January 31, 2008

Fitness Equipment We Hate

[By Crabby]

As threatened promised earlier in the week, there's no way Cranky Fitness is going to post about awesome exercise equipment (or least the kind I like) and not balance it out with a post about the other kind of fitness equipment--the kind that's not so awesome.

Unfortunately, however, some of the items on my "worst" list happen to be other people's "bests." Sorry about that!

I'm guessing that as people weigh in on what they think sucks, they'll be dissin' some of my favorites too. But diss away! Seriously--I actually kind of like it when people hate the very things I'm crazy about. (Like marshmallow-covered yam casserole, for example). It reinforces my own unique individuality and also means there are more marshmallows and elliptical machines in the world for me and I don't have to share!

Anyway, here it is:

Crabby's Entirely Subjective List of Worst Exercise Equipment:

1. Exercise Bicycles.

I have no opinion on spinning bikes, or the thingamabobs that take a regular bike and turn it into an exercise bike. I haven't tried those. I'm talking about the standard issue sit upright and pedal, pedal, moan, and pedal type bike.

Why are they so horrible? How do some of you folks stand them?

I used to spend a lot of time riding a bike outside when I was younger, yet I find the indoor version tremendously painful and unrewarding. I can't get my heart rate up and my legs hurt like hell. There's no FUN in the movement. I need to move my whole body as I do cardio, rising and falling, or slipping and sliding, or bouncing or rolling or stepping or hopping or whatever. But plopped down on a seat, flailing my legs around while my ass and upper body is entirely stationary? Arrgggh.

2. Itty Bitty Ladies Weights.

My favorite tough gal, Kelly at Fitness Fixation, has already ranted quite eloquently about the fact that women often don't lift heavy enough weights to do them any good. I guess for people who like the pretty colors and want to work on their arm endurance during cardio, one and two pound weights might have some purpose.

But I gotta say I just don't get it. Why lift a 2 pound weight 875 times in order to build less muscle than lifting a 25lb (or whatever) dumbell 8-12 times and only being miserable for a few seconds? Has word not gotten out that women don't bulk up without a lot of effort and an unusual amount of testosterone? (Some of us would actually like more muscle definition and have a hell of time getting any).

Note: if you're new to fitness or whatever, start where you need to. I just personally want to spend time with those damn things if they're not doing me any good. (Also, for some really informative tips on real weight lifting technique, go visit Stumptuous. (Thanks for the tip, Jaime!) )

3. Resistance Bands.

The thing I don't like about them is that they sound so good and so I keep trying them over and over. Because after all, they're light-weight and cheap and practical and everyone swears they get a great workout with them. I even saw some study that says they do a fairly good job.

But then whenever I try them, they seem totally lame and worthless. What's wrong with me?

Through most of the range of motion, there's, like, no resistance at all. Then for about two inches, they're insanely impossible and, if you're trying to use them on your legs, they cut into your flesh. I end up doing these herky-jerky little two inch repetitions and cursing a lot and promising I'll never try them again.

Until the next time I read somewhere how great they are.

4. Almost Any Equipment Found at a Cheap-Ass Gym.

You know those gyms that buy crappy low-end equipment and/or don't perform any maintenance or ever do any repairs? I run into this on the road a lot. Tiny small-town gyms and and hotel fitness rooms are the worst.

Anyway, so you wait your turn and finally a cardio machine of some kind is open and then you find out it goes squeeeeek squeeeek squeeeek or thunka thunka thunkity thunk with every footfall. No matter how loud you turn up the music, you know other people can hear it and they hate you.

(No, it's not your fault, but trust me, they hate you. When I'm lucky enough to have the quiet one, I still hate the person on the noisy one for being so irritating.)

It's not just cardio equipment either. I hate wobbly weight machines, missing pins, broken cords, and a haphazard selection of equipment that leaves major muscle groups unaddressed. (On the plus side, you often get to skip a lot of stuff during travel-workouts without feeling guilty).

