Elliptical workouts are very effective for mimicking the running motion. It is also very beneficial for runners who are recovering from injury or working on let’s say their stride rate.

Also, it can be a very beneficial cross-training and a good break from their daily running. However, which one should you do? For answering this question here are the 10 best elliptical workouts for runners. They will improve your efficiency and will provide you a great workout experience.

Best Elliptical Workouts For Runners

Is elliptical training good for runners?

Yes, elliptical training is good for runners and there is a reason for the growing popularity of elliptical machines among runners. Much like running elliptical machines have similar physiological responses among runners.

In one study a trained group of runners was measured on their performance on the elliptical and the parameters like oxygen consumption, heart rate, fuel utilization, and energy expenditure are measured. However, there was no difference found between running and elliptical trainers.

Also, a similar study was performed on a group of female runners and over a period of 12 weeks. The results were almost the same.

How many miles on the elliptical is equal to running?

Any number of miles on the elliptical is equal to running provided you are aware of how to equate the two.

Here are some easy ways to draw parallels to your elliptical training and running. In elliptical machines you have strides. Each stride in an elliptical is measured from the forward-most position to the backward-most position. Also, the stride length varies from 14 to 22 inches.

So, if you want to equate one mile running to elliptical training, it will be somewhere in between 4526 and 2880.


A mile is around 63360 inches. Now divide 63360 by 14 and you get 4525.7 or 4526 (approx.). If you divide it by 22 you will get 2880.

Also, there are some machines that actually measure RPM. If that is the case with your machine, just divide these two numbers by 2 which will be 2263 rpm and 1440 rpm respectively.

Elliptical setting to mimic running

Use 90 rpm (max.) at a resistance level of 2-8.

On the surface-level, this may be perfect as this is equivalent to the golden 180 cadence number.

However, your cadence level will be different. So, before trying out this setting, it is better to measure your own stride rate and then gradually progress towards this golden number.

To do that, just set the elliptical at a comfortable resistance level and move the pedals as you will do when running. Do this for a min and the machine itself will let you know the number.

Once you have that baseline, you can focus on improving that number.

I have got a cadence of around 120 to 130 or 60 to 65 rpm and have a lot of room for improvement and I’m gradually working towards it. And this is what I love about the ellipticals. It will tell you right onto the face your weakness.

You may also try this to identify any potential weakness or just to reaffirm your great numbers.

Elliptical form

As with any type of exercise, form is the most important thing. It is true with elliptical trainers as well.

Also, if you have been running for some time, achieving the perfect elliptical form will be easier. To have a perfect elliptical form, follow the below guidelines:

  • Back straight.
  • Core engaged.
  • Don’t shrug or slouch your shoulders.
  • Stand nice and tall.
  • Hands should be extended to hold the elliptical handlebars.
  • Don’t put your weight on the handlebars like a cyclist.
  • Do use the handlebars to stabilize yourself. They are just for providing you with the pumping action of the hand and nothing else.

Precautions when using an elliptical

Elliptical machines are meant to stabilize you while providing you with a running-like workout. However, if you are not careful you may end up injuring yourself or your neighbors.

Here are some safety guidelines that you may follow while using an elliptical:

  • Start slow.
  • Use proper resistance for an optimal workout.
  • Train with your heart rate.
  • Don’t lean on the machine.
  • Be aware of the foot slipping on the pedals.
  • Hold the handlebars lightly.
  • If in a gym, spray sanitizer on the machine before hopping on.
  • Maintain proper form.

Can elliptical trainers really improve your running?

Yes, elliptical trainers can really improve your running. For starters, you will be able to work on your cadence and improve it till you hit that 90 rpm.

Also, if you focus on your form while working out on the elliptical, you will be strengthening your core muscles and will be able to improve your overall balance.

Moreover, you can increase the resistance at your will, thus providing yourself a way to strengthen the muscles that are used for running.

In other words, if you workout on elliptical, you will improve your running.

Can you use the elliptical for recovery runs?

You can use elliptical for recovery runs. However, since this will be a non-load-bearing session, go for double the time that you would run.

This is especially true if you are recovering from an injury or are very tired. This will be the perfect break from your running routine and you will be still able to include a session of active recovery.


Because using the elliptical trainer will improve the blood flow of your body and thus will help you to recover better.

How long should you use the elliptical?

You should use the elliptical for at least 5 min to at most an hour. The time that you will spend on the treadmill will depend on the purpose of the usage for that workout session.

For example, if you are just warming up for a run, a session of 5 to 20 mins will be sufficient. However, if you are planning for a strength training session, 15 to 60 mins will be required.

If the purpose is active recovery, then you will be using the machine for double the time you spend on active run days.

