Elliptical workouts for runners

While most runners primarily run for their training, cross training workouts are an important part to improve your overall running. Cross training allows runners to add weight training and extra aerobic volume with a lower risk of injury. 

Many runners dread cross training days, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

new elliptical workout for runners

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Cross training options for runners

  • Strength training
  • Aqua jogging
  • Stationary bike
  • Elliptical machine

One of the most beneficial types of cross training for runners is an elliptical workout.

An elliptical machine mimics the action of running without creating the same impact to your body as running does. Adding regular elliptical workouts into your training plan will help your entire body stay strong, while avoiding overuse injuries.

Benefits of elliptical workouts

Elliptical workouts don’t have to feel boring.

The elliptical is a great place to complete interval training to keep your mind occupied and gain maximum strength with every cross training workout.

It’s also an excellent way to maintain running during the off season or when you are unable to run. Whether you’re injured, coming back from a break or kept off the pavement because of the weather, fitting in an elliptical trainer workout is a great way for runners to stay in shape.

Total body workout

You can work your lower body and upper body while you listen to songs or watch your favorite show. You can get a total body workout since you can use both your legs and arms.

Less stress

Elliptical workouts are ideal for anyone experiencing pain from arthritis or bad knees as it is less jolting to the body. You don’t have to worry about overload injuries that can happen from miles and miles of running.

Do not use an elliptical machine:

  • If you have a stress fracture, you need to choose completely non-impact forms of cross-training such as swimming.
  • If it hurts, don’t do it. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

How to use elliptical machine for cross training

Change things up and vary the resistance level

You don’t want to spin aimlessly at low resistance for each workout. Changing resistance levels is a great way to practice interval training and forcing your body to adapt to different intensities throughout the workout.

Focus on good form

Focus on standing tall without slouching over the bars. Think of driving your knees up high when striding. Keep your gaze forward and avoid tucking your chin. The moving bars can help you pump your arms similar to when you run.

Focus on time and effort

You probably will not achieve the same pace on the elliptical as you do when running outside, nor should you. While the elliptical is similar in running motion, it is different in terms of mechanics than running and you have the assistance of a machine.

Set a target of 90 revolutions per minute

A good race pace is 80-90 revolutions per minute or 180 steps per minute. If you’re able to do this, it means shorter, quicker strides.

Use the hand bars

You can increase your upper body activity by using the hand bars. Actively push and pull them while pumping the legs for a total body workout.

Benefits of Elliptical Exercise

Using an elliptical machine has many benefits from the types of workouts to the intensity.

Low impact exercise

An elliptical workout is a low-impact exercise. It is gentle on your knees as opposed to running or even walking on the treadmill.

Targets lower body

The pedaling or stair-climbing action of the elliptical machines targets the leg muscles. It acts on the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, and calves.

Increased cardiovascular fitness

The elliptical machine allows you to get a good aerobic workout, which can strengthen your heart, lungs and muscles.

Elliptical workouts for runners

Try these two elliptical workouts. Each workout challenges your body with various levels of resistance, alternating between low and high throughout the workout.

Three Elliptical Workouts for Runners

Tempo Runs

10-20 minutes easy effort at a low resistance (1-5).

20-30 minutes at a moderate to moderately hard effort. Use moderate resistance (6-10) and focus on maintaining as close to 90 RPM as possible.

15 minutes easy effort at low resistance (1-5).

Elliptical Interval Workout

10 minutes at easy effort at low resistance (1-4).

6-8 sets of: 2 minutes at high resistance (10-15), 2 minutes at low resistance (1-4).

10 minutes easy effort at moderate resistance (5-7).

Steady State Hills

45-60 minutes at a moderate effort with resistance ranging from 3-10 and changing every 1-3 minutes. 

30-minute Elliptical Strength Interval Workout

elliptical workouts for runners

These workouts were designed intentionally to help you work towards hitting standard physical activity guidelines for healthy adults. 

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans adults should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two or more days of full body strength training each week. This will help you with hit the goals.

Elliptical machines have various workout programs. They include weight loss training, heart rate training and manual options where resistance and incline settings can be increased or decreased manually.

Most users choose to use the manual settings. This mode is best for those who want to control the resistance and incline.

Wrap up

Cross training workouts are important for runners. The best way to add cross training into your workouts is mix it up like you do when you hit the track or hit the pavement.

One great option is ellipcal workouts, which are good for anyone regardless of fitness level. The elliptical mimics running and a great alternative workout when you need or want something different.

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