It’s a Slam Dunk: Forget the Elliptical and Pass Me the Ball

Illustration for article titled It’s a Slam Dunk: Forget the Elliptical and Pass Me the Ball

It was 6:35 a.m., and I was in the gym, heading for the resistance machines. Sick of the boring elliptical, I figured I’d change things up and do strength training first, then maybe finish up on the elliptical or the treadmill, whatever I felt like doing to get the aerobic portion over with.


So this morning, instead of veering right toward the aerobic section, I turned left toward my favorite machines, glancing through the glass door of the basketball court as I passed. Then I stopped, took a few steps back to take another look. The court was empty. Inviting. Calling me.

I checked out a ball at the front desk and spent the next 20 minutes shooting hoops. OK, a lot of air balls at first, but several were nothin’ but net, I’ll have you know. I mean, I did play in high school, although I spent a lot of time self-consciously tugging on my shorts, since they liked to creep up as I jogged up and down the court.

About five minutes in, my heart was really pumping. I checked my pulse: I’d already reached my target heart rate, which I like to keep between 156 and 168 beats per minute (bpm). I had no idea shooting around for 20 minutes would burn the same amount of calories and being on the elliptical the same amount of time.

It wasn’t as if I was moving slow, either. I tried not to let the ball bounce more than once after it hit the rim or the backboard, and since I took a lot of shots from the top of the key and beyond, a little hustle was required.

It was fun. A little lonely, but that was cool. In the afternoons I usually see several guys in there runnin’ and gunnin’ – rarely women, although I once saw this one guy running with the fellas, and didn’t realize my mistake until she came into the women’s locker room. (Hey, it happens.)

You may have heard that you burn the same amount of calories running as you do walking. That’s just a myth, unless you walk as fast as you run. Which is possible for some, I suppose, and I bet they look funny while they’re doing it. The point is, it’s all about the heart rate.


Which is why I’m changing my aerobic workout to shooting baskets instead of the elliptical, because I burn the same amount of calories – and have a lot more fun.

After working up a nice little sweat, I turned in the ball and hit the machines for about a half hour, then headed home. I’d gotten up so early, I was too out of it to pack my gym bag, so I just grabbed my lock, iPod and a hand towel and headed out right away, because I was starting to think of all kinds of reasons not to go.


Anyway, so far so good with the early-morning workouts. Around 11 I wanted to fall face-first into a stack of pillows, but I resisted. I’m all for naps; just didn’t have time.

By the way, thanks to everyone who flagged me on negative reps. They were indeed the source of my protracted post-workout discomfort, and ever since I stopped doing them I’ve only felt the familiar aches of progress.



I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. ~ Michael Jordan


Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.