Lessons Learned from Buying a Used Elliptical

We’ve all done stupid things. Buying a used elliptical sounded so smart at the time. I was saving money, ensuring my wintertime happiness, and also giving my kiddos another outlet to burn off extra energy. Then reality bit me in the butt.

Let’s back up a minute. Last week I talked about the importance of taking walks to help clear my head and deal with anxiety. While walking is indeed the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to do this, the winter months are coming and the idea of walking outside during a blizzard or dreary freezing wind is not appealing in the least.

So, I had a brilliant idea – find a cheap elliptical that I could use on days when the weather is nasty and get in my exercise that way. As an added bonus, I could totally watch Netflix while working out – win.

Bad elliptical, go sit in time out and think about what you did. If you’re lucky, you won’t be a coat rack in the future.

For those of you who are experienced fitness machine users, yeah, feel free to laugh at me from this point forward. So many mistakes…

I found what looked like a great deal on a solid looking elliptical – $30 dollars and everything worked fine. We took it home at set it in the center of our family room to let the kiddos goof off on it. If anything was going to break, I’d rather it happen sooner than later and kids make excellent testing subjects. They hung on it, tried it two at a time, adjusted the built in fan, and made sure the heart rate monitor was accurate.

Even better, they didn’t break it.

What they did reveal is that it was a bit squeaky and thumpy. My goal, remember, was to be able to use it while watching TV. Being the uber-handy person I am, I decided it would be a great idea to lube the thing up and get rid of the excess noise. I looked up a Youtube tutorial, hubby bought some plastic-safe grease, and we went to town.

I’m one of those people who love taking things apart and putting them back together. It is very gratifying to fix stuff so it works better. Even better, hubby feels the same way. Usually. We lubed literally every joint and friction point just to be sure this new addition to our family could be as good as it be. If we’re going to do it, might as well do it as good as we can.

And it worked and ran as smooth as butter. For 30 glorious seconds.

Funny thing about moving parts, some don’t like to be slippery. In our haste to finish the job, we used a spray lubricant to reach a few places not thinking much about the drips. Those drips made their way under the tensioning belt and made the whole thing slip off.

Using and elliptical without a tensioning belt is WAY more exciting that I’m up for. There’s no friction at all and if you work hard enough you can cut a portal into another dimension. I think one of my kids summoned a minor demon as they cranked their way to infinity – and beyond! His name is Floyd and he now lives under my 7-year-old’s bed.

Did I mention that not only was this elliptical a great deal, but it is quite possibly the cheapest home elliptical known to man? We stripped screws, snapped plastic bits, and (possibly) swore more times than normally allowed in a home with younger kids. To fix the tensioning belt, we took that whole thing back apart and degreased all those essential frictiony bits to the best of our ability.

And put it all back together again…

And enjoyed another 30 glorious seconds of smooth silent operation…

Before the #(@&)#ing belt slipped off again.

Guess who gets to learn the finer points of how to properly retension an elliptical belt this weekend?

This gal, right here.

Yay.

The moral of this story is to research before you buy, don’t be too cheap, and for heaven’s sake, be careful where you spray lube!

Arrrg, Matey! When in doubt, use the white stuff. Smells like an old amusement park.

The real life lesson is never give up. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Stuff takes longer than expected. A great deal turns out not so great. Getting mad doesn’t fix anything. Whatever you do, keep trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Does anyone want to adopt Floyd? He keeps the youngest up at night with his cute demon snores.


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Journaling and Long Walks

I know it’s a author stereotype, but yes, I am an introvert with a huge capital “I”. If you’ve seen me out in the wild, like at a conference or convention, the outgoing person you met is me acting in the role of what I’ve interpreted as my public persona. I’ll start conversations, talk to strangers, and even invite people to discuss their favorite things. None of these are things I’m naturally comfortable with.

Like at all.

The cutest, fluffiest ball of suppressed anxiety you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet.

This kind of acting requires both mental and physical energy. When the event is over, I go home exhausted. What’s more, being out in the wild like this, even around people I really enjoy, causes a huge amount of anxiety as well. You can sleep off exhaustion. You need special tools to handle anxiety.

If I’m to be really honest with you, there are plenty of other things that cause anxiety as well that shouldn’t. That’s what anxiety is, unusual fear, worry, or dread about things we don’t have control over. For me, the morning rush to get the kids to school is always a big one. Innocent requests to help with kid’s projects are another. Preparing for family outings, meal planning, shopping for clothes … yeah, those things too.

Throw on top of all that the writing and authoring business stuff and I’ve built myself a lovely anxiety sandwich.

Photo by Youjeen Cho on Unsplash

There are two things I’ve come to use regularly to manage my anxiety, journaling, and walking.