5. My Ipod.

Yes, this was on my best list too, because music is essential. And I have an ancient iPod, so perhaps all these issues have been resolved now. But I used to have a Nomad (back when mp3 players were roughly the size of dinner plates, not sticks of gum), and the interface seemed way more friendly. I could easily queue up music to last for hours, was not forever scrolling up and down through various menus.

Even better, before I met iTunes, I could actually share my music with the Lobster, which was only fair, since she actually paid for all those fine songs. But our iPods and computers don't seem to be speaking to one another, and we frequently end up buying the same damn songs twice.

Also, as it happens, I have a particularly satanic iPod full of little quirks:

It will turn itself on spontaneously, even when it's off and locked. Not only that, it will somehow manage to run down its battery even when plugged in and supposedly charging.

The iPod also likes to reboot for no particular reason and reset a bunch of settings. It's favorite is to turn down the contrast ratio, making the screen is unreadable. (Of course, this makes it virtually to impossible to find the contrast button again to fix it back.)

Even better, sometimes when it f*cks with the contrast, it will also change the language setting. Can you find the word "contrast," in nearly-invisible letters, in Czech or Dutch? Gosh, that's fun, especially when you're otherwise ready to head out for your run.

And finally, for some reason, it has a huge ego. When it's plugged into my laptop, which is already plugged into the wall socket, my arrogant iPod thinks it should supply all the power for both machines. Or something--the iPod will literally go from full to empty within ten minutes when I try to transfer songs from my computer.

I hate (love) hate my iPod. (And actually, I need a new mp3 player. Is there an alternative that won't mean losing the 300 plus songs I've already purchased from iTunes? Or am I Pod-slave forever now?)

All right, that's far more than enough of my whining (for today). Your turn! What do you guys hate? (Or heck be cheerful and like something, that's okay too.)


  1. This sort of doesn't count, but I hate the indoor track that takes 15 laps to make a mile. I walked it when it was pouring rain, or below 25 degrees or my pussy ass friend wouldn't walk outside. I feel like I am on the hamster wheel, and actually feel dizzy for hours afterward. I finally asked myself "WTF am I doing walking inside a poorly lit, stuffy room" and got out in the real world.

  2. I hate the fact we have to exercise.
    As for exercise bikes, I have a recumbent style and love it.
    I have core laziness and am pleased to sit down to exercise.

  3. Sounds like you need a new iPod. If you have an ancient one, that could be the issue. I LOVE mine. It's 3 years old. But then again, I have a mac, so I am not sure of the whole PC/iPod thing, and I've never used the PC version of iTunes.

  4. The Bag Lady doesn't feel qualified to comment on any of this (but it won't stop her, of course!) She doesn't have an iPod, or MP3 thing - she never even had a Walkman (isn't that what they were called?). She DOES have an exercise bike that she hates because it's seat is so tiny it really, really hurts her big-ass ass.
    And she totally gets what you're talking about with those tiny little girly weights. C'mon; when you have to carry 50-lb pails of oats, those 2-lb weights are a waste of time!
    But she really can't comment on any of the rest of that work-out equipment. She feels left out. So left out that she's tempted to go buy some kind of work-out equipment, just so she can bitch about it and end up using it to dry laundry on. Okay, maybe not.

  5. Drawer Queen--I hate those tiny tracks too! I used to belong to a Y that had one; it was like running laps in a bathtub.

    leah, I think it takes a LESS lazy person to endure an exercise bike. Good for you for getting through it. (Not that strolling outside in 40 below zero weather isn't tempting, I'm sure).

    Keri--no problems with your ipod, huh? Perhaps it's time for a new one!

    Bag Lady--If you're routinely hauling around 50 lb bags of oats, you're in a lot better shape than you give yourself credit for. (I still think you're a great candidate for that hotel maids study: someone just needs to get it through your head that you're exercising and the pounds will magically drop off!)

