How Elliptical Training Can Improve Your Running

Whether you are hitting the pavement, hitting the running trail, or hitting the treadmill, running can be pretty stressful on the joints, especially the knees, ankles, and back. But just because it’s hard on the joints doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy frequent running, as long as you take care of your joints and prevent injury. One way to preserve your joints and build muscles while lessening the event of an injury is to cross-train using an elliptical trainer. Using an elliptical trainer in combination with your running routine can and will make you a better runner, in more ways than one.

Reduce Impact on Joints by Building Muscle

Elliptical trainers are incredibly easy on the joints, even good for your joints, so incorporating the elliptical trainer into your workout routine can help to prevent injury and even build muscles around the joints that are necessary for injury prevention. Overall, cross-training gives the body a rest from the impact of running in a way that also stimulates muscles that may not be targeted while running. Working these alternate muscles can also prevent muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries. Other cross-training options for runners include biking, weight training, or other forms of aerobic exercise like walking or dance classes, but an elliptical trainer is really the only exercise that can help to build muscle with no impact on the joints, ideal for runners who experience daily or weekly pounding on joints.

Get Equal Aerobic Exertion

A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when working at the same perceived exertion level, oxygen and energy levels are equivalent when working out on an elliptical trainer or running. Of course a major difference in an elliptical trainer and running is that you have the ability to instantly adjust the incline and resistance level when using an elliptical, so you can easily work the upper and lower body for maximum resistance. Running and elliptical training work similar muscles: the hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips and calves, so the muscle toning is similar but elliptical training is lighter on the joints overall, working to build those muscles for running.

Active Recovery from Injury

There’s nothing worse than an injury from running, especially when you’re an avid runner, but you can stay active and actually speed up recovery by using an elliptical trainer while taking a  break from your running workouts. Resting an injury is important, and it is important to listen to your doctor’s advice depending on the severity of the injury, but staying active and keeping your blood pumping can speed up recovery. Active recovery typically involves cross-training of some sort and elliptical training is an effective way that mimics running without the impact allowing you to quickly recover while still staying fit and active.

Keep your Feet Neat

According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, in the span of a 10-mile run, your feet will hit the ground about 15,000 times, at a force of up to three to four times your body weight. From Plantar Fascitis to stress fractures, running can cause some major foot injuries if you aren’t careful. So we know running can be torturous on the feet, but running shoes aren’t cheap. First, if you cross-train often with an elliptical trainer, you can save money by lengthening out the life of your running shoes and saving money in the long run. Second, elliptical training gives your feet a rest from the pounding and flexing required of running. When using an elliptical trainer, your feet never leave the pedals so the muscles and bones of the feet rest while the rest of your body does all of the work. In fact, since your feet are having to balance on the pedals, elliptical training can actually strengthen those muscles of the feet and make you a better runner by improving your balance and preventing injury to the feet and ankles.

Prepare/Train Better for Races

When training for a race or marathon, runners typically follow a running schedule in the weeks and months leading up to the race. This race schedule usually includes six days of running and one day of rest, with alternating long and short runs as you build endurance as a runner. While elliptical training is not ideal for building endurance in running, elliptical training can be incorporated into a runner’s schedule to help reduce injury and build important muscles that runners need to make it through a race. If runners sub out their one or two shorter runs a week with the same amount of time spent on an elliptical trainer, runners may benefit from less burn out and more endurance on the longer runs.