5 Elliptical Workouts for Runners

Natalie Cecconi
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What is the Elliptical Machine or Cross Trainer?

The elliptical machine is a great indoor machine which is often used in fitness centers, excersie centers and more recently, at home. If you are familiar with treadmill and stationary cycling machines, then you may also have used or at least seen the elliptical trainer before.

Generally it has just a few moving parts and is therefore quite easy to use and learn how to operate it.

It provides a good cardiovascular workout using the entire upper and lower body. It uses both the lower and upper extremities in a constant motion, allowing for an intense and effective workout.

In addition, people who are not able to access other equipment can still get in a good cardiovascular workout while using an elliptical machine.

Many people also view the elliptical trainer as a comfortable way to stay fit with minimal impact on joints.

And that is what will make it very popular.

Having this machine can create an effective way of getting in shape for any level of exercise. Here are a few elliptical workouts to get you started.

Is an Elliptical Machine Good for Runners?

Is an elliptical good for runners?

Short answer, yes, but there are some things you should be aware of. While no machine can take the place of actual running (it’s an outdoor sport), elliptical workouts are a great way to supplement or complement your running.

Here are a few ways in which an elliptical can complement a runner’s workout:

Alternative to a normal workout: When your running schedule is at its most intense, and you can’t squeeze in a run, the elliptical is a great alternative activity to get your blood flowing and your muscles warm. It’s also great if you can’t stand the weather, conditions, or where you’re going to run that day.

All-weather activity: Some days are not ideal for running, but an elliptical machine can be used no matter the temperature or weather conditions. On days when it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too snowy to run outdoors, an elliptical machine is the perfect solution.

When is it Good to Use an Elliptical?

An elliptical machine is designed for a low-impact cardiovascular exercise. This kind of equipment is ideal for people who have uncomfortable knees. If you have a knee problem that prevents you from running or using a treadmill, you can turn to an elliptical machine.

You can use an elliptical without having to worry too much about your knees. Although it is not as vigorous as other cardiovascular workouts, you can still burn a lot of calories and achieve similar results.

If you are the type of person who prefers a no-impact workout, the elliptical is a great option to invest in. It doesn’t put any stress on your joints, so you can be sure that it won’t get worse with time.

The elliptical machine provides a workout that is easy on your knees, but it gives you plenty of benefits. It is also great for building up your overall strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. As you go along, you can easily adjust settings and make it more challenging.

In this post, we’ll discuss five elliptical workouts that you can try to help you work out your muscles in a different way. You may try to alternate your regular running workouts with these elliptical exercises.

What Should I Watch Out For?

Elliptical machines are low-impact cardiovascular exercise machines that often get compared to the treadmill. While they both have the same goal of burning calories, the elliptical targets the whole body, and in some cases can give you a better-rounded workout than a jog on the treadmill. However, while the elliptical may give you great results, you still need to be careful with how you work out.

Here are the top five things you need to watch out for when using an elliptical:

What Should My Form Look Like?

Doing the elliptical the right way is a bit different than doing cardio on a treadmill or bike.

There is a bit of a learning curve, however, you can still get a fantastic workout provided that your form is on point.

The best thing to do is to go to a gym equipped with elliptical machines and ask a trainer to watch you. You can also take the following guidelines from the experts at the American Council on Exercise as a starting point:

Foot position: To maintain stable body position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart with the ankle, hip, knee and torso aligned. Keep your foot parallel to the direction of the footplate.

To maintain stable body position, keep your feet shoulder-width apart with the ankle, hip, knee and torso aligned. Keep your foot parallel to the direction of the footplate. Weight distribution: Maintain a good posture by keeping your shoulders back and down with your abs and glutes (but not your quads) engaged, along with your chest high.

Maintain a good posture by keeping your shoulders back and down with your abs and glutes (but not your quads) engaged, along with your chest high. Stance: Maintain a wide, balanced stance, with both feet pointed straight ahead or slightly outward. Don’t go too far outward (this shifts more of your body weight to your heels).

What are Some Workouts to Try?

If you are a runner or planning to become one soon, you will surely benefit from strengthening muscles that are underused in running.

Apart from the muscles in your legs, you need all your other body muscles to work together in order to avoid injuries.

Strength training to compliment your running schedule is a must to keep your body in an overall healthy shape.

I personally prefer swimming over running because it’s low impact and doesn’t put as much stress on your knees and joints.

However, if the time for either training is short, strength training should be on the top of your priority list.