  6. I agree with all of Crabby's views on these exercise resources!
    I don't use an Ipod, but with the way some people turn the volume up, I can just listen to theirs! Can we say audiologist?
    Dr. J

  7. I hate stairclimbers. With an irrational sort of hate...they're like some kind of chinese water torture. And I dont' quite hate medicine balls - they just confuse me. I don't know what to do with them, but every gyn seems to have one. Anyone know what they're for?

    Crabby, I like my iPod a lot. It's about 4 years old. Sounds like the battery is going on yours...The new ones are a lot more durable (replacing the battery is about $40). The new 8GB nanos are rather nifty nice I think and a bit more durable as the memory is chip and now spinning about. They're tiny and a lot of workout gear (like the kit I just got from lulu lemon) has little pockets for the ipod built in. But then I'm biased...I *loves* my ipod. We get around the music sharing thing by just exporting musig from itunes onto a CD or memory stick and then just importing it on to my hubs computer and then it's on both our systems...

  8. *not* spinning about I mean.

    oops...more coffee methinks.

  9. I'm with you on the resistance bands! Same with the tubing, probably because it always seems to snap on me and has caused WELTS on my body! (stop laughing!)

    geosomin--I really enjoy the chinese water torture aspect of the stairclimber. I think of it as the staircase to hell. :)

  10. I hate exercise bikes too, INCLUDING spinning classes. Why? Well, I didn't get a drivers license until just before my sophomore year in college, so I biked EVERYWHERE. Lazily. I have a perfect mental map from my parents house to any of several dozen far-flung locations, outlining routes that are more downhill than up, and off the main stretch so I can lazily pedal a few times and then let things wind down before pedalling again. Now that I do have a car, I don't bike so much, but when I do I do it the same way. I set off for an invigorating bike ride, and halfway through realize I am going out of my way to pick paths that let me coast. Still, I do tend to work up a sweat if I go far enough, so I think it still counts.
    When the weather is nice, I bike to work, which has its own problems (wardrobe related, mostly) but gives me a pleasant feeling of being both eco-friendly and healthy.

    The problem with exercise bikes is that you just sit there and pedal. And pedal. and pedal. And you never seem to get into the zone like I do on an elliptical or treadmill. So I want to pause and coast for a while, to give it a better rhythm, and then there I am, sitting on an exercise bike, not pedalling. Pretty worthless, but only because I am mentally weak.

    Another hate? My treadmill. I just got it, and it was free. Free! But it is a "manual" treadmill, which means it moves as fast as I jog, since it is the force of my legs that moves the track along. Which would be fine- it is small and easy to move, which are pluses for me. But the track has some kind of hitch, so every few seconds it jolts to a stop and then starts going again, which SUCKS. There has to be a way to fix it, but I haven't figured it out yet.

    As for your ipod, you probably just need a newer one. To get your music out of being limited by itunes, put it on a CD and then put it back on the computer, and you and the Lobster can each have it.

  11. I despise excersise bikes! The geometry isn't the same as a regular bike and the front wheel is often weighted, which puts a lot of stress on the knees. But knee-destroying resistance is the only way to get my heart rate up on those things, leaving me no way to get a decent workout. And what's up with the seats on those things? Hard. As. Rocks.

    And then there's the equipment I just don't understand, like the thing you sit in front of and do a sort of bicycle-like spin with your arms by turning hand cranks. It's one thing when I see someone wheelchair-bound using one of those things. Makes perfect sense. But for someone with full mobility, do those machines do anything at all?

  12. So I must admit - I really hate the stairclimber. I always have. But what makes that funny is that I'm a step aerobics instructor! I think it's because it's boring as hell and all up up up, where step has choreography and up and down...

    I like the resistance tubing, though I hear what you're saying about it biting into flesh. They can be rather unwieldy sometimes. I do sometimes use these rubber stretchy things that you put around your shoes, then step side to side and such - really works the abductors.

    Can't say as I like the stationery bikes much - they're not made for standing up and peddling, so it's pretty boring just to sit there and peddle, reading or whatever. I end up slacking and not getting a good working. But I do love the spinning bikes!

    Definitely sounds like it's time for a new mp3 player!

