make and model, but try to find a machine that simulates running so that you can use regular running mechanics. Some elliptical machines have arms so you can move your legs and arms together. Otherwise, there’s no reason to hold on. If you’re running or using the elliptical at a speed that feels like you need to hold on, you’re going too fast.
You’ll burn major calories on this piece of equipment while also strengthening your back, arms and shoulders to cement your upper body’s “V” shape.
How to use it: Sit on the seat with your legs straight in front of you, knees slightly bent. Lock your feet into the clips, then push back with your legs and pull the handle to your abdomen, allowing your back to guide your arms toward you. Keep your spine and shoulders straight and stiff, leaning your upper body back with each row until your shoulders are behind your pelvis. Maintaining a smooth and mechanical rhythm to your strokes will allow you to up the intensity without botching your technique.
“Using a bike for training leg strength is great cross-training, especially when it comes to hill running,” says Slater. Cycling actually stimulates complementary muscles to what’s worked when running, increasing the overall strength that you can generate with your lower body. Because riding is impact-free, it’s also a great choice for recovery days in the Blue zone.
How to use it: Sit on the seat so that each leg has a slight bend (not fully extended) when the pedal reaches the bottom of its rotation. You want the foot pedal to come down directly underneath the knee, not out in front of it. Keep your back flat throughout. Maintain a firm grip on the handlebars, but avoid putting too much pressure on the bars. You don’t want tension in your hands
The stair climber demands a high level of technique and focus, forcing you to be powerful in your actions. It’s great for burning calories.
How to use it: Stand tall, and try not to rest your hands on the machine (it’s a greater core challenge to not use support). Take big steps, as opposed to short, choppy steps. Most stair machines are based on the speed of the step itself so you don’t have to worry about fit, or where you place your hands. If the handles are right in front of you, and not at your sides, it may help you stay tall to hold on lightly; holding the handles on the sides of the machine, however, will result in poor posture. Never hold yourself up by shifting your weight onto the machine’s support bars, which defeats the purpose of the exercise by eliminating the gravity-generated resistance.
The VersaClimber couples upper and lower extremity movements, providing not only a cardio challenge, but also a full-body workout. What’s more, the VersaClimber allows you to burn more calories when compared to most cardio machines.
How to use it: Step on the foot rests with both feet at the same height, legs straight, and use the straps to secure your feet. Set the handles at shoulder height. The motion should feel like you’re crawling upwards, so as you extend one arm overhead, you’ll straighten the leg on the same side. Stay tall as you go. If you start too fast on this machine, you will not reach your time goal—it’s that tough of a workout.