Sunny Exercise/Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike Review

After a Winter of doing mostly weight lifting workouts, I started to feel like I needed to work some cardiovascular exercise into my fitness regimen.

In the past, my main sources of indoor cardiovascular exercise have been exercise bikes and rowing machines. Though I do like rowing machines, I really like the leg workout I get from cranking up the tension/friction on an indoor exercise bike. Also, I’ve typically discovered you can find used exercise bikes on Craig’s List for peanuts.

When I checked Craig’s List this time, I wasn’t finding any great deals on the type of exercise bike I prefer: the ones with a heavy metal spinning wheel and a caliper type pad that pushes against the wheel to provide resistance. (The heavy metal wheel gives a nice smooth pedaling action–due to the circular momentum it generates–that I like.)

In any case, I started looking around the Web for new or used exercise bikes with good reviews. That’s when I came upon the Sunny Health and Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike.

Sunny Exercise Bike

Sunny Exercise Bike

It was under $125 (not too different from what people on Craig’s List were charging for similar used bikes) and got really good reviews..and lots of them! And if you’re a Amazon Prime member (like me), you get free shipping. (Note: the price has gone up recently, but it’s still a good deal under $140).

So I ordered one and it arrived in about 3 days.

Assembly

The exercise bike comes partially assembled; but some assembly is still required.

The instructions for assembly are pretty well done and all the tools you need are included. The smaller parts you need for each step are put into separate plastic bags and tagged with the applicable step number referenced in the instructions (this is a great idea!).

It took me approximately 45 minutes to assemble it, and I’m in no way fast at assembling anything…:p.

Operation

The exercise bike comes with an “exercise computer” (batteries included) that mounts on the handle bar and tells you things like speed, time, distance, and calories burned. I truly doubt it can give you a very good estimate of calories burned when it really doesn’t know the resistance you’re using. The only useful information to me is the Time: I typically do a 30-minute session and dial up the resistance enough to be pretty exhausted by the end of those 30 minutes.

The pedals have toe clips (to help keep your feet from slipping off the pedals) which some people will like and others won’t. They don’t bother me.

A caveat: I’m only about 5’9″ and my legs aren’t particularly long, yet I’ve got the seat at nearly the highest height (i.e., the seat height is adjustable). If you’re tall and/or have long legs, you may not be able to get the seat high enough to comfortably fit you.

Experience/Evaluation

So far, I’ve done two 30-minute sessions. The wheel spins smoothly, I’m able to get plenty of friction from the resistance caliper, and both the seat (not too small or too large) and the rubber-covered handle bars are comfortable. It seems quite solid (not ticky-tacky) and doesn’t make much noise (especially if you’ve got it on a solid surface, like a basement floor).

In all, I’m very satisfied with the Sunny Health and Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike (especially for the price) and would recommend it to others wanting an inexpensive but good quality exercise bike for home use..:-).

 

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Fitness Motivation and Evaluating Success

It’s easy to get carried away with achieving a perfect muscular physique via working out. But it’s a double-edged sword because your evaluation of success rises and falls with the current status of your body, which can fluctuate quite a bit over time (due to illness, injury, weather, seasons, natural bodily changes, etc).

If you’re making money from your physique (e.g., via modeling or competitions), then focusing so much on your body makes sense. Maybe if you’re single and looking to attract partners, it could make some sense. If you happen to have lots of free time…perhaps it’s still worth targeting.

If none of these conditions exist in your life–and maybe even if they do–it seems to make more sense to focus on physical health, strength & energy than how your body looks.

But doesn’t physical health & energy fluctuate too, even if one works out on a regular basis?

Ha, yes, it’s true.

This brings us to my “secret trick”:

Use whatever positive attribute you can point to as being a direct result of regular exercise to help keep you motivated and continuing to work out.

In practice, even though I usually use my good physical health, strength & energy as an incentive to keep working out, I’ve been known to take visible physique gains into account too if it motivates me to keep exercising–i.e., I use anything I believe is a result of working out to keep me exercising.

Ultimately, I believe that working out is positive in so many ways in my life–especially as I get older–that I’ll do whatever it takes to get me to the gym or exercising at home or on the road.

I still think trying to achieve a “perfect body” doesn’t make sense for most people and can be a source of frustration and demotivating. However, if you happen to notice some increased muscular tone in your back or legs or wherever, might as well throw this observation into your “motivation pot” with any other ingredients you come across (like feeling good!) to keep exercise an active part of your life…:-).

 

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New Underwear Affiliations

To financially support the time and expense of creating and maintaining the Mike’s Fit After 50 website and Twitter account, I have set up some affiliate accounts.

Most other fitness-oriented online businesses are pushing supplements, exercise equipment, and/or fitness DVDs or ebooks.

While I’ve done some of that, an affiliation I find more unique, interesting, and yet still fitness-related, is my affiliation with Underwear Sellers. I think cool and sexy underwear is a great reward for keeping yourself in shape! Such underwear can also serve as an excellent goal or motivation for getting into shape.

In any case, I’ve got two new affiliations with Underwear sellers that I think are damn great:

Underwear Nation Mens underwear sale

Please check them out and buy yourself (or someone you know) some nice new underwear!

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Angle at which you Hold or Grasp Dumbbells Can Make a Difference

A guy at the gym asked me if I had any ideas why doing bench presses using the Smith Machine bar was giving him shoulder pain. I told him that doing bench presses with dumbbells tended to give me shoulder pain, but not the Smith Machine. However, I suggested he try different grip widths, positioning of where the bar came down to his chest (higher vs lower on chest), weight used, and different bench angles (e.g., maybe adding one notch of incline could help..?).

Now it occurred to me that I too could try some of these variations when doing dumbbell presses to see if I could alleviate the shoulder pain I was experiencing.

Well, finally today, I tried some variations with my dumbbells that seem to make a difference. However:

  • they weren’t the variations I mentioned to the guy at the gym (probably because these variations are only relevant to using dumbbells, not a barbell)
  • I wasn’t using the dumbbells to do bench presses; I was using them as elevated grips on the floor for some downward slanting pushups (with my feet on a weight bench)

First, let me clarify what I was doing. I put on a 60 lb weighted vest and was doing downward slanted pushups with my feet up on my weight bench. Similar to the following, but (as I already mentioned) with the weighted vest and weight bench instead of a wobbly patio bench:

slanted_pushup

The other thing I was doing differently was putting my hands on slightly elevated dumbbell handles instead of flat on the ground. The dumbbells help to keep me slightly off the ground, which is helpful when I have the weighted vest on because it sags down slightly and tends to hit the ground before I get all the way down to the lowest position of the pushup motion; the slight elevation of the dumbbells alleviates the problem. I also kind of like having the grips because of the extra weight of the vest pushing me down.

In any case, I tried 3 different configurations of the dumbbells on the floor:

Linear:

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Parallel:

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Angled/Triangle:

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The linear configuration was the first one I tried, and–what do you know!–I experienced some of that same shoulder pain I experience when I do bench presses with dumbbells. It kinda makes sense because this is typically how I hold them when doing bench presses, though obviously I’m pushing the dumbbells upwards instead of pushing myself upward off of the dumbbells on the floor; it’s still the same motion relative to my shoulders.

The second configuration I used was the parallel configuration. I didn’t experience shoulder pain, but I didn’t like the feel of it as well; and it seems to work my triceps more than my pecs, when I’m really more interested in targeting my pecs when doing these. I probably need to experiment more with this particular configuration.

I then tried the third configuration pictured (“Angled/Triangle”). This was the winner for me! It felt like it was targeting my pecs more than the parallel configuration was, and–voila!–no shoulder pain. This felt like the most ‘natural’ configuration for doing the weighted downward slanted pushups of all. It makes me wonder if I can do a facsimile of this configuration when doing dumbbell bench presses to eliminate shoulder pain. I’ll have to test that in the future..

So in conclusion, suffice it to say that if you’re experiencing shoulder pain when using dumbbells–whether as handles for doing pushups or for doing bench presses–you should consider holding the dumbbells using these or other configurations to see if it makes a difference!

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Body Solid Dipping Belt Review

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During my recent visits to the gym, I’ve been doing 6 sets of (forward-leaning) dips as part of my chest & arm focused workouts. I do the dips at one of those weight-assisted towers that also has the option of doing pull-ups (I do pull-ups at my tower at home). I place the weight assistance bar in the folded position so that my dips are unassisted. So really I’m just doing body weight dips.

I now weigh 170-175 lbs and if I do as many dips as I can, I’m doing sets of 16-20+ repetitions. That’s more reps than I tend to do for any of my other lifting exercises. I’d rather be in the area of 8-12 repetitions per set.

So, as a Christmas present to myself this year, I bought a weighted dip/dipping belt. A dip/dipping belt allows you to increase the weight you are pressing out in your dips by adding some weight plates that hang from your waist.

I went to Amazon and selected the Body Solid NB56 Nylon Dipping Belt because: 1) it was inexpensive, and 2) has good reviews.

I used the belt for the first time earlier today. Here is a brief review…

When I first got the belt, I noticed that–unlike dip belts I had used in the past–you have to step through the belt loop to get it up to your waist. Previous belts I had used had open loops that you wrap around your waist (much like a typical pant belt) and then closed the loop with the chain before putting on the weight plate. I wasn’t thrilled about this, but it’s not that big of a deal in practice.

Upon looking at the relatively large loop opening that goes around your waist, I was a little worried this thing would just slip off my waist and plummet to the ground as soon as I put a weight plate on it because my waist and hips are fairly slim (size 31). In actual use, this turned out to not be a problem at all; there was no slippage.

The belt is made out of a sturdy nylon material that seems sufficiently strong and durable for my intended usage of it.

Once at the gym, I put the belt on and started with a single 25 lb plate (exactly as shown in the photo above). It worked great and I was able to do slightly fewer than the normal number of dips I usually do in a set.

I then tried it with two 25 lb plates (total of 50 lbs). I maxed out at 10-12 reps for a set, which is about where I’d want to be. Though the number of reps was good, I thought my form suffered a bit and I wasn’t feeling it in my lower chest as much as I’d become accustomed to when doing purely body weight dips. Still I did 3 sets using 50 lbs and the belt and its attached chain didn’t seem strained at all (even though the max recommended weight is in fact 50 lbs; I think it could easily accommodate 75lbs or more).

I took off one of the 25 lb plates (returning to a single 25 lb plate), widened my grip, and did three more sets of dips. Now these felt pretty good and like something was happening in the lower chest area which is really my goal when doing these.

So, in conclusion, I give this belt a thumbs up for adding 25-75 lbs to your dips. I’m going to start with and use 25 lbs for a while–until that becomes too easy and my reps get too high–and gradually add more weight as long as I can maintain good form and feel the pump in my lower chest because that’s my experiential evidence that I’m getting the development in my lower chest that I’m looking for…:-).

If I find myself needing to go up to 100lbs or higher, I might opt for a seemingly heavier duty leather dipping belt, like the Body Solid Leather Dip Belt.

 

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