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One of the most common emails I receive is how to train when injured.
First, there’s the weight room, and when you skip the running and sprinting workouts, your weights will explode. (See First Law of Thermodynamics: energy cannot be created nor destroyed) You only have so much energy in a given day. If you don’t (can’t?) run track, then you have more energy in the weight room. Be prepared for personal bests (PB).
For Achilles and other lower body injuries and stress fractures, I highly recommend pool workouts, though I personally hate pool workouts.
Elliptical machines are very popular. They are also very common in fitness clubs and hotels on business travel.
If you must do a elliptical workout, then try to simulate a time based interval style workout, such as 45 seconds “hard” followed by 45 seconds “easy”. Mix and match your time and recoveries. But do watch out for the injury and not to aggravate it, depending on the injury.
One of the top elliptical brands in the country is Octane Fitness, so I asked Tim Porth, EVP, an expert from that company.
Here he offers the following research-based ergonomic tips for improving and maximizing elliptical workouts:
- Machine / Body Fit – Machine fit is key! An elliptical user should never adapt his or her posture, position or movement pattern to fit a piece of equipment. Never. The goal is to lose weight and stay in shape, not be sidelined by an injury. An elliptical should simulate natural body movements like walking or running.
- Stride Length – Most of us don’t naturally take tiny or huge steps, so they shouldn’t be taken during an elliptical workout either. The optimal elliptical stride length is 19.5-20.5 inches. The majority of elliptical brands offer stride adjustments, so be sure to ask a trainer or sales person how to make the correct adjustments.
- Stride Width / Pedal Spacing – Choose a machine with close pedal spacing before jumping into an elliptical workout! The wider the space between elliptical pedals, the more a user’s hips will shift laterally, which can lead to back pain.
- Pedal Pacing / Inertia – Fast or slow, all elliptical brands have different pedal paces. Some are faster on the downstroke and drag on the upswing; others have a "kick" on the upswing and can cause the feeling of being off balance. A steady pedal acceleration is key to a safe and reliable workout.
- Pedal Articulation – Not only the pace of pedals, but an elliptical’s pedal shape also makes a difference. When elliptical users pedal up and down they engage muscles in both their feet and ankles. If there is an excessive engagement and compression of nerves, it can limit knee and hip extension and even lead to temporary parasthesia or commonly known as "numb toe."
- Upper Body Movement – Move the top with the bottom! Unlike most other stationary fitness equipment, elliptical machines synchronize arm and leg movements. The goal of elliptical handlebars is to simulate natural shoulder and arm extension.
If you’ve used an elliptical machine in the past, please post your tips below. I always recommend cleaning your elliptical machine thoroughly with a good solvent to prevent rust from the sweat… and compassion for the next user!