Let’s Talk About Effort (a.k.a. My Thoughts on Low Resistance)

I have a confession to make: I’m that creeper next to you on the treadmill/elliptical/stepmill/bike. The one who will slyly peek over at the display on your screen. Sometimes, I’m impressed. Sometimes, I want to make sure I’m “beating” you (no, I’m not proud of this insane competitive streak). Sometimes, I’m wondering why you don’t man up and actually push yourself a little. Tonight, I felt like I was doing a lot of the latter.

So, here’s the thing: when it comes to a machine with adjustable resistance (ellipticals and spin bikes), I’m definitely more of a resistance girl than a speed girl. I do think speed has its place, and depending on the song I’m listening to, I appreciate a quick pace. But I love some hard, heavy hills. As I tell my Spinning classes, heavy resistance is what gives you those pretty lines in your legs. I have a preference for the Precor elliptical, which has a resistance scale of 20. I usually hover somewhere between 11 and 18, depending on which machine I’m using (and what song is playing). Which is what motivated tonight’s post.

This evening, I did a little shoulder workout, and headed upstairs for an hour on the elliptical. I’m planning on a long run tomorrow, so I figured I better go about medium effort tonight, because if the weather is nice, there is no telling how far I’ll actually go before I get bored and stop (last week it was about 9.2 miles. I set out to do 7). I situated myself in the second on three rows, just off center, and got moving. Here’s the thing … though I’m one of those weird people who actually does like cardio – I swear, we exist! – I tend to get bored pretty quickly. Even with the music pumping, and the tv on, I’m still people watching. Which usually sinks me into people judging. And by that, I mean looking at the displays of the screen next to and in front of me. And wondering what these people think they are accomplishing by keeping the resistance on the elliptical at a 5. And still moving at a slow pace.

Now, before you go judging me for … well … judging, let me admit that I don’t know everyone’s goals, or injuries, or abilities. But I’m that person sweating buckets regardless of what I’m doing. I actually had a lady ask me walking into my Spinning class (before which I for some unknown reason had an itching desire to run 5k … I said I’m not right in the head) a few weeks back if it was raining outside. It was not. I was just determined to finish my 3.1 in the 26 minutes I had before I had to open up the studio. Anyway, back to my point – if you look gorgeous when you leave the gym, you probably didn’t get much of a workout. Yes, there are a lucky few out there who don’t sweat like it’s August in Louisiana. But I’m certainly not one of them. And neither are most people.

I guess my point is just this: if you are going to take the time to go to the gym, and do something good for yourself, give yourself something to be proud of. If you can’t feel your legs working, your heart rate raising, your blood pumping, then you are likely not living up to your full potential. Here’s a fact for you: below a certain resistance, you’re not really doing the work – momentum is (this is especially true the higher up the incline on an elliptical – momentum is dragging your feet along, making it challenging to keep the leg muscles engaged – and get the benefits of the exercise).

If you’re slogging along at a resistance of 1 – yes, I saw more than on person set at 1 – you’d be better off doing something else. Anything else. You’re probably bored anyway. Challenge yourself. It is, after all, the challenge that makes you stronger – and breeds the will to work harder, to be more, to ultimately help build the body you never thought you could have.

11 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Effort (a.k.a. My Thoughts on Low Resistance)

  1. I am a treadmill stalker as well. I love knowing what speed someone is going. I respect anyone that is working hard regardless of their speed. I’m jealous of the people who are going twice as fast or as long as me. I admire the people who are working harder for a slower pace.

  2. I thought I was the only one that creeped… ha!
    In total agreeance with you, it’s not just “gotta be in it to win it” but instead as Salt N Pepa so eloquently once said, “Push it good. P-push it real good” to see results.

  3. Its nice to see there are others who stare at the “opponents” display. The question is do you linger a little to long and get busted!! I know I have – and it must have made the people feel a bit embarrassed (its happened more than once) as they started to speed up.

    So, if you think they aren’t working hard enough keep staring a little bit too long, if they start to have a go at you, you can say you did them a favour by embarrassing them in to working harder!!

    • Yeah, I’m a competitive one. I’m sure people “catch” us more than we realize, but hey, if we both get a little more work out of it, it can’t be a bad thing!

  4. I have wondered about people who say the cardio machines do nothing for them. “Well did you turn it up to 18 or 19? Because that sure does something for me!”
    I’m sure some have valid reasons for taking it easy. I walk around the track because my foot is recovering from surgery a few months ago, and I bet I’m at a “1” to the runners passing me. But at least there’s a reason.
    I definitely agree with your challenge at the end. If we’re going to be there anyway, why not do something worth the time?

    • Completely agree. I’ve found the older I get, the weirder my injuries (most recently I strained something on the inside of my shoulder blade). But it does force you to find what you can do, and like I said, I know that I shouldn’t judge, because you never know what someone is dealing with.
      You hit it, 100% though: if I’m not pushing myself, why would I bother to leave the house?!?

    • Like may be a strong word? I treat it like anything else: messing with sped, resistance, height, direction CONSTANTLY (I rarely go a minute without adjusting one of those factors). Makes it a little more bearable. And thanks! I love teaching and I think it shows 🙂

  5. Amen. Unfortunately the gym is becoming more of a social setting than a place to sweat. Why waste time and money when you can get on Facebook or go to a bar to socialize.

    • No kidding! And the socializers are always the ones taking up the machines/weights/space you need, right? Like I tell my spinning classes, if you’re going to make the effort to make it to the gym, make it a tough one!

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