Elliptical trainers are arguably one of the most popular pieces of cardiovascular exercise equipment on the market today. This is highlighted by the sheer number of competitors in this space, as well as the fact they actually work. By providing a full-body cardiovascular workout with as little impact as possible, elliptical trainers are ideal workout machines for almost everyone.
Where most people have trouble with this equipment, however, is in the stride length. This is an important component to an enjoyable and effective workout. People who wonder why stride length is so important need to realize a couple of things, right off the start. The first is that elliptical equipment (and all other cardio equipment for that matter) is all about offering as close to a natural experience as humanly possible. That means manual treadmills aim to imitate a natural stride by using heavy duty flywheels and smooth rollers; bikes aim to emulate the feel and position of regular bikes; stair climbers aim to imitate the climbing experience of climbing stairs, etc..
Elliptical trainers do not imitate any actual movement, but a short or too-long stride length will leave the user dissatisfied with the workout experience. In some cases, users can experience strains or muscle pain, which most exercise equipment exists to avoid entirely.
As well, stride length on elliptical machines plays an important role in ensuring the user is challenged sufficiently. A short stride length for a taller user may not allow the user to use to the full range of motion when exercising, which not only results in low satisfaction with the machine and workout, but will fail to properly “exercise” the individual. It would be similar to reaping the rewards of a walk when you are expecting to feel the effects of a jog or sprint.
There are several ways one can measure their ideal stride length. Contrary to what a lot of publications may suggest, stride length is not dictated by height (although height is certainly a contributing factor). In reality, a comfortable and natural stride length is an individual preference. Some taller people will prefer a shorter stride length, while other taller people will prefer a longer stride; but a shorter individual who prefer a longer stride will almost never have the same stride preference as a tall individual who also prefers long strides.
One of the easiest ways to measure your preferred stride length is to test out several elliptical trainers at a retail outlet. This will provide a good comparison point as well as educate the individual as to the different stride experiences among different elliptical trainers (some ellipticals try to follow or “embrace” the heel of the foot through the full range of motion while others will not, for example).
If retail outlets are out of the question, then performing the type of exercise in a raked or “flat” sand surface, like a beach in the morning, or the shore after the tide has gone out will allow you to measure the stride length. If this is your preferred method and you plan on heavy duty workouts, take measurements for walking as well as your sprint. You will not want to drop too low (close to the walking stride distance) but definitely not as high as the sprint distance either. Somewhere in between, while erring on the longer side of the distance would be ideal.
Of course, some of the higher end elliptical machines now offer variable stride lengths which allow users to adjust the length of the stride. While a little more expensive, this equipment allows for multiple users who enjoy different stride ranges.
Overall, it is important to ensure that the stride of your elliptical is sufficient to meet your exercise and comfort needs. Anything else will result in disappointment in both the machine as well as the exercise itself.
By Christopher Fitch
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