for Runners: Put Some Variety in Your Workouts
by Dr. Jeffrey Ross, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S.
cross-training comes to mind, what types of exercise or
equipment do you think about? Swimming or aqua running,
exercise bikes and "spinning", treadmills and elevated
speed walking, stair steppers, and now the latest craze,
the elliptical trainers, are all possibilities. How many
have you tried? Do you even know what they are? You may
have seen a variety of designs on television, and if you
belong to a health club, then you’ve probably seen them.
I discovered them about a year ago when I went to my health
club’s exercise and weight room after a run. I was looking
for an alternative to the stair stepper, which I felt put
stress on my knees, Achilles tendons, and the balls of
my feet. I saw this interesting machine called the "elliptical
trainer." It looked pretty simple, and the pedals were
fairly large to stand on. As I watched others exercising
on the machine, I noticed that their feet and legs never
experienced any impact. That immediately got my curiosity
going! I also saw that the movement on the machine was
similar to running or climbing. I'm a runner who also likes
to cross-country ski, but this seemed to be easier than
both. All of the participants appeared to be working up
a good sweat, and they were all either watching television
or reading the newspaper. I liked that just as much.
So I did a little checking to see what I could find about
this new cross-trainer program. According to research from
the University of Wisconsin, when comparing an elliptical
trainer to a treadmill, there was no significant difference
in terms of oxygen consumption, caloric expenditure, and
heart rate. The big advantage that the elliptical offers,
however, is that it reduces the impact to less than half
what the treadmill produces.
For runners who have suffered overuse injuries, i.e. knee,
hip, low back, ankle, Achilles, heel and foot, exercising
on an elliptical trainer may be just what the doctor ordered.
In the rehabilitation phase of your recovery, these machines
can offer a safer, yet excellent "training effect." I have
recommended it to many of my patients and I love to follow
my own running with a half hour program on the elliptical.
It’s a fantastic way to "cool down," yet keeps the heart
rate going while simultaneously lowering the impact trauma
to the muscles and joints. It allows for a nice, rhythmic
body movement, recreating the same motion as running while
providing for an even stretch of the lower leg muscles.
When you finish, you realize you’ve accomplished a lot,
but your body is not wasted.
Should you get one for your home? Not unless you’re ready
to part with some money. Ellipticals are not cheap. The
American Council on Exercise showed that the most expensive
models hold up better and outperform the cheaper models.
They showed the Nordic Track-Ellipse to rank highest, yet
Consumer Reports found it to fail in terms of durability,
and do not recommend it. The Precor model at my health
club has been there for a while, and it continues to perform
well. So if you’re looking for an alternative or addition
to your running, think of this new exercise machine. I'm
sure you’ll enjoy it and add it to your routine.
Looking for something different in your running routine?
Getting bored and want to spice up your life?
The American Running and Fitness Association recommends "Twofers".
This program addresses two or more training objectives
in one activity. It provides for a variety of exercises,
more balanced training, and more completed physical development.
The Twofer workout addresses cardiovascular exercise, flexibility
development, sprint training, strength development, and
speed improvement. Begin your workout, jog or run with
five to ten minute warm-up. Then, while continuing to run,
perform an exercise - arm swings, heel ups, high knees,
high knees with heel ups, high knee carioca, backward heel
ups or sprints – for at least 15 to 30 steps. Complete
two sets of each exercise, with a running break in between,
and then move on to the next. It is not necessary to perform
all the exercises in one workout. You might want to mix
it up on different runs. If you’re doing a routine three
to six mile run, you might want to do this program toward
the tail end of your last mile. It makes for a great finish
to your workout.
The intensity of the exercises stimulates a form of interval
training, and can accent your workout and improve performance.
So when you find yourself out there all alone, with no
Walkman to listen, try the Twofer.
Dr. Ross is a Podiatrist, M.D. in private
practice in Houston, TX. To book an appointment with
Dr. Ross or find out about his services he can be reached