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The Exercise Room
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Adding big-screen TV and surround sound stereo to a home gym just might transform your couch potato into a cycling tomato. TV is a major source of motivation in health clubs, according to Carla Sottovia, trainer at the Cooper Fitness Center on Preston Road. And she recommends a wall-mounted TV and stereo for the home gym. Besides entertainment, creating a motivational program of exercise in the home depends on designing an appropriate space and installing the proper equipment.

An increasing number of people are dedicating a room specifically for working out, according to Ilan Katz, owner of Fitness Headquarters.

?It?s been growing and growing and growing,? said Scott Egbert, senior vice president of sales at Busy Body, which started in Dallas in 1982. ?In new homes, it?s now becoming a standard feature to have an area for fitness.

?It?s a very private room,? Katz said. ?A piece of work out equipment is very, very intimate for the user. You?re touching the machine in several different places. You?re sweating on it. You?re using it constantly. It?s almost like your bed. You?re on it. You?re moving inside of the piece.?

Ideally, you should select the equipment according to your individual preference in exercises. So, you should not design the exercise room until after trying out some exercise programs or, at least, after finding out what exercises appeal to you.

?It doesn?t matter how efficient the equipment is if you hate and don?t use it,? said Katz. ?We take a look at the person when they come into the store and see how tall they are, how much they weigh, ask them what their objectives are, how much time they tend to exercise, then try to find out what kind of exercises they have done in their life.? For instance, have they been into road running or biking? Most people have already worked out in a health club and have used the climber, elliptical, and treadmill. ?So, we?ll say which one did you like the most? Which one did you spend the most time on because all we?re trying to do is get them on a piece of equipment that they?re comfortable on and enjoy using.?

The growing trend, if space and budget allow, is to equip the room with two basic types of equipment?(1) a cardiovascular improving machine like a treadmill, bike, stair climber, or elliptical, and (2) muscle building equipment such as the multi-gym or trainer, or dumb bells and a small bench.

?It?s not just working out aerobically, a lot of people are looking at strength equipment, lifting weights until you?re ninety years old,? said Egbert. ?There?s no age limits as far as lifting weights?

?The weight work helps put more muscle on your frame, which is going to help burn more fat, speed up your metabolism, fight osteoporosis, give you a better posture, and generally allow you to move better. The cardio-vascular equipment can help you lose weight, burn calories, increase your heart rate and lung capacity to process oxygen. If you use one of the two (machines), you?re definitely going to derive some benefit. But, if you use those two in conjunction, you can exercise results much quicker. And you get better results.?

With many brands and styles available, finding the most suitable machines can present quite a cerebral workout. So, don your jogging shoes and jog over to several showrooms (in fact, quite a few are located in the area) for comparative shopping because different establishments carry different selections. Do a mini workout on the equipment in the showroom and find the ones you like the most. Working up a sweat before you buy just might keep you working out longer after you purchase.

Space and budget are, most often, the limiting factors to the design of an exercise room. For instance, the Hoist H 500 professional gym ($3,849) requires at least 6 by 8 feet and a Landice L7 executive trainer treadmill ($4,395) takes up 32 inches by 82 of footprint space. If you consider these two top-of-the-line pieces for the room, you will need at least 70 square feet and a minimum dimension of eleven feet just to hold the equipment. A 12-foot square space would be the minimum comfortable size for a designated work out room, according to Egbert.

?You need a big enough space area so that you can move----lunges, running in place, stretching,? said Sottovia. And to monitor your posture, line one wall with mirrors. To protect the floor surface from the machinery and provide flooring for exercising, put down a rubber mat or install rubber flooring. Don?t forget to add a ceiling fan for air circulation. And be sure to have adequate lighting to see the equipment belts, fixtures, and the monitors with displays to keep you digitally inspired.

If space doesn?t allow a dedicated exercise room, another popular area is the guest bedroom, where exercise equipment can take up half or more of the room. In such a room, you may want moderate size equipment. In fact, collapsible equipment is available. But test out the ease of disassembling and re-assembling before buying. Katz does not recommend purchasing entry-level machines with plans to trade-up in time, especially if you are undecided about exercising.

?You?re going to stop using that machine because all the negatives arise during your work out,? Katz said. ?You don?t want to deal with the noise and vibration the next time you exercise. You just don?t go back and exercise.?

The treadmill is the most popular exercise machine in the US. But the elliptical, which was introduced two years ago, according to Egbert, has now become the hottest product on the market for aerobic exercise.

?It?s no impact, because your feet never leave the pedal,? Egbert said. And you can simulate the running motion, walking motion, climbing motion.

Most recently (August 2000), Cybex won a Health Fitness Industry Award for the best product design and innovation for its Cybex FT 360 Functional Trainer designed to provide virtually unlimited training variations for advanced performance and functional training, not the machine for beginners, according to Egbert, who recommends the PG 400 Personal Gym instead.

PowerBlock selectorized dumbbells with an optional stand offer a 20-minute workout program, and their dumbbells can be stacked into space-saving storage. Sottovia recommends having at least a minimum pair of dumbbells sized, 5-lb, 8-lb, 10-lb, 12-lb, and 16-lb in the room. She also suggests motivating pictures and charts designed into the room for ambiance.

The truly decadent may want to squeeze in a personal tanning system and/or a personal sauna, both of which are available at Dolphin Pool and Supply, to finish off an evening of energetic activity while watching TV or listening to your favorite recordings.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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