Like others, I found my first uses of the machine quite challenging. I have always been a jogger and used ellipticals and treadmills in between shorter runs outside...5K. I was using different muscles, and it takes a little while to get into the groove. There is a fast learning curve once your muscles adapt, maybe 4-5 workouts over 2 weeks. Then you can work on building your intensity. I keep the resistance handle 1 or 2 clicks away from easiest.
I am on the M3. The wide pedals allow the lateral core to get some workout and interval training is more challenging on the M3 compared with treadmills because the resistance is more of a challenge. I believe this M3 is a good buy and I have heard some sounds, but I listen to music so I am not bothered.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
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