  13. Sounds like you need to make a trip to your nearest Apple store. God, how fun does that sound? I'm a geek. Because of Apple's goal of world domination, I don't think there's anything you can do about the 300 plus songs you've already bought if you decide against a 'pod. Unless you burn them all onto CD and then reload them into whatever other program you start using. That doesn't sound as fun as going to play with the iPhones. (Though I'm sure there's some program out there somewhere that would let you get around the format and protection...)

  14. I'm very glad that I never got onto the iPod/iTunes bandwagon. I rip all my own music into a folder on my hard drive. Then I just copy it onto my Cowon D2. Easy peasy. If I had multiple music players, I could put all my music on as many of them as I wanted.

    Hooray for freedom!

  15. I was very resistant to trying resistance bands.... I'm a klutz and imagined myself all tied up...

    Exercise bikes always make feel like I'm spinning my wheels....

    New definition for Weight watchers: sit in your basement and watch the weights you bought.

    Exercise for exercise's sake is evil. Pure evil. Much better to turn on my Wii and whack the crap out of the eletronic baseball. buh-bye ball.............

  16. I hate the cheapy stuff too. If you can buy it at Wal-mart, it ain't worth it. I like Wal-mart, but would never buy some things there.

    The ablounger, $155! Really???

    I have this old glider thingy that I paid too much for that I thought was a great thing to have when I got it.

  17. Exercise bicycles: I hate them as well, and for very similar reason. Real biking, with all the moves, the need to keep your balance, being able to stand on it to push on the pedals more efficiently when needed, and all of that? Any day. But those stationary things are annoying. The saddles are weird, too hard, and most models I've tried are also too big for me (it doesn't matter that you can up the saddle: when you're 5'1", your arms still aren't as long as those of a taller person. Huh.). Completely off-balance and annoying. Maybe it's no wonder so many people read while pedalling?

    Pink weights are also one of my pet peeves. I prefer walk out of the weights room remembering I almost peed myself, puked or farted because I was lifting heavy, than realizing that I've done the same shitty mive a gazillion of times for no result. (And yes, newsflash, women who do ass-busting workouts also grimace like monkeys, grunt like bears, and risk farting like pigs in the squats cage. Even if it's disgusting. ;))

    I also have quite a dislike for these 'revolutionary' machines that are supposed to make you build muscle just by vibrating while you're standing on it; or by having electrodes sending some electric wave through your ass. My sister had one, that crappy thing made the whole floor quake every time she used it. I must be old school, but to me, "developing muscle" isn't done through machines that make it so that you don't have to move your body. Let's be a man and pump iron!

  18. Agreed. Exercise bikes are awful. And I also exclude the spinning bikes, because I LOVE spinning. I hate them because I don't really get a workout, and I find them generally uncomfortable.

    I also hate the stair machines, because my knees don't like them.

  19. There is so much to hate about the gym...

    The bike...I'm not opposed to it, I prefer to be outside and pedal, but sometimes I just really want to work my legs, so I turn up the resistence and hunker down for a long slog that leaves me dripping from head to toe, including the embarassing butt-sweat on my shorts...The saddle is always a pain and the handle bars are too close for me, but the sweat is fabulous...

    I hate lunges...I do them 'cause they work, but I HATE THEM...I especially hate when my knee goes out halfway through a set and the trainers sit at their desk and watch me struggle to push back up and then walk away when I have to finally give up and drop out the bottom...

    And what's with the men who saunter over to the "women's" rack of weights and then grimmace and grunt through chest presses and flys with 8 or 10 lbs while I push through with 25+ lbs to make gains in my lifting ability...It is just so pansy, candy-assed of them...Ugh...

    OK, I'm done...

  20. I love the exercise bike - I have an upright one and find it works the shit out of me!!

    I also like to do 1 out of my 3 strength training workouts with a resistance band and I find it challenging and works my muscles just a little differently.

    But you do like the elliptical which I hate with a passion!

    Different strokes for different folks I guess!!