Here are five workouts that you can do to supplement your running routine. Do these in addition to your running schedule, not instead of it. You should still be participating in an aerobic exercise such as running or swimming for at least 30 minutes several times a week.

Plank Hold

The plank hold is a simple body weight exercise that primarily targets the abdominal muscles.

It can be modified to activate other muscles in your lower body. By holding a plank for longer periods of time, you will be able to train your muscles to resist fatigue. This will improve your overall muscle endurance and will be especially beneficial for long distance runners.

Workout 1

The Marathon

Forget the classic intervals and instead opt for this longer workout to mix things up. The marathon is a good choice for runners that are getting back into conditioning after a break.

How It Works

Run between one and two minutes, at an effort level of 5 on a scale of 1-10, or about 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate.

Take a 2-minute rest.

Repeat four to six times, depending on how long you can last.

If you’re feeling ambitious, run longer intervals at the same effort level.

To make the workout even better, consider changing the length of your recovery and your interval, and try running up hills. Your heart rate will be the same because of the incline and the distance will be different, giving your body a challenge.

Workout 2

Workout 3

In this exercise, you'll give your body a real workout by changing the elliptical's speed and extending the time you spend on it.

Start by running and pushing on the pedals as if you were running on the road. Then slow down the elliptical's speed and start jogging. Pause for a second and then speed up again.

Repeat the process at a steady pace. Next, use your arm muscles to push the pedals while slowly raising the speed to a point where you can't run anymore.

Then slow down the speed and start jogging. Repeat this process again by alternating running and jogging on an increasing and decreasing speed. You can also slow down the speed and push up the resistance. With this, you will be able to feel the tension in those bum muscles. Hold for a second or two and release.

On the last one, change the resistance. Hold it up and start running.

Continue to do this exercise at a steady pace for about 15 minutes.

Workout 4

30 second sprints

If you are a runner and you've ever stepped foot on an elliptical machine, then you probably know that running on an elliptical is nothing like real running.

Elliptical training with running intervals will help keep your aerobic conditioning up but also hone your running skills.

During this short sprint workout, you will alternate a period of running at a steady pace with a period of 30-second sprints.

During the sprint interval, you will maintain the same resistance that you are using for the rest of the workout and you will not be changing the incline on the elliptical. During the 30-second sprint interval, resist the urge to sprint as hard as you can go. Slow down to a pace that is above what you normally run but still comfortable. You can tell you are going too fast if you feel like you are starting to breathe heavier. Keep it comfortable.

After every sprint interval, go right back to the steady pace for one minute.

Keep repeating this cycle for 10 to 12 cycles. If you find yourself able to get through the workout without breaking for a full minute after every sprint, then take out the full minute of steady state running.

Workout 5

Hill Climb: The first thing many runners notice about the incline workout is that they have to work harder. You’ll notice the hardest part isn’t the overall amount of work you’re doing in terms of total calories moved, it’s how you change the nature of the workout.

Hill climbing takes your heart rate higher. It takes away your option of a slow warm up zone or a steady out zone and you’re always right in the middle of where you’re working the hardest, and the heart is pumping harder.

On the elliptical, you’re going to be standing, but if you want to, you can also push your arms forward as if you were running. This helps you feel more like you’re running, and it also helps you build a little more upper body strength as you’re working the resistance.

Other Assorted Bits of Advice

“Don’t take the easy way out. No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch.”

“There’s no such thing as over-training, just under-eating.”

Final Thoughts

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I recommend you to focus on interval training as your primary form of exercise with elliptical trainer workouts.

And these 5 elliptical workouts to lose weight are a good place to start.

You can cycle through them one to three times per week or alternate them as you see fit.

In any case, I recommend to keep your elliptical workouts short and intense. And make sure to include short and powerful warm-up and cool-down sessions.

In conclusion, remember that maintaining a consistent workout program is the key to long-term success.

I aim to train 6 days a week and give all elliptical workouts an intense effort. On the lighter days, I just focus on maintaining form and keeping things moving.

For example, I do a 20-minute warm-up on the elliptical or rower, followed by a 20-minute workout on one of the 5 elliptical workouts.

Then I would spend 5 minutes stretching on the floor and finish it off with 10 -15 more minutes on the elliptical.

I would say I give all elliptical workouts at least an half hour of effort each time I do them.

Also, I don’t go into any workout completely exhausted. I would say I am just below 70% of my maximum effort.