Exercise! - Running vs. Elliptical Question

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06-09-2009, 04:47 PM
I recently began working out on an elliptical. I can currently go about 4 miles in 45-50 minutes with light resistance. I would really like to get into running. I hope to run a 5k in October. The logical thing is, of course, start running. The problem is I am recovering from a severely broken ankle/leg with a high ankle sprain and ligament damage. Yeah, that was tons of fun. I am cleared by my doctor to begin running again, but I physically can not do it. I don't have the calf strength to push off the ground properly. I also don't have the full range of motion to run. I have been going to a physical therapist to try to get running ready. My question to you all is, How different is running than the elliptical? They are obviously different, because I can do one and not the other, but how different? Will working out on the elliptical help with my running goal? Any advice?


Mrs Snark
06-09-2009, 05:10 PM
My opinion:

They are very different. Working out on the elliptical will certainly help your cardio capacity, general leg strength, and overall fitness -- all things needed for running. But it isn't a substitute for running. There is a great deal more shock/force involved in running.

What does your therapist say about your proposed time frame for training for the 5k? I wouldn't rush recovery for a specific 5k -- there are tons of 5ks all the time. Or if the 5k in October was of special significant to me I might walk it -- but I wouldn't compromise my rehab to run it.

I think you probably know all this, but are straining at the bit with frustration that your body is limiting you at the moment. My advice is always to do what's best for you in the long run. :)

06-09-2009, 05:21 PM
They are definitely very different. I've actually heard that underwater running is one of the closest things to running and I've also heard kettlebells are also good training for running.

06-09-2009, 05:23 PM
They're are two very different things. Try adding calf raises into your routine, or you can do certain intervals on the eliptical on the balls of your feet, if you can. That will help strengthen your calves. As you are preparing to run, make sure you are very careful about loosening up and stretching your ankle joints before and after. Running can be very uncomfortable at first when you are new, try and work through it if the discomfort is only moderate. It usually goes away. However, I would be very, very cautious about pain in your trouble areas. Running is so high impact, it could be easy to hurt yourself again. Make sure you have really good running shoes to help with the impact.

Perhaps you could start with speed walking and move up to jogging?

06-09-2009, 05:39 PM
You could also try a plan like this that gradually increases running time and decreases walking time.
Check out the plan here on FitSugar http://www.fitsugar.com/3252493

06-09-2009, 05:52 PM
I agree with everyone else! running is VERY different from using an eliptical! Running causes so much more force and shock from the pounding than really anything else...the elliptical was DESIGNED to be low/no impact... That said, how long has it been sinc eyour injury? you said the doctor gave you the green light to go ahead and run... your muscles in the injured foot/leg have atrophied for sure, from lack of use. I imagine it must be very stiff and weak when you DO try and run! I have also broken my ankle/torn the ligament WHILE running.....if it doesnt cause you severe "wrong" pain, thenit might be pain just associated with not having used it..in that case, the only way its going to start getting stronger IS by using it!! I am only suggesting because you said the doctor told you to go ahead and run on it..of course, you know your own body, and should listen to it..after several running injuries, i have learned to recognize "bad" pain vs "other" pain.....

06-09-2009, 05:59 PM
I started using an elliptical in February and started the Couch to 5K running program at the beginning of May. Elliptical and running are very different because of the physical impact on your leg joints. However, I think that the elliptical helped get me into cardiovascular shape so it was useful in that regard. You're quite a bit lighter than I am so the force would be less, but since you're still recovering from a significant injury, I would follow Tyler Durden's advice and consider walking the October 5K. As you know, your ankle is a complicated, necessary joint and you want to make sure that it's totally healed before putting any unnecessary stress on it.

I wonder if upping the resistance gradually on the elliptical would help to strengthen the joint? Either way, best of luck to you and congratulations on your progress thus far!

06-09-2009, 07:17 PM
Thanks for all the advice! My physical therapist said that before I even think of running, I need to master the elliptical and a brisk walk at an incline. I think I'm doing pretty good so far. I am just a little frustrated at not being able to run. I was on UF's Rugby team (which is how I broke my ankle) so I usually am quite active. I think once I am able to begin jogging, I am going to try the c25k program. It might be the best way for me to slowly reintroduce my ankle to running. I am going to run that by my physical therapist. I'll let you guys know how I'm doing and when I can run again.


Mrs Snark
06-09-2009, 07:22 PM
Sounds like you have a great plan, I'm sure you'll do fantastic!