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Demystifying Workout Programs on Cardio Eqiupment

If you stay somewhere that has a hotel gym while traveling, you’re at least guaranteed a couple of aerobic exercise machines. You’ll probably have access to a stationary bike and a treadmill at the very least. If you are lucky, the hotel gym will also offer elliptical(s) (or a variation of) and StairMaster(s). Regardless, it is safe to say that aerobic exercise machines vary from hotel gym to hotel gym, and as a result, you never really can be sure what to expect.

Personally, I mostly use the treadmill in a hotel gym and hit the “Quick Start” button right away. An avid morning exerciser, I don’t have time to push 50 buttons, programming every personal trait and statistic about myself.  Yet, I’m often stymied by all the buttons, media options and workout programs that aerobic exercise machines have to offer.  It’s not surprising.  Manufacturers are constantly looking for new bells and whistles to remain competitive, fresh and interesting.  Unfortunately, a one-time visitor to the hotel gym can be left frustrated…not impressed.

Some of the programs and features on aerobic exercise machines, however, do have merit and are similar from brand to brand, regardless of what hotel gym you are using.  Check out our guide below:

Manual Programming: These features are basic to most aerobic exercise machines and allow you to manually develop a workout program.

  • Speed (Treadmills and Stair Climbers): Marked with up and down arrows, these buttons allow you to control your speed.  You can usually choose miles per hour (MPH) or kilometers per hour (KPH).
  • Intensity / Resistance / Level (Bicycles, Elliptical Trainers and Stair Climbers): Also marked with up and down arrows, these allow you to control the level of difficulty.  The higher the number, the more resistance you will feel, making your session more challenging.
  • Incline (Treadmills and Elliptical Trainers): Also marked with up and down arrows, these allow you to add an incline which simulates moving up-hill.  Although some manufacturers are changing this, most aerobic exercise machines do not have negative inclines (decline), so you are mostly exercising on a flat or uphill surface.
  • Weight (All Aerobic Exercise Machines): The number of calories you burn while exercising is based on your weight.  As a result, programming your weight into the machine allows it to more accurately calculate how many calories you have burned.
  • Heart Rate (All Aerobic Exercise Machines): In theory, the heart rate monitor allows you to know within what target heart rate zone you are exercising. A reading is usually taken by placing your hands on metal grips on the equipment (some aerobic exercise machines have wireless heart rate monitors).  Unfortunately, most heart rate monitors are not accurate, so consider referring to our heart rate zone guide.

Automated Pre-Programmed Workouts: The following workout programs are typical on most aerobic exercise machines in a hotel gym.

  • Fat Burn: By keeping your heart rate within a lower target heart rate zone, this optimizes fat burn.  Note: Although you’ll be burning a higher % of fat calories, you’ll be burning less calories overall than if you exercise more intensely, ultimately burning less fat calories as well.
  • Cardio: This focuses on keeping you within a higher target heart rate zone. This optimizes caloric burn.
  • Interval: Interval training involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with less-intense activity. It is a training method that helps you avoid injuries and allows you to increase your intensity without burning yourself out too quickly. Intervals can build cardiovascular and muscular strength.
  • Hill: This workout program allows you to simulate exercising up and down hills.  Similar to interval training, it adds intensity to your workout and then lowers it, but at a less predictable rhythm.
  • Random: It combines aspects of all of the other workout programs to give you a more random and unpredictable experience.

Have you used any of these workout programs on aerobic exercise machines? Do you find equipment varies greatly from hotel gym to hotel gym?

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