  21. I hate the fact that, in general, machines don't take into account that some people are really, really short. Even adjusted to the lowest setting possible, some of them are still too high. They make me have crappy form and that's just not right.

  22. I actually love my resistance bands. But I didn't know how to use them effectively until my husband had to learn to use some in physical therapy.

  23. I'm glad you have the same burning legs/lazy heart thing I do on bikes - I thought it meant my legs were weak. I do find recumbent bikes better, mostly because they don't hurt my wacky hips. I use them mostly for an easy second half of a long workout.

    I hate my iPod, because it died so quickly. I miss it.

    There's one machine I hate even though I've never used it - the smith machine. It looks like such a dangerous, bad idea. I hate watching people squat with it - the two-dimensional range of movement is so unnatural.

    I'm having trouble thinking of machines I hate because I don't *use* machines I hate... I forgot to mention last time that I love the back extension thing, which I guess isn't a machine since there are no moving parts... ever since (stumptuous.com again, bless her heart) I read that I should keep my back arched a little the whole way down and up it's become this amazing, intense workout that finally hits my lower back.

    I'm so jealous of all the 25lb dumbbell lifters. I'm trying to break through my 12lb one-armed shoulder press plateau. I think it's working, but damn. I *want* to be strong and muscular. I wish more women understood the unlikelihood of getting too bulky, and understood the awesome benefits of lifting weights. I used to hate going to the gym. Until I started lifting weights. Now I love it. What a freak. Shame that I also love chocolate cake so damn much. But at least I'll be strong.

    And to what dara said - You're right! That's (one of the reasons) why I'm a freeweights devotee.

    This is an insanely long comment...

  24. Speaking of bikes and short people, I used to use an exercise bike, and I got a treadmill instead because the friggin bike was just way too big for me, but it's kinda hard to be too short to walk.

    I never had any problems getting my heart rate up on a bike, but I don't usually have problems getting my heart rate up in general. (In high school, when I was hideously, fantastically out of shape, my "resting" heart rate would often be above 90, no joke. Now it's more like 60, but I don't feel like I have any problems getting it up. Maybe I should get a heart rate monitor and clock it, though -- my hands are too small to use the one on my treadmill.)

  25. I have a ton of equipment - but after using it a few times it always ends up in the garage or some where else out of the way so I can't use it any more (hubby tends to move it the first chance he gets) -- but once he does, I don't do anything about getting it back cause I just hate exercise.

    My new exercise equipment are walking poles - I haven't tried them yet (waiting for spring! too cold right now) - but I'm hoping I like them and they are easy enough for me to keep out of the way (like under the bed) so hubby can't stash them some where I can't find them.

  26. Being such a lazy bum, I can't really comment on what I hate - except exercise in general.
    I do agree about the wussy weights though.

  27. (Nothing actually to comment, just forgot to tick the box to get new comments emailed to me.)

  28. Ok, this is not a piece of equipment really but I hate all aerobics classes (especially the dancey ones). Not really because there's anything wrong with them. I just suck at it. Too much thinking, not enough sweating.

    (And ditto to Keri. We have an old one and it kind of wigs out occasionally, but then again, I don't know all the issues with the PC/MAC thing.)

    (workout mommy, Staircase to hell. LOVE it.)

  29. I'm totally with you on the chick weights. It's like the equivalent o the wimp limp chick handshake. Grab and hold with confidence!

    But what about that Thighmaster?

  30. my BF & I use bodylastics resistance bands (tubes?). they are an excellent alternative to free weights [and much cheaper than buying a set of free weights, although definitely pricer than other sets].

  31. To avoid having to purchase songs twice from iTunes, you need to authorize each of your 2 computers to play songs purchased from the account associated with the other computer. In the Mac version of iTunes, open the "Store" menu and select "Authorize computer..." If I remember correctly, it will ask you for the access data (username/e-mail and password) for the account you want to authorize that computer for.

    And, it sounds like your iPod is either dirty (dirt around the click-wheel), just plain worn out, or the software has been corrupted (you must be playing violent games on it). You could try resetting or reinstalling the software and music/video. (Check the help files for instructions.)