So, it all boils down to the purpose of the usage of the machine for that day.

Are 45 minutes on the elliptical a good workout?

Yes, 45 minutes on the elliptical is a good workout, provided you are effectively utilizing the time.

What do I mean by that?

For example, if you spend 45 mins on the elliptical but the effort you give is much below your capacity, then it will not be a fruitful session for you. Also, if you go above and beyond on that particular session, you will be opening yourself up for an injury.

So, you will be spending 45 mins struggling on the machine, only to go back home and tend your injury. That won’t be a good workout, isn’t it?

However, if you put in a good amount of effort but don’t overstretch yourself, then it will be a very good and balance-providing workout.

Are 3 miles on the elliptical the same as running 3 miles?

Yes, 3 miles on the elliptical is the same as running 3 miles out or on the treadmill, distance-wise. However, it is not the same impact-wise.

Running outside or on a treadmill is a high-intensity exercise, but ellipticals are designed to take away that impact and provide you with a non-impact workout session. So, your body will have a much easier time working on the elliptical.

10 Best Elliptical Workouts For Runners

1. 30 min Beginner’s Workout

  • 0-10 mins – Warm up at a resistance of 3.
  • 10-11 min – Push the pedals as fast as you can @ 7 resistance.
  • 11-12 min – Easy slow pedaling @ resistance 4.
  • 12-13 min – Push the pedals as fast as you can @ 7 resistance.
  • 13-14 min – Easy slow pedaling @ resistance 4.
  • 14-15 min – Push the pedals as fast as you can @ 7 resistance.
  • 15-16 min – Easy slow pedaling @ resistance 4.
  • 16-17 min – Push the pedals as fast as you can @ 7 resistance.
  • 17-18 min – Easy slow pedaling @ resistance 4.
  • 18-19 min – Push the pedals as fast as you can @ 7 resistance.
  • 19-20 min – Easy slow pedaling @ resistance 4.
  • 20-21 min – Push the pedals as fast as you can @ 7 resistance.
  • 21-22 min – Easy slow pedaling @ resistance 4.
  • 22-30 min – Cooldown @ 3 resistance.

2. 50 min Workout For Long Distance Runners

  • 0-10 mins – Warm up at a resistance of 3.
  • 10-20 mins – Pedal at easy pace @ a resistance level of 7.
  • 20-22 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 22-23 mins – Recovery @ resistance 5.
  • 23-25 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 25-26 mins – Recovery @ resistance 5.
  • 26-28 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 28-29 mins – Recovery @ resistance 5.
  • 29-31 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 31-32 mins – Recovery @ resistance 5.
  • 32-34 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 34-35 mins – Recovery @ resistance 5.
  • 35-36 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 36-37 mins – Recovery @ resistance 5.
  • 37-39 mins – Pedal hard @ resistance of 8 or 9.
  • 39-50 mins – Cool down @ resistance 3.

3. 90 min Pyramid Workout

  • 10 mins warm-up @ resistance 3.
  • 1 min hard pedaling @ resistance 5.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 2 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 3 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 4 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 5 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 6 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 7 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 6 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 5 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 4 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 3 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 2 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 1 min hard pedaling @ resistance 7.
  • 2 min recovery @ resistance 3.
  • 5 min cooldown @ resistance 3.

4. 20 min Hill Or Ladder Workout

  • Start with a warm-up of 5 to 10 mins at a low resistance of your choice.
  • Increase the resistance by 1 count (like from 3 to 4) every min.
  • Keep doing this until you have reached your peak heart rate zone. Your fitness tracker will be able to tell that. Also, you won’t be able to keep going after a min.
  • Now keep lowering the intensity by one count every min.
  • Once you have reached your starting resistance, cool-down at your warm-up intensity for 5-10 min.

5. 30 min HIIT

We will set the elliptical to an initial setting of resistance or incline and will perform the below exercise at that setting. For ease of reference point, I’ll use 5 as resistance. You can use any setting you feel comfortable with. However, don’t too high on the resistance as you will not be able to sustain it for the entire duration of the training.

  • 5 min @ resistance 5.
  • 3 min, pedal as hard as possible @ resistance 5
  • 2 min, easy pedal or pedal backward @ resistance 5.
  • Repeat the above two steps until you hit the 25 min mark.
  • 5 min cooldown @ resistance 3.

6. 30 min Cha-Cha-Cha

Here you will set the resistance at a lower intensity and will increase it by 2 counts every 4 min. Also, you will pedal forward for two mins and pedal backward for 2 mins.

We have described the steps below starting with resistance 1. You can start at a convenient level of yours. Since this exercise will become very hard in the last phases, start with something that you are comfortable with. This way you will not have to abandon it in the middle or change course.

