Buying an elliptical cross trainer for home use is a great way of staying fit without having to spend out on a gym membership.
But there are a lot of options available to you. All have confusing names and numbers, varying reviews, and terms and conditions. So what questions do you need to ask yourself if you’re buying your own cross trainer?
1. What’s Your Main Aim?
Here’s the most important thing you need to ask yourself: why are you buying a cross trainer?
Is it to stay fit? Is it to become fitter? Are you aiming to run a marathon or climb Mount Rainier?
“Being fit” means different things to different people. This might mean increasing muscle density. Or increasing lung capacity. It might mean losing weight. Or just getting to the 10,000 steps a day target promoted by brands like Fitbit.
Always come back to this question whenever you’re checking out an exercise machine.
2. What Is Your Budget?
This will likely be your first hurdle, as cross trainers can be very expensive. You need to have a budget in mind. After doing some basic research, you might have to revise your price range, but don’t get disheartened: you can still find yourself a bargain.
Yes, if you want a full service, with proper delivery and returns, you’ll need to buy from larger retailers like Amazon or a sports shop. However, if you find a model you like, it’s worth checking for a second-hand cross trainer through, for instance, eBay.
You may need to compromise, but remember that this machine should last you years, so don’t skimp either. A mid-range trainer is normally a safe bet, but you can typically find top-range features on cheaper models too. There is a trade-off to be had. So assign yourself a rough price range and then ask yourself some more important questions…
3. How Is It Powered?
Most ellipticals now are mains powered, i.e. you need somewhere to plug them in. This might be a further concern as this will be reflected on your electric bill. Still, you can unplug most machines to save energy; a cross trainer shouldn’t eat up too much power anyway.
Some machines, though, are battery-powered. The cross trainer stores and reuses the power you put into it by exercising. That’s a neat solution, but these ellipticals are few and far between, so shop carefully.
4. Do You Want Manual or Electronic Resistance Control?
Many cross trainers have electronic resistance control, but not all of them. Manual means there’s a dial you can tighten or loosen to increase and decrease resistance; electronic means you can do this on the monitor.
Electronic resistance controls have a generally higher threshold. Whereas manual controls typically have eight or 12 levels of resistance, electronics can have 20+ levels. Some machines even have 32 levels or more of electronic resistance.
Manual controls often result in cheaper trainers, but aren’t so great a work-out as those with electronic controls. The top level of resistance being lower also means its shelf-life isn’t as lengthy and you’ll need to upgrade after a short time.
Nonetheless, if you’re unsure how you’ll get on with an elliptical, manual controls are cheaper introductions to the machines.
5. Does It Have a Display You Can Watch Content On?
It’s much easier to exercise when you’re distracted by something else. You might want to watch TV or YouTube or another service while on your cross trainer: this will make the time fly. So does your elliptical have a display on which you can watch videos?
If you’re going for a machine with manual resistance, it’s unlikely you’ll have this function. Electronic machines might—at a cost.
Don’t expect fantastic resolution, but at least you’ll be entertained.
If you’re worried about pricing, there is another option: most machines come with a device stand on the monitor so you can watch content on your smartphone or tablet instead! If you’ve got internet access wherever you intend to set the cross trainer up, this is ideal. Otherwise, check if you can download content from streaming services like Netflix to watch without Wi-Fi.
6. Does It Connect to Bluetooth?
You can buy exercise machines with Bluetooth capabilities too. Many of these are just an additional USB stick you plug into the monitor. So why would you need this?
Most likely, there’s a fitness app that accompanies the cross trainer. Sports companies generally offer their own apps so you can register your device, receive extra motivation, and get additional benefits from paying for such expensive equipment.
Reebok, for example, has its own app that lets you connect your cross trainer via Bluetooth and track your progress. There are a few cool things you can do, but probably the highlight is the ability to draw a route using Google Maps and walk it virtually on your cross trainer. Even if you’re stuck at home, you can still explore the world and get fit at the same time, thanks to this handy app.
Bluetooth has its drawbacks too, of course. Such an elliptical will likely cost more. Connecting to your phone might drain the battery. And hackers even target exercise bikes.
Nonetheless, the pros typically outweigh the cons—that is, if you intend to use it. No point in spending out on a Bluetooth-enabled elliptical if you’re happy with more basic functionality.
7. Does It Come With Any Subscription Services?
With this in mind, then, some ellipticals come with a free subscription or trial for fitness apps or classes. This is obviously applicable only to new machines, nothing second-hand, and often, the free period ends in 30 days or so. After that, you’ll be charged.
That’s not always the case. Some companies offer access to services simply as a thank you for purchasing their products.
You might be hooked and wish to carry on subscribing regardless, especially if you’ve got a specially created workout plan just for you.
Peloton is a big name in the world of home exercise equipment, but they’re mainly focused on bikes. If you’re looking for a decent elliptical brand with classes included, your best bet is probably iFit, so check which cross trainers come with trials.
Sadly, these normally expire within a month, so the added cost of a brand-new machine just for a free subscription isn’t really worth it.
8. Where Is It Going?
You also need to consider size and weight. It’s good that you’re thinking about buying a cross trainer, but you need to know where it’s going to go too.
These are big machines, so check the dimensions online before you purchase. Remember that it won’t just slot into a corner: the arms can swing quite substantially, so it can’t be situated near anything too precious.
Similarly, if you’re thinking about using it upstairs, check the weight of your purchase. Then add your own weight to it. In most cases, you’ll be fine, but it’s better to consider this before buying than to regret it later on.
9. What Is the Returns Policy?
We all make mistakes sometimes. You order something then wish you hadn’t. Maybe it’s not as described, it’s faulty, or you’re not as taken with it as you thought you’d be. With most purchases, that’s fine: there’s a returns window to send stuff back in. With exercise equipment, things can be slightly more complicated.
Whatever happens, you have rights. Still, if you’ve assembled it already before concluding you don’t want it, the company in question might not accept the return.
Some companies do. Amazon, for instance, often accepts any returns within the returns period.
If it’s faulty, the law is typically on your side, fortunately. Sports firms approach faults in different ways, though: some won’t accept a return, but will send an employee to your home to fix it. That’s why it’s worth going through a returns policy before buying and/or before assembly.
Looking for an Elliptical? Don’t Sweat It!
Now you should be ready to make your decision. There are still some things you need to mull over, i.e. should you employ a pro to help put it together for you? Most major sports firms offer this service, but it costs and you might not like a stranger in your home. Check reviews to find out how difficult your cross trainer is to put together.
You should also check how long the delivery times are. These vary a lot, from a few days to a few months. In most cases, that shouldn’t be an issue, but it depends if you’re working towards a timed goal or are feeling extra motivated right now.
As ever, the best advice is to simply do your research before buying online.
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