This isn’t run of the mill journaling used to reflect on the events of the day or capture angsty rants and long winded stories. This is a practice called morning pages. Before sitting down to work, I spend 15-20 minutes filling two composition book pages of the words and thoughts that need to spill out of my brain. It’s like Drano for the mental pipes. Sometimes I ask questions that I’ve been meaning to spend time thinking about and sometimes I use it to get a rant out of my system. Regardless of what ends up on the pages, I always feel better after I’ve done it. What’s better, I often get really good ideas while I write.

While journaling takes care of a lot of the built up mental garbage that needs to be taken out, walking works wonders as an emotional reset button. If the morning’s been stressful, taking a walk before diving into the rest of my days often eliminates the accumulated stress of the morning and makes it possible to not bring that stress into the creative space. It also helps me maintain better energy levels during the day, gets my heart pumping, calms my cravings, and I get a change to play Wizards Unite. For me, that’s super motivating.

Yesterday I didn’t get in my walk because I knew it was going to be a busy day. Come afternoon, my anxiety was unmanageably high and I was raiding every shelf of the pantry for something sweet. By early evening I so tired, I ended up watching TV on the couch. By missing a 40 minute walk, I lost several hours of working time – not to mention ate way too much junk food.

Speaking of which … I haven’t done my walk today because of the rain. If it lets up, I better get out there!

What do you do to manage anxiety? Let’s talk about it!


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The Inner Jerkface and You: How to Deal with your Inner Critic – with James Thompson

Authors tend to be introspective people. After all, we spend an ungodly amount of time uncovering the inner workings of our characters down to the point that we know what will break them – and then we do, often with gleeful abandon.

This is what makes great storytelling. However, like most people, we still stubbornly refuse to master that little voice that keeps telling us that we aren’t good enough, aren’t worthy, or don’t deserve to succeed. Today, friend and fellow author James Thompson is with us to talk about how we can deal with that niggling little voice.

The Inner jerkface and you: How to deal with your inner critic

Just who is this inner jerkface?

It’s our inner critic on steroids. It’s the little voice that knows what we’re afraid of. Knows the anxieties plague us on a daily basis. It’s the guy that pumps adrenaline into our bloodstream at night, so we can lie awake and worry.

Our Inner Jerkface, or whatever you want to call it, comes into our life at the most inopportune moments.

Here’s the really scary part. The Inner Jerkface speaks in a rational, logical sounding voice. Even though it’s telling you irrational, illogical things. The lower we feel, the more depressed we feel, the more this voice makes sense to us.

“You’ll never be as good as your successful friend.”

“You are a fraud.”

“You are failing your family.”

I could go on and on.

Like you, I hear this voice on the daily. Even when things are going great, this voice will still be there, trying to make us shut down and curl into a ball.

Fortunately, we have another voice we can listen to. Paying attention to this particular voice can counter the Inner Jerkface.

I’m talking about the voice of our optimism.

I can hear the eye rolling now.

Optimism gets a bad rap, oddly enough. People associate optimism to thinking life will be sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and kittens.

Not so.

Optimism is seeing the problems we have, and telling ourselves to keep going. That things will get better.

When things look bleak we can either listen to the Jerk, or we can listen to the voice that tells us this.

“Your friend is very successful, and that’s awesome. That success is motivating.”

“Frauds only look like they’re working this hard. I know you’re putting in the hours on this.”

“I know this is difficult right now. I also know you’ve got great support and your wife and kids love you. You can do this. ”

The Inner Jerkface will always be with you. So will the voice of your optimism.

You’re always going to have anxiety, no shame in that. It’s part and parcel of the human condition. So, too, is realizing that somethings are more important than our fear. Finding out that you have that kind of courage is a huge deal.

Don’t worry if you haven’t found your courage yet. You will.

About today’s guest:

James Thompson lives in Sandy, UT. He loves a good story wherever he finds it. Primarily he loves the myths and legends of every culture in the world. He also loves reading DnD, Star Wars, GURPs, White Wolf, and other RPG source books. He even participates in role playing games when he finds folks crazy enough to let him play. When he isn’t reading or writing, he is a stay at home father, helping to raise twin boys who are growing up too fast. He is also a blade and exotic weapon enthusiast. Lineage is his first published book. He is currently working on the sequel to Lineage, and other projects.

Connect with James on Facebook, on Twitter, and on his blog.

James’s Book, Lineage


This is the story of Connor Murray, a young hooligan from England who finds out that he is a direct descendant of the Legendary King Arthur. He is taken to a school where other lineal descendants of the Court of Camelot gather to be taught by the progeny of Merlin. Lineage brings the names of the Knights of the Round Table from the dust of the old tales and gives them new life. Most importantly, it brings back the ideals of Arthur’s Camelot: that might is not right and mercy is not weakness.

Lineage is available on Amazon.