If you want to run well, don’t just run. It’s time to take a dif­fer­ent path

Trail Running (UK) - - Contents - Pricey yes, the El­lip­tiGo is a great bit of kit

Can’t run? We have some great al­ter­na­tives to keep you in peak con­di­tion

You like to get out on the trails when­ever you can. It’s what you do. How­ever, there are times when it may just not be pos­si­ble to get out­side and run; per­haps be­cause of the weather, or in worst-case sce­nar­ios be­cause you’re in­jured. In th­ese cir­cum­stances, a spot of cross train­ing us­ing ex­er­cises which em­u­late the nat­u­ral run­ning mo­tion as much as pos­si­ble can keep you fit and could even im­prove your per­for­mance when you re­turn to the trails. We take a look at some of the op­tions avail­able.


Get­ting on your bike is the most pop­u­lar method of cross train­ing for run­ners al­though you may be wor­ried that too much of it could be detri­men­tal to your run­ning by over­build­ing your quads and tight­en­ing your calf mus­cles.

It is, how­ever, a great way of main­tain­ing fit­ness. Added to this, re­search has shown it has ben­e­fits in terms of ex­tend­ing the run­ning lives of older ath­letes. That same re­search sug­gests run­ners look­ing to re­duce run in­juries and main­tain base fit­ness should sub­sti­tute half their run train­ing with cy­cling. Use the same heart rate as you would for your run train­ing, and to work out how far you should cy­cle, mul­ti­ply the dis­tance you would run by three.

The renowned phys­i­ol­o­gist Tim Noakes (of Lore of

Run­ning fame) is a big ad­vo­cate of cy­cling and cross train­ing in the in­ter­ests of pre­serv­ing run­ning longevity. Noakes be­lieves cy­cling should def­i­nitely be on the run­ner’s train­ing list; he main­tains how af­ter decades of run­ning, the abil­ity to cope with and re­cover from longer runs (over 10km) can be much re­duced. He sees this as a con­se­quence of ec­cen­tric mus­cle dam­age – which re­sults in the de­vel­op­ment of heavy and un­re­spon­sive legs as well as poor re­cov­ery.

Con­se­quen­tially, Noakes be­lieves heavy mileages should not be pur­sued re­lent­lessly

as run­ners be­come veter­ans and that more cross train­ing be done. He also notes that cy­cling will as­sist in weight loss and main­tain gen­eral health as well as base fit­ness. In the­ory, a 60-minute weekly cy­cle could re­sult in nearly a kilo of fat loss in 12 weeks.

El­lip­ti­cal bikes

Th­ese pieces of gym kit look like a bike, but you use a run­ning type ac­tion to move them, so they em­u­late the all-over body work out of trail run­ning bet­ter than a tra­di­tional road bike. El­lip­tiGOs take things one step fur­ther by ac­tu­ally tak­ing you out of the gym and on to the road. They are a lit­tle more weighty than

a nor­mal bike but they are easy to ride and more sta­ble than may ap­pear.

El­lip­tiGOs are cham­pi­oned by some of the world’s elite en­durance ath­letes. Ultrarunner Dean Kar­nazes uses one, as does per­haps the great­est dis­tance run­ner of all-time, Haile Ge­brse­lassie, who de­scribes the El­lip­tiGO as “the ultimate cross-train­ing tool for run­ners”. So what does the sports sci­ence say?

One study com­pared the phys­i­o­log­i­cal out­comes of el­lip­ti­cal bike and run train­ing in ath­letes. It con­cluded: “There were no sig­nif­i­cant group dif­fer­ences for th­ese vari­ables at any time point… El­lip­tiGO-only train­ing yielded sim­i­lar phys­i­o­log­i­cal and per­for­mance main­te­nance or im­prove­ments com­pared with run-only train­ing.”

It’s worth point­ing out at that th­ese are not cheap pieces of kit, with prices start­ing from £899 and ris­ing to £3499, but if that’s not a worry and you’re keen to ex­pe­ri­ence its im­pact-free ride, then take a look at www.el­lip­

Aqua train­ing

Work­ing out un­der­wa­ter takes the strain off mus­cles. But can it help run­ners im­prove their per­for­mance? Per­haps the best bit of kit for run­ners is the aquatic tread­mill. Some may ques­tion whether the ef­fects of be­ing sub­merged – and there­fore fully sup­ported – mean that the run­ning you do will have lit­tle ben­e­fit once you are back on dry land. It turns out that foot-strike is ac­tu­ally sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected in a pos­i­tive way when run­ning in wa­ter be­cause con­tact time is in­creased. Run­ning un­der­wa­ter in­evitably al­ters form, how­ever, th­ese ef­fects were found to be short-lived and there was no im­pair­ment of run­ning me­chan­ics on terra firma. Train­ing on an aquatic tread­mill is a great op­tion for run­ners re­cov­er­ing from in­jury where im­pact needs to be avoided. The down side is the tread­mills are hard to find. Search the in­ter­net for fa­cil­i­ties near you.

Some­thing a lit­tle more ac­ces­si­ble is aqua jog­ging, a class in which you’ll be kit­ted out with a flota­tion belt and wa­ter shoes, which are de­signed to aid the run­ning mo­tion un­der wa­ter. Classes last an hour; again look on­line for groups that are held near you.

Strength & con­di­tion­ing

Weights, ply­o­met­ric and body weight train­ing (cir­cuits) are fur­ther crosstrain­ing op­tions. Th­ese meth­ods have been shown to have sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits for en­durance ath­letes in terms of en­hanc­ing per­for­mance econ­omy and speed and re­duc­ing in­jury.

Does it help?

While it’s vi­tal to take time out to re­cover from an in­jury, it is equally im­por­tant that you main­tain your fit­ness while you mend or you will re­turn to the trail feel­ing like a novice. Cross train­ing is a great way for run­ners to main­tain strength. In an ideal world you’d repli­cate the run­ning mo­tion as closely as pos­si­ble, which is why the El­lip­tiGo and aquatic tread­mills are such su­perb bits of kit. But due to their rar­ity and ex­pense they are some­what on the ex­otic side. Fit or in­jured, you can do far worse than hop­ping on your bike. That way you can en­hance your per­for­mance econ­omy while still en­joy­ing the great out­doors. So what are you wait­ing for? Go get cross!

Cy­cling is ef­fec­tive for older run­ners

Aquatic tread­mills take the gym un­der­wa­ter

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