Now, I have mixed thoughts on the elliptical. In no way do I think its equal to the treadmill, but I do think it provides a decent workout that can simulate your running muscles in a relatively similar way