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The elliptical trainer is one of the most popular cardio machines in the gym, and because it mimics running action without the impact, it makes an excellent cross-training activity. Even though the elliptical is a weight-bearing activity, it is low-impact for the joints. The elliptical also helps develop a runner's core and leg muscles, and if you use one with the arm levers, the pushing and pulling motion allows you to develop a stronger arm swing therefore helping make you a more efficient runner.
While many of us may not have the snow (or snow gear) to participate in this cross-training activity, an indoor cross country ski machine such as a Nordic Track offers similar benefits. Cross country skiing can help improve running economy (the amount of oxygen used during a run). Because the hips, quadriceps, core and upper body are all utilized in performing this workout, it allows for development of the weaker quadriceps without the impact. And one of the greatest benefits is the high-calorie expenditure that comes from doing this activity. If you are looking for an activity that burns as many (or more) calories as running does, the cross-country ski machine may be a great addition to your workout routine.
Please remember that cross-training should not replace a scheduled day off from running. Rest is just as vital to your training as running is, for it is during recovery that your body begins the adaptation process to making you a more efficient runner.
Running too much can lead to a greater incidence of injury and actually slow your progress and running performance. This is why cross-training plays such an important role in keeping us active and injury-free. Cross-training activities are meant to complement and enhance your running by giving your muscles a break from running while still allowing you to burn calories and develop greater aerobic fitness. And by adding variety to your workout routine, you may find yourself looking forward to your runs, which can help make you a life-long runner.
This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople Coaches Jen Mueller and Nicole Nichols, Certified Personal Trainers.
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Fitzgerald, Matt. 2004. Runner's World Guide to Cross Training. Rodale.
Galloway, Jeff. 2002. Galloway's Book on Running. California: Shelter Publications.
Glover, Bob, Jack Shepard and Shelly-lynn Florence Glover. 1996. The Runner's Handbook. New York: Penguin Books.
Sparks, Ken. 1996. The Runners Book of Training Secrets. Pennsylvania: Rodale.
Stanton, John. 2010. Running The Complete Guide to Building Your Running Program. Ontario: Penguin Books.