    As far as exercise equipment I hate -- elliptical machine. I used to think it was for wimps. That was before I used one -- it's a torture machine!


  32. You are so right! I especially loved the one about the exercise bikes. I love riding outside, but I find biking inside SOOOOO boring. It's the same with treadmills, too, actually. The time goes by so much faster when I'm outside!

  33. shockingly enough I agree with all your conclusions except the iPod. I love my ipod and could not workout without. seriously, i'm lost without my music!

    the itty bitty lady weights are my biggest pet peeve EVER!

  34. Thanks for all the awesome comments--and all you guys are right, I DO need a new Ipod!

  35. Anything that clanks. (Or squeaks or rattles, but especially clanks.)
    Exercise bikes that try to saw my pelvis in half. The recliners don't do that, but they make my lower back sore, and my lower back is usually my toughest part.

    The incredibly light weights have their purpose in rehab, but for actual workouts? My _shoes_ weigh more than two pounds.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  36. I love the assisted pull-up machine. I hate the elliptical (unless I'm injured). And I hate the old type stairclimbers, but love the new ones that are actual steps that go round and round. Hate little tracks. Hate resistance bands (unless I'm travelling). Hate the abductor machine. Hate that contraption with the pulls you have to pull across your body. Forget what it's called.

    I also hate the Ipod. I have a much newer one than yours but have had to take it to Apple 2 times due to the battery.

  37. I only have a cheap upright exercycle left, but it works on evenings we don't go for our long fast walks, as long as I don't crank it up too high, then it tweaks my knees. It's also hard on my rear, and we got a good seat for it, the one that came with it was awful. If you had room, like I used to, and really like to cycle, I'd suggest aluminum training rollers. You put your bike on the rollers and RIDE it, shifting gears, etc. so you can control the workout, and it's much more egonomic. It is fabulous for improving balance and for learning to ride a really straight line, and it's a great workout without tweaking anything. The only thing you'll need is a fan, because you don't have natural cooling you get when actually moving when riding outside. I still miss mine. They have an impressive wow factor too.

    On the iPod, I also vote for new, and make sure you get the add'l AppleCare warranty, because iPods are basically considered disposable by Apple. It dies, you take it to the Apple Store, they give you a refurb of your model for a year. AppleCare adds a year. After 2 years you are on you own. Consider it that you are renting it. If you have an external hard drive, you can copy the iTunes folder to it, then copy it to the other computer, then authorize that computer, and it will import all the songs into iTunes on that computer. Then you can each customize your own pods. That's also a good way to back them up, or also burn them to CD or DVD. I have 3300 plus songs, so I have them backed up on an external drive and CD, since I don't have a DVD burner yet.
    I got a wobble board for Xmas and I love it, I guess I'm commenting on the wrong post here.
    I do NOT like exercise bands, or tiny girly free weights either!

  38. i still have a nomad!!! i hate that thing, i so want an ipod, but yours makes me think twice.....

  39. I think I'm the only one who loves the stationary bike. I can't stand the upright ones, however. Physical therapy for about a dozen different sports injuries always ended up with me on the recumbent bikes. Now I love them.

    My only problem with exercising on a treadmill or recumbent bike is getting bored. I keep looking at the little display, thinking, "only twenty minutes left." I get distracted by other people and get caught checking out the shirtless jogger. Again. (He's 25, and has the tall-dark-handsome-shirtless-sweaty thing going on for him.) I can't seem to listen to music to get through my workout, so if I'm going to be on the bike, I bring a book. My gym books are generally suspense or mystery books, the kind where you can't wait to turn the next page. I tell myself I can only read it at the gym, and that provides enough motivation to keep me coming back each day.

    I like weights, and I like the color pink, but I don't like pink weights. It makes me feel like I'm pretending to be getting in shape.

  40. I have a love/hate relationship with treadmills. Love them if it's too damn cold to run outside or if there's bad weather. Hate them because I feel like a hamster on a wheel.


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