Getting the right elliptical for your body and budget!

Elliptical Exercise May Be a Viable Cross-Training Option for Runners Attempting to Maintain VO2max

(Last Updated On: April 30, 2018)

Ellipticals Help Runners Maintain Fitness When They Can’t Run

All long distance runners know the intense dedication it takes to maintain their training. They also know the high risk of injuries, and the setbacks that those injuries can cause.

Impact injuries like stress fractures, caused by overuse, can disrupt your strict training regimen until healed. This healing time can cause you to lose some of the fitness that you’ve worked so hard for.

This is why having a cross training alternative during that down time is so important.

Why are Ellipticals a Good Cross Training Option?

Ellipticals offer the perfect training option for those times when an injury keeps you from getting in your usual run. Studies show that elliptical machines provide an upright, non-impact, weight bearing form of aerobic exercise. It is beneficial for runners since the motion is so similar to running, the lower body moves in a smooth elliptical path on a set track.1

This is especially important for those suffering from impact injuries. According to one study, the impact forces on your legs while training on an elliptical were found to be the same as walking, and less than half that of running.2

Scientists at the Texas A&M University and Sam Houston University Departments of Health and Kinesiology conducted a study in 2011 to determine the effects of elliptical cross training on VO2max in recently trained runners.3

We’re going to share the results of that study here.

What is VO2 Max:  Why Should Athletes Measure It?

But first, what is VO2max?

VO2max is considered to be the best measure of running and aerobic fitness. It is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use while exercising. This is a two-fold concept, including both how much oxygenated blood your heart can pump, as well as how effectively your muscles can extract and use that oxygen.

Athletes, like those at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado, carefully measure their VO2 max to gauge fitness and progress during training.

Knowing your VO2max as an athlete of any kind is important because it is so closely related to your performance. A high VO2max increases your body’s ability to produce a large amount of energy over extended periods of time.

This allows you to perform physical work, like running, more effectively. For long distance runners, this is crucial. A higher VO2max allows you to generate the energy to run at your best for longer times and distances.

Ellipticals Help Athletes Maintain Fitness Even When They Can’t Run

Let’s break down this scientific study a bit and explain why it can help you be a better runner…

All participants in this Texas A&M University study followed a strict running schedule for the first four weeks of the program. This was to make sure that all participants had a similar baseline from which to start.

Scientists then measured various physical characteristics, including body weight, BMI, body fat %, maximum heart rate and VO2max. They were then divided into three groups:

  • Group 1 continued on a set running regimen,
  • Group 2 followed an identical regimen on the ellipticals,
  • Group 3 did no activity at all.

At the end of the three weeks, physical characteristics were measured again.

The results showed that the group on the elliptical maintained their high-performance VO2max during the three week period.  On the other hand, those participants who stopped training altogether saw significant decreases in VO2max.

In other words, the elliptical helped athletes stay fit, while those that stopped training lost fitness at a significant rate.

The study showed that using an elliptical for cross-training is a very good option for maintaining fitness levels in runners that have suffered an injury.

Using an elliptical to workout while you can’t run will help you maintain your VO2max. This helps ensure that you will be ready to get back out there once your injuries have healed, without having to make up for lost time.

What Are the Best Ellipticals for Runners?

The NordicTrack FreeStrider FS7i allows you to set the stride of the machine instead of having it preset for you. This is great if you have suffered an injury. You can make any adjustments to ensure that you are getting your best workout without any unnecessary strain.

FreeStride Trainer FS7i - Read our full review here.

FreeStride Trainer FS7i – Read our full review here.

The Sole E95S includes a variety of safety features, including foot pedals specifically designed to prevent toe slip. Preventing the risk of additional injury is always something to keep in mind during any recovery. It is also incredibly smooth which is perfect for those suffering an impact injury.


Sole E95 Elliptical – Read our full review here.

The NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i folds upright so that you can continue your training even if you only have a limited amount of space. It also includes a power incline feature that comes standard on this model. This will let you really challenge yourself and keep you heart rate up so you don’t lose your hard earned fitness during recovery.

Space Saver SE7i - Read our full review here.

Space Saver SE7i – Read our full review here.

Check out all of our Best Buy Ellipticals to find the one that is perfect for you.



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