Pros: The right price for a starter exercise machine
Cons: Doesn't hold up well over long-term, regular use
Back in the summer of 2000 or so, I had seen the OrbiTrek several times and began wondering if I could stick to a workout program if it were as fun as the infomercial made it look. They promised no stress on the joints and even had a senior citizen endorsing the thing.
The price was a couple hundred dollars, so of course I hesitated. I had also never owned any significant exercise equipment, nor had I sustained any fitness memberships other than a freebie gym at an apartment complex where I used to live once. I've never been overweight, but I could stand to lose a few pounds, so I thought this was just what I needed to motivate me to exercise more regularly. I also recall hearing the manufacturers (Thane Fitness) offer a guarantee of weight/fat mass loss (was it 10lbs.? I can't remember!) with regular use, so it seemed like there was no risk involved.
Finally I made the call and ordered. $59.95 shipping and handling costs were added on to the price quoted on tv ($199.80), so be prepared for that sneaky surprise. Also, if you want the 4-function monitor, that's another $39.95, which I sprung for.
A few weeks later when it arrived, I put the machine together. The main part of the machine was pre-assembled, so basically I just needed to attached the limbs of the machine and tighten as needed. I estimate it took an hour to do alone.
When it was put together, I gave it a whirl. Since I'd never tried a machine like this before, this was a new experience for me, and I felt a bit uncoordinated at first, with all the body movement. Soon, though, it seemed to feel more natural, and I was trying the backwards direction not long afterwards.
The machine has a flywheel powered by two big plastic foot pedals, which are in turn attached to the poles which you hold on to with your hands for that "full-body workout" the commercial keeps mentioning. As you get going on the machine, the pedals move in horizontally flat ellipses, which includes a lot of forward-backward motion. This forward-backward motion translates up to the poles like forward-backward angled levers. You can focus on your legs for the power, or your arms, if you want to work on your arms more. There are also stationary pole slots in front of the machine that you can attached the poles to, if you don't want those poles waving back and forth while you work out.
There is also a tension control, but it is so very basic that I gave up on it. As you work out, it tends to change the tension, as it is a friction-style knob. Remember, this is a very basic machine and you get what you pay for.
Also, I believe, for another $20 or so (I could be wrong about that price), you can order the little digital display monitor to attach to your unit. I opted for it. It's very small and has one single button and tracks four different things: time elapsed, speed in MPH, distance in miles, and calories expended.
There is a 20-minute workout video that comes with the machine. The quality of the video is pretty pathetic, but it serves its purpose. After using it a couple times, it becomes unnecessary anyway. Basically, the woman on the video talks about breathing, posture, speed, and direction changes every couple minutes, while workout music plays and models in the background pretend to work out on their own machines.
During the first month of ownership, I felt pretty wiped out after the 20-minute workouts, but I had improved over time. I hadn't lost any weight, though, so I called to see if I could get a refund per their infomercial's guarantee. I was told I'd need to return the machine at my own cost and would only be reimbursed for the price of the machine (no shipping costs). This sounded like a raw deal and a hassle, so I kept it and decided to make a better effort in the future and try to get my full money's worth out of it.
I'd finally gotten to the point where I decided that every morning I'd work out on my OrbiTrek before going to work. I started at 20 minutes and am now doing 30 minutes, averaging about 6 miles completed by the end of the half hour workout. I have definitely improved my stamina and working out regularly has helped my asthma a lot as well. I used to wheeze after 15 minutes, but can now go 30 minutes with minimal breathing problems, if any.
I am still struggling to lose any weight, but this could be blamed on my eating habits or other factors. I weigh about 140lbs and am about 5'5" tall. I'd like to slim down to 130lbs, but I realize I need to do better with my meal portions.
Now, currently, my OrbiTrek is kind of falling apart, prompting me to research better quality ellipticals and make a more substantial purchase.
The first problem I started noticing was that the flywheel started making strange knocking noises, especially after just having changed from one direction to the other. It still happens to this day, but it's unpredictable. The thing still turns, and I don't know what is going on inside, making the racket, but it can be loud and/or annoying. I have come to expect it these days. (Besides, the radio's on during my workouts.)
Next, the poles, which are attached to the unit via large knobby screws, were getting jiggly in their slots now and then, prompting me to tighten the screws every so often. Finally, the threads just got destroyed over time. I know keep both poles in the stationary position, and they jiggle a whole lot while I hold onto them.
Finally, the right pedal is now having a problem with not allowing the bolt holding it on to move freely. This is resulting in the bolt getting loosened with every turn, causing the entire pedal to loosen and tilt while using the machine. This is the last straw which has prompted me to start looking for a replacement machine. I fear the bad angle may be hurting my ankle over time.