I often sit and wonder, as I’m contemplating my navel, how to pick the perfect elliptical. It’s not as easy as it sounds. When picking the perfect elliptical you have several factors to consider. How much space do you have to place the machine? Can it stay there all of the time or do you have to store it one place and use it in another? Is there enough ceiling height to use the machine? Blah, blah, blah and those are just the mundane factors. We’re not even talking about the user’s height, stride length, shape of the ellipse, width of the foot pedals, programs, features and ergonomics. No, picking the perfect elliptical is not an easy task but I will help you find the perfect elliptical for you. All this navel contemplating has to be for something!
In picking your perfect elliptical, get the mundane stuff out of the way first. Find a place for the machine and determine how much space to devote to it. Nothing smarts like finding the perfect machine and then realizing you only have half the space you need for it. Also, forget about being able to fold it up and move it out of the way. Any elliptical worth anything is way too bulky to be moved around like that. Just put it out of your mind. If you can move it around like that the elliptical is probably pretty poor. If you are going to use a basement make sure you have at least 7’ in ceiling height. Ellipticals are not treadmills. People tend to get a little bouncy on them. Slamming your head into a ceiling is not a great way to workout.
Okay, the mundane stuff is out of the way. Let’s focus on the how to determine the perfect elliptical for you. Number one? What’s your inseam? Your leg length, not your height, will determine the stride length that is most comfortable for you. I’m 6’3” but I have short stubby legs for my height, 29” inseam, so I can get away with as little as an 18” stride and still feel comfortable. As a general rule I tell people to use 30” inseam as a starting point. If you’re north of that, make sure the elliptical can stride out longer than 18”. What’s number two? Ellipse shape.
If you like to run you are going to want a flatter ellipse. If you are a walker, then having a taller ellipse will work fine. It is more expensive for manufacturers to create a flat ellipse, so they try to cut cost by rounding the ellipse shape off. There is a cost difference, but it isn’t substantial. If you are a woman, you will also need to think about the width of the foot pedals. Wide foot pedals can cause hip discomfort in women during prolonged use. This is due frankly due to women’s narrow hips. (Really, I should get a few brownie points for that statement!) This is rarely a factor for men to consider since most of them have gigantic hips like mine.
Finally, what features should you consider like programs, electronics, etc? The answer I give to people is always the same. Whatever will keep you on the darn machine is what you should get. If you will notice that all the factors past the mundane “How much space” factors have focused on user comfort. This is because the perfect elliptical is the one that you will use consistently. For some people that is a $5,000 machine. Not because it’s the only one comfortable, but if they spend that much they will darn sure use it. For other people $600 is plenty. I have rarely found that you have to spend more than $1,000 to get one that will be acceptable. Just using it consistently is the only measure of the perfect elliptical.