What about cross-training 50+% of total training volume? (Read 118 times)

    I'm new to running and a bit frustrated with how much I'm constrained by not doing too much too soon. Even just running 4x per 8 days seems like I'm pushing the limits of my legs and muscles. So far, I've accepted that I'll only train 3-4x per 8 days for quite a while until my body is more adjusted to running. However, I'm pretty sure that if I were to scale up cross-training on the elliptical, it wouldn't increase my injury risk. I sweat a ton on that thing, but otherwise it doesn't feel like I need much recovery from it. I think I could incorporate 3 extra 45-minute sessions on the elliptical every 8 days without increasing my risk of injury. 

    Therefore my question: Given that I don't particularly like going to the gym, is elliptical training worth it if it lets me train more overall? I'm mostly interested in becoming a faster, better runner. I already do some strengthening exercises with body weight 1-2x per week. I'm mostly considering regular elliptical sessions in order to speed up the rate at which I can improve my running endurance. Does this type of cardio exercise translate into running benefits, or are the movements too different to make for efficient training?


    I think if I thought that using the elliptical trainer for 45 minutes at a conversational effort was 50% as efficient as running at a conversational pace for the same duration, I'd definitely be motivated to use it a lot. By contrast, if it's only 20% as efficient, then I'd probably conclude that it's not quite worth the hassle. I'd be very thankful for people's intuitions! (I'm also curious if there's a risk that doing too much training on the elliptical could strengthen the "wrong" muscles, such that my running is actually hindered a bit.)

    an amazing likeness

      Elliptical is excellent cardio support for running.  Many injured runners use elliptical to maintain cardio while healing. What elliptical doesn't do is build running leg strength.  Plus you say you don't like the gym -- so it's not something that will build your enjoyment of running.


      The most helpful training when starting out is time on your feet.  If you're committed to only running 4x per 8 days, I'd recommend you walk on your off days.  Brisk, fast walking is a great support for building running legs. Or...run more days, go from 4x to 5x to 6x.

      Acceptable at a dance, invaluable in a shipwreck.

      Seattle prattle

        Just run. You like running, and don't care for the gym and elliptical.

        How about this? You just ease into a comfortable volume and level of running, paying particular attention to whether or not you might be about to blow a gasket (so to speak), with the intention of pulling back if you get clues you might be overdoing it, and thereby find a level of running you can sustain and build upon.

        It may be instructive to examine your assumptions about how much you may run and how fast you can build upon it.

        FWIW, i don't know anything about the elliptical, having never tried it.

        Still kicking

          Just my personal experience. As a triathlete, I cross train for more than 80% of the time, and run less than 20% of my training time. I only run 20-30 mile per week, no speed work, and might do one or two long runs (15+ miles), before entering a marathon. That said, I still BQ'ed my spring marathon last year, and hope to again this spring. There's no way in hell I could do this, on the running I do, alone. And why did I get into cross training? Because I retired, and have all the time in the world, and my body just couldn't run as much as I wanted it to, and I got hurt. With cross training, I can train as much as my heart desires, never get hurt, and still fulfill my race performance dreams. Yes, it works. And works really good. I also don't think it matters too much what you do, just pick something you will keep doing (elliptical/bike/weights/swim/row/whatever) and do the shit out of it.

          I'm also on Athlinks and Strava

          SMART Approach

            I generally agree that new runners probably need a  break from running every other day as body adapts to the pounding. We also don't know your age, weight, biomechanics etc which play a part. Also consider you may be running too hard or too long early on as it appears you are struggling to recover. Consider mixing in walk breaks. I am good with cross training. For me the elliptical provides a challenge to get my heart rate above 110 unless I am flying on that thing amd then I get stared at. I prefer a stair climbing machine like Stair Master (thats dates me 😁) or something similar because your heart rate gets higher fighting gravity. It amazes me that at the gym, no one uses these machines. Why? Too much work!! For those building their condition, I think elliptical is fine to support your development as is a bike to mix in other muscles. Also, that fast turnover on a bike has benefit.

            Run Coach. Recovery Coach. Founder of SMART Approach Training, Coaching & Recovery

            Structured Marathon Adaptive Recovery Training

            Safe Muscle Activation Recovery Technique


              Thanks for all the advice! 

              For context, I have been running for 2 months. The decade before that I hardly ever left the couch. I'm skinny though and did lots of sports non-competitively up until about age 19. 28 now.


              Interesting idea about going for fast walks – I hadn't considered that. From what it sounds like, cross-training for aerobic benefits also seem worthwhile to me now. I think my new goal is to soon start doing something almost every day where I don't run. Maybe I should use the gym bike thing because of faster turnover. I was a bit worried about messing up my sense of cadence for running because I cannot go beyond 150 "steps" per minute on the elliptical.


              I want to transition to a higher %age of running eventually, but I already increased miles much faster than the advice suggests and had a mild ankle injury too, so I should probably be extra careful.

                 just pick something you will keep doing (elliptical/bike/weights/swim/row/whatever) and do the shit out of it.



                A list of my PRs in a misguided attempt to impress people that do not care.


                Mmmm Bop

                  I’ve used the elliptical when injured and would say it’s the best cross training for runners and is very good for keeping fitness levels up. I use my Garmin and go by heart rate to measure intensity.

                  5k - 17:53 (4/19)   10k - 37:53 (11/18)   Half - 1:23:18 (4/19)   Full - 2:50:43 (4/19)

                    Yeah, a little bit of what everyone said.


                    I remember when I was competitively running and suffering a metatarsal stress fracture doing the elliptical every other day for an hour and deep water running on the in between days for the same amount of time.  I was a bit crazy and did the elliptical in the boot.  When I got cleared to run again, I ran every other day light for two weeks replacing the deep water running and maintained my work on the elliptical.  I jumped into a race to get a baseline of my fitness and was only 20 seconds off of my 5 mile pr.  This after not running a step in 8 weeks.


                    I am convince it works.


                    But, if you were my athlete I would be concerned about a couple of things.  When working with someone newish to the sport I like to try to develop them aerobically a little slower because my concern would be that you will be advancing your aerobic fitness too quickly for your skeletal muscular system to handle.  Your bones, muscles and tendons take longer typically to develop which is a major flaw for humans and explains why there are so many injuries for those that are new or have taken an extended period off from the sport.


                    You being under 30 would ease my mind a little but you should still be careful.  If something hurts (soreness is different), then stop on your run.  Wait until the next day.  If it hurts walking around, then non bearing cross train or take another day off.  The next time you run force your self to only run 5-10 min slow even if it feels ok, then see how it feels that night and the next day.  If ok, resume training.  If it hurts during the run stop and follow this protocol.


                      If going to the gym is not enjoyable, get on a bike, so you can still be outdoors which makes everything better. I also feel that my performance in runs improves after a long bike ride.


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