I love running.
I don’t love swimming, biking, push-ups, weightlifting, discus throwing, tossing the caber or Johnny on the Pony.
Running seven days a week is really, really bad for my legs, so my off-days are off-days. I don’t run and I don’t (grimace) cross-train.
That is, until an injury forced me to find some way to maintain a semblance of aerobic fitness while recuperating. Standing in the gym with dozens of machines from which to choose, my lone criterion was to find the one that most closely approximated running but didn’t involve slamming my feet onto a hard surface thousands of times.
So I mounted an elliptical trainer. Designed to mimic cross-country skiing, in practice it is sort of halfway between a treadmill and a stationary bike. I had never used one before, but I figured if Otis the cat could figure it out in three minutes, so could I.
Ellipticals are increasingly popular, with everyone from marathoners to Darth Vader using them. It is especially good to know that if terrorists attack your local fitness center, our Marines are trained to fight without dismounting the elliptical machine.
My first outing was for 15 minutes at Level 1, and I was racing away without a care in the world, my hands locked around the heart-rate handles. Then I finished, and for the next five days could not walk down stairs, step off curbs or stand on my toes. I had completely destroyed my calves.
It turns out my posture was bad, and failing to use the arm handles made the problem worse. When I returned to the gym, I stood up straight, started slower, and used the handles. I’m getting a reasonably good cardio workout, but I hadn’t anticipated the extra benefit of the arm work. The workout was easier because pulling on the handles takes some strain off your legs and, strangely enough, you get into the habit of using your arms more efficiently when you get back to running.
Arm drills for running aren’t exactly a new technique, but you may find a little elliptical work preferable to bouncing off your butt at the track.
I’ve got a long way to go before I’m a cross-training convert, but at least my non-running days are a little more productive than they used to be.
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