Today my weather app tells me it’s -4 degrees, but feels like -24 degrees. Yikes!! Plus, I slipped on ice the other day and I think a bruised a muscle 😦 Needless to say I have a few excuses for running…
So what is a cold, injured runner supposed to do?! I have 80 days until my half marathon!
I decided to consult the internet on cross training on equipment other than the treadmill and here’s what I found:
- One study comparing the energy expenditure on a treadmill vs. an elliptical. Researchers compared oxygen consumption and heart rate on a treadmill vs an elliptical when exercising at the same perceived level of exertion. The results indicated that while heart rate was slightly higher on the elliptical, oxygen consumption and energy expenditure were similar on both machines. As such, the researchers concluded that “during a cross training or noncompetition-specific training phase, an elliptical device is an acceptable alternative to a treadmill.”
- A 2004 study reviewed the apparent differences in heart rate on the treadmill compared to the elliptical machine. While the researchers did not find the same elevated heart rate levels seen in the previously mentioned study, they did find that the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was the same in the chest and actually more intense for the legs on the elliptical compared to the treadmill (presumably from the incline). As such, the researchers concluded that using RPE as a measurement of effort can produce fitness results similar to running.
- And another study compared metabolic and cardio-respiratory improvements following a 12-week training program using an elliptical trainer versus a treadmill. The researchers found that when training volumes and intensities were equivalent on the treadmill and elliptical, physiological adaptations remained relatively the same.
The studies were performed on a small group and therefore the results are limited, but they indicate that while the elliptical is not a perfect substitution for running, it will allow you to maintain some level of fitness during time off from training.
The only potential drawback to the elliptical machine for injured runners is that it can still aggravate some injuries, despite the lack of impact. Those injuries include stress fractures, achilles injuries, and IT band issues. So, be careful and listen to your body when on the elliptical.
Meaning, if its too cold, elliptical training is a good second choice if you’re like me and hate the treadmill. If you want to seriously run, you shouldn’t consider the elliptical as a major training component, but mimicking your usual run route and duration should be a good replacement. Today I used a hill option and was on for 30 minutes. Since the strides and speeds are different, you should pay less attention to actual mileage and more on heart rate and time.
Keep up the good work everyone!!