Elliptical Trainer / Elliptical Cycle!

Summary
Ellipticals are terrific for impact-free running. And there's even a model you can take outdoors, like a bicycle!

Eric Armstrong
TreeLight.com/Health

Using an Elliptical Trainer

I love the elliptical trainer. It's like landing on a cloud that slowly recedes until it hardens to become a firm plank you're pushing off of. So you land on a cloud, and push off from a plank. Gotta love that.

But when using it, I noticed that my quads were burning something fierce. The solution, of course, was to do more toe running. (See Running Technique!)

Note: Great for Cycling
On the other hand, I found that all the work on the quads paid big dividends, the next time I went out cycling. I didn't notice much difference on the flats, but I powered up hills like they weren't even there! Even though I hadn't been on the bike at all for several months! Aparently, you use your quads a lot on hills, and the elliptical trainer gave me a lot of work in that area.

I wanted to work on toe running, but that technique requires a shorter stride, and the stride length on the elliptical is fixed! Toe running with a long stride works your cardio vascular system something fierce, so until someone designs an elliptical trainer that lets you vary stride length, I've found that the interval training program works best.

I'll do a minute or so at toe-running speed, followed by the same amount of time at a slower speed. The slower speed pounds the quads, but gives my breathing a chance to recover. Since the stride length is fixed, the cadence at given speed will be the same for everyone. I used a metronome to gauge the machine I use, and got these numbers:

Speed (mph) Cadence (steps/min)
10.1-10.5
130
13.3-13.8
135
16.7-17.2
138

With a shorter stride, I could undoubtedly increase the cadence. But with the fixed stride length, it looks like I'll max around somewhere below 150 steps/min, given that the top speed on the machine is 18 or 19 mph. (At least, that's what the machine says the speed is. I know for a fact I can't run that fast. But maybe I'd be going that fast on a wheeled vehicle.)

During the exertion intervals, I work the cardio vascular system hard enough to be breathing hard--something I haven't been able to do for years, due to knee injuries. During the recovery intervals, I'm working my quads--which is great for cycling. So I get the best of both worlds, with time for each system to recover before going at it again.

Going Outdoors with an Elliptical Cycle

Once I discovered the elliptical trainer, I wanted one I could take for a ride outside. Today, I found from friend Bill Venners that a company called ElliptiGo makes one! "Only" $2500 (eep!), but beautifully designed. And for $400 more, you can get a stationary trainer, which gives you an indoor elliptical! (There are no built-in programs with it, but you can get a training DVD or use GymBoss to set up your own interval patterns.)

Omigawd! You can even adjust stride length! That's something I can't do with a stationary trainer. The range is from 18 to 25.5 inches. Gotta go out and measure my stride! (Somehow) You can't change it on the fly, to vary your speed (you have gears for that), but you can make sure that the stride length is appropriate for your height and fitness level!

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