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Jill S. Brown Headshot

Cool New Twists on Cardio Machines

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When you hear the word cardio, what activities come to mind first? Jogging? Riding a stationary bike? Striding on an elliptical machine? Maybe you enjoy the repetitive "no brainer" aspect to these familiar movements. Nothing wrong with that, except the body gets a little bored with the same old, same old and then it stops seeing results. People in the fitness business know this better than anyone. For the people who actually design the equipment we jog, pedal or stride on, creating the hot, new machine that every gym go-er and home equipment user will want is priority number one. But getting exercisers dedicated to their daily routine enthused about something new and then getting them hooked on it, is what it all comes down to. And it isn't exactly a walk in the park.

I was recently at the 2010 World IDEA Conference held in downtown L.A. this year. This is one of the industry's main fitness conventions where instructors and trainers convene to keep their certifications up to date by taking fitness or nutrition courses and to catch up on the newest fitness trends. This year I attended not for the courses, but to get a feel for what I thought would be the next big thing in fitness.

Here are my top 3 predictions (none of these are cheap enough for being sold to the masses yet, but I think they may be on their way):

1) The ElliptiGO. Almost everyone who has had to back off or give up running due to injuries has been told by their doctor, physical therapist or trainer to do their miles on an elliptical machine. Elliptical machines give the user the next closest movement to running without any impact. I remember when elliptical machines were new and exotic in the gym. Now they're as commonplace as the treadmill and dumbbell. In just a few years, this exercise really took off because almost anybody who can walk can do it.

Now there's a way to take that workout out the door and to the streets. The ElliptiGO is pretty much the coolest new thing I've seen in a while. Kinda like checking out a really hot motorcycle as it zooms by, you can't help but stop and admire the sleek design of this machine and wonder what it would feel like to take it for a spin. According to their website, "the ElliptiGO 8S the first elliptical bicycle and brand new fitness device that provides an exercise experience that is similar to running outdoors, but without the impact running causes." I did take it for a test ride and the learning curve is pretty fast and the workout is definitely fun and exhilarating. Cost: around $2,000.

2) Kranking is the new workout from the creator of Spinning, Johnny G. I know Johnny and worked for the company that owns Spinning back in its nascent days. I witnessed how Johnny took his invention and training theology to the masses. He created one of the most ubiquitous and popular workouts in the world. Right in front of my eyes, Spinning spread like wildfire. That said, I have to think Kranking will have some modicum of success. Will it spread as quickly? Not likely. Why? Because it's done on a Krankcycle. The Krankcycle is basically a pimped out upper body ergometer. If you go to a well-appointed gym, the upper body erg (or UBE) is the machine that you "pedal" or crank, using your arms while you either sit or stand in front of it. At most gyms, it's the machine usually gathering dust, looking sad and lonely. If you've ever had a substantial lower body injury, it's also the machine your orthopedic doctor said you can use to your heart's content while your leg or foot is still in a cast. I've had more injuries that I'd like to discuss, but even I would look at the erg and say to myself, "ok, if wind up in a wheelchair or a leg cast, then that's what I'll have to relegate myself to for keeping up my cardio." Why the disdain for this poor machine that wants nothing more than to give you a cardio workout and make your upper body buff and strong? Because it's dang hard! Seriously, 10 minutes on an erg feels like an eternity. Our arms simply don't have the same amount of strength and endurance as our legs, so they can't do a 45-minute Spinning class for the upper body very easily, which is essentially what Kranking is. The Krankcycle is manufactured by Matrix, whose other cardio products I really like. And thanks to its supercool design and the graphic logos that identify the program, it's a hell of a lot more fun than being alone on the erg at your gym. With music, a motivating instructor, a small group of people to sweat with and heart rate monitor to show you how much of a cardiovascular and calorie burning benefit you're getting, Kranking really should take off. Maybe not at light speed like Spinning, but I believe people will eventually see the light and gravitate towards this workout. Cost: also around $2,000.

3) Skater Machines like the "G sycle." This isn't the first one I've seen, but it's the first one I tried. You know how stepping machines and elliptical trainers move your legs in a linear and parallel direction? Well, this new type of cardio machine moves your legs in a lateral, side-to-side motion that simulates the movement your legs make when skating. Step and elliptical machines primarily use the muscles in the front and back of your legs. The lateral motion of the G sycle helps train the smaller, less used muscles on the sides of your legs. I like it and I can see this becoming a mainstay piece of equipment at gyms both big and small. The G sycle is made by Fitness Botics and right now costs about as much as the two machines mentioned above, combined.