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Step machines like the StairMaster offer another great aerobic workout. Essentially, all you're doing is walking up and down on a pair of pedals. You set the level of intensity and time and start stepping. While this is a very simple exercise, we often see people using the machine with their arms fully extended on the handrails bearing a lot of their weight. Clearly, this makes the exercise much easier to perform and much less effective—roughly the equivalent of hanging from a bar and placing your tippy-toes on a scale. If you need to lock out your elbows while you're doing your thing, lessen the intensity. Cheating in this fashion not only guarantees that your workout will be compromised, but you also won't burn as many calories as the machine's console says you do.

Jonathan's personal favorite step machine is the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet, made by StairMaster, is basically a set of revolving steps that allows you to actually mimic climbing stairs as opposed to the up and down movement on most other step equipment. More than anything else, it's like walking up a down escalator (a training method that once got Jonathan severely reprimanded by a perplexed guard during his college days). When training for the race up the Empire State Building, Jonathan has been known to spend two or three hours on a Gauntlet. For those of you with slightly saner aspirations, 20 to 30 minutes will suffice.

One of the good features of these machines is the feedback they offer. Almost all step equipment has a computer pad that allows you to work out to several different programs. You can do a steady climb, a hill workout, and various permutations in between. These various programs offer a good change of pace for those of you who get bored doing the same thing all of the time.

There are some pieces of equipment that also take your pulse as you hold the side rails. This is convenient because you don't have to find and hold your pulse while watching the clock. It also saves you the burdensome task of having to multiply lofty sums like 24 times 6.

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