How Elliptical Training Can Improve Your Running

Whether you are hitting the pavement, hitting the trails, or hitting the treadmill, running can be pretty stressful on the joints (especially the knees, ankles, and back). Yet, just because it’s hard on your joints doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy frequent running. You just have to take care of your joints to prevent injury. One way to preserve your joints and build muscles by cross-training on an elliptical trainer. Using an elliptical trainer in combination with your running routine can and will make you a better runner in many ways.

Reduce Impact on Your Joints by Building Muscle

Elliptical trainers are incredibly easy on the joints (in fact, they are even good for your joints). Incorporating the elliptical trainer into your workout routine helps to build muscles around the joints that are necessary for injury prevention. Overall, cross-training gives the body a rest from the impact of running while simultaneously stimulating muscles that may not be targeted while running. Working these alternate muscles can also prevent muscle imbalances that often leads to injury. Other cross-training options for runners include biking, weight training, or other forms of aerobic exercise (like walking or dance classes). However, an elliptical trainer is the only exercise that helps build muscle with no impact on the joints, making it an ideal addition to the routine of runners who experience a daily or weekly pounding on their joints.

Equal Aerobic Exertion

A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that while working at the same perceived exertion level, oxygen and energy levels are equivalent when using 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 on an elliptical, allowing you to 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. It allows you to build those muscles for running, while also giving your precious joints as rest.

Active Recovery from Injury

There’s nothing worse than an injury for an avid runner. Thankfully you can stay active and even speed up recovery by using an elliptical trainer while taking a break from your running workout routines. Resting an injury is important and you need  to listen to your doctor’s advice depending on the severity of the injury. However it is still possible for runners to stay active and keep their blood pumping with an elliptical, which can even speed up recovery. Active recovery typically involves cross-training of some sort and elliptical training is an effective way to mimic running without any of the harsh impact on joints.

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 approximately 15,000 times at a force of up 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 and proper running shoes certainly aren’t cheap. Fortunately, if you cross-train with an elliptical, you can save money by lengthening the life of your running shoes. 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 can take a break while the rest of your body does the work. On top of that, elliptical training can actually strengthen your feet muscles and make you a better runner by improving your balance.

Prepare/Train Better for Races

When training for a race or marathon, runners typically follow a running schedule for the weeks and months leading up to the event. This schedule usually involves six days of running and one day of rest, alternating long and short runs as you build up endurance. 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, they may experience less burn out and gain more endurance.