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Two Arms!

Posted by Filed Under: Running is Funny

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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About Mike Antonucci

I ran 6-minute miles when I was in the military, then tapered for 20 years. Two-time marathoner (3:43 PR), my next goal is to stay healthy enough to run another. There are literally thousands of people handing out running advice and serious tips. I prefer to focus on the humorous or odd facets of our shared obsession. Let's face it, running is funny.



4 Comments
  1. Dawn - Pink Chick on October 27th at 11:05 am

    I too recently started using one of these contraptions to cross train between runs and strengthen my legs. It was suggested therapy by my physio guy. Thanks for posting this so I don’t make the same mistakes as well. I don’t need bad calves added to my already bad knees…lol.

    Dawn – Pink Chicks last blog post..The Pink Chicklettes – Race Report

  2. e on October 28th at 6:43 am

    A little bit of cross training can really go a long way towards improving your running. In particular, I increased my speed tremendously by doing some strength training on my legs and arms, and that elliptical can really improve your climbing/hill speed if you stick with it.

  3. Audrey on November 4th at 1:26 am

    I’ve got an elliptical trainer and I find it as boring as heck, unless I put it in front of the telly and there’s something good on. You’re right though, it’s good if you can’t run.

    Audreys last blog post..Poor Neglected Little Blog

  4. Stacey Burke on July 17th at 1:45 pm

    Awesome article! Need some new updates! Keep them coming!

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