  • 1:00-5:00 warm-up @ resistance 1.
  • 5:00-7:00 pedal forwards @ resistance 3.
  • 7:00-9:00 pedal backwards @ resistance 3.
  • 9:00-11:00 pedal forwards @ resistance 5.
  • 11:00-13:00 pedal backwards @ resistance 5.
  • 13:00-15:00 pedal forwards @ resistance 7.
  • 15:00-17:00 pedal backwards @ resistance 7.
  • 17:00-19:00 pedal forwards @ resistance 9.
  • 19:00-21:00 pedal backwards @ resistance 9.
  • 21:00-23:00 pedal forwards @ resistance 11.
  • 23:00-25:00 pedal backwards @ resistance11.
  • 25:00-30:00 cool down @ resistance 1.

7. Easy Run Workout

This kind of workout is great for injured runners. You will have a good workout minus the high-impact of running. Here is what you should do.

  • 0:00-10:00 min warm up @ resistance 1.
  • 10:00-40:00 min run @ resistance 3-5. (choose a resistance with which you can stick for the entire timeframe).
  • 40:00-50:00 min cool down @ resistance 1.

Note: Your stride rate should be as close as possible to your actual running stride rate. Also, see to it that your HR or heart rate doesn’t exceed more than 65-75% of your maximum heart rate.

8. Tempo Run Workout

This run will mimic your tempo run effort. To make it a medium effort run you need to enter a heart zone of 87-92% of your maximum heart rate.

To do that, you will add incline or resistance to your workout. This will automatically increase your level of effort.

  • 0:00-5:00 min Warm-up @ resistance 3.
  • 5:00-10:00 min Pedal @ resistance 8-9.
  • 10:00-13:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 13:00-18:00 min Pedal @ resistance 8-9.
  • 18:00-21:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 21:00-26:00 min Pedal @ resistance 8-9.
  • 26:00-29:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 29:00-34:00 min Pedal @ resistance 8-9.
  • 34:00-37:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 37:00-42:00 min Pedal @ resistance 8-9.
  • 42:00-45:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 45:00-50:00 min Pedal @ resistance 8-9.
  • 50:00-53:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 53:00-60:00 min cool down @ resistance 3.

9. 30 min Balance Run Workout

This is a workout that will actively develop your balance. Also, since you will run most of the time hands-free, you will be forced to rely on your core and will strengthen that. While doing the exercise, work with a stride rate that is comfortable to you.

Here is what you will do:

  • 0:00-3:00 min warm up @ resistance 3.
  • 3:00-5:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 5:00-10:00 min pedal @ resistance 5. hands-free.
  • 10:00-15:00 min pedal backward @ resistance 5, hands-free.
  • 15:00-20:00 min pedal @ resistance 5, hands-free.
  • 20:00-25:00 min pedal backward @ resistance 5, hands-free.
  • 25:00-30:00 min cooldown @ resistance 3.

10. 15 min Fat-burner Workout

This is primarily an incline workout and will help you to enter the fat burning zone quickly.

Here is what it looks like:

  • 0:00-1:00 min pedal @ resistance 3.
  • 1:00-2:00 min pedal @ resistance 5.
  • 2:00-3:00 min pedal @ resistance 7.
  • 3:00-4:00 min pedal @ resistance 9.
  • 4:00-5:00 min pedal @ resistance 10.
  • Lower back the resistance to 3 and repeat the steps 2 more times.


Honea, D. M. (2012). The impact of replacing run training with cross-training on performance of trained runners. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University.

Joubert, Dustin, Gary Oden, and Brent Estes. “The Effects Of Ellipical Cross Training on VO2 max in Recently Trained Runners.” International Journal of Exercise Science 4.1 (2011): 2.

Porcari, John, Carl Foster, and Pat Schneider. “Exercise Response to.” Fitness Management (2000): 1.

Fitzgerald, Matt. Runner’s World Guide to Cross-Training. Rodale Books, 2004.

Garlatz, T. J., et al. “Physiological responses of elliptical and treadmill exercise in collegiate distance runners.” (2008): 1175-2.

Bosch, A. N., Flanagan, K. C., Eken, M. M., Withers, A., Burger, J., & Lamberts, R. P. (2021). Physiological and Metabolic Responses to Exercise on Treadmill, Elliptical Trainer, and Stepper: Practical Implications for Training. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism31(2), 135-142.

Chester, S., Zucker-Levin, A., Melcher, D.A., Peel, S.A., Bloomer, R.J. and Paquette, M.R., 2016. Lower limb kinematics and metabolic cost during elliptical exercises and treadmill running. Journal of applied biomechanics32(2), pp.113-119.

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Madhusree Basu

Author, Admin

Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.