Coaching, Elliptical Workouts

4 Fun Elliptical Workouts to Give Your Joints a Break

The elliptical machine is one of my favorite modes for both my personal training and as well as my training clients. It’s like the little black dress – it goes with everything and it’s multi-functional. I’ve been using my Horizon Elite Elliptical this summer to train to climb Mt. Rainier. I use the Peak Interval program to build strength in my legs and cardiovascular fitness to prepare for the long hard pushes as we near the summit. I’ve also used it as an effective recovery tool on rainy days to make sure I train truly easy by following my heart rate and perceived effort. It’s a great way to recover actively with no impact on my body.
I prescribe elliptical workouts in my running clients training programs for a variety of purposes. For someone who is injury prone, I use it to promote strength with the resistance and climbing motion and stamina with the interval program. It works to build high levels of fitness without the risk of injury as it is low impact, yet weight bearing and simulate the running stride with the added benefit of arm resistance too.
For runners that are healthy and can push it on their runs, I weave in elliptical training as active recovery to aid in improving circulation, flushing the waste from their muscles and improve recovery actively. A typical workout would include low levels of resistance and climbing for 30 minutes, followed by flexibility work like foam rolling and stretching. It’s a useful way to bridge the gap between hard running workouts and aid in efficient recovery.
Using the elliptical anytime of the year is a great way to build or maintain fitness, reduce the impact on your body, improve strength and stamina, and recover effectively.
Here are four of my favorite elliptical workouts:

The Newbie Workout

A welcoming workout for those that are new to elliptical training
Total Time: 25-30 minutes

  • 5 Minute Warm Up: Using the Manual Mode, warm up for 5 minutes at 0% resistance and 0% incline. Start with your legs only and get used to the movement of the elliptical.
  • 15-20 Minutes: Increase the resistance slightly one or two levels just enough to feel the difference and begin to use your arms and legs. This will increase your heart rate and effort level and if it gets to be too much, go back to using your legs only. This is a great way to learn to workout on the elliptical and make friends with it. In time, you can use both arms and legs through the entire workout with a smile on your face.
  • 5 Minute Cool Down: lower the resistance to the warm up level and go back to using you legs only to cool down.

The Fat Burner

A high intensity interval workout that will boost your metabolism for hours post workout and burn fat!
Total Time: 36 minutes

  • 10 minutes: Warm up with light resistance with your arms and legs in motion. Start off at a real easy effort and build to a moderate resistance by the end of the 10-minute warm up, increasing the resistance every 2-3 minutes.
  • 21 Minutes: Alternate one minute at a hard effort level with 2 minutes easy for 21 minutes (7 times). Increase the resistance level to a moderately hard level while trying to keep your stride rate (how quickly your feet move) quick and fast. The goal is to find a resistance that challenges you and still allows you to keep your stride rate fast. By the end of the minute you should be breathing hard, and unable to speak. For the 2-minute recovery, ease back the resistance to a very easy level to catch your breath and recover.
  • 5 minutes: After the final interval cool down with a light resistance and slower stride rate for five easy minutes.

The Recovery Workout

An easy go lucky workout that will feel free and easy
Total Time: 30 minutes

  • 5 minutes: Warm up with light resistance with your arms and legs in motion.
  • 20 minutes: Increase the resistance and/or incline to a low level and hold it there for 20 minutes. Keep your effort at a conversational effort level and breathing easy. You should be able to talk out loud in full sentences. If not, lower the incline and resistance until you can.
  • 5 minutes: Cool down with light resistance with your arms and legs in motion.

The Mountain Climber

A challenging workout to build mental and physical strength and stamina
Total Time: 36-48 minutes

  • 7 minutes: Warm up with light resistance with your arms and legs in motion.
  • Repeat times: 4-6 times
    • 1 Minute – increase the incline slightly and focus on pushing through your whole foot with your heel on the platform.
    • 1 Minute – increase the incline one more level.
    • 1 Minute – increase the incline one more level.
    • 1 Minute – increase the incline one final level to reach the summit.
    • 2 Minutes – recover by lower the incline to the starting point to catch your breath.
  • 5 minutes: Cool down with light resistance with your arms and legs in motion.

Whether you’re looking to train harder with less impact on the body, or get into shape, the elliptical machine is an effective and fun way to reach your goals.


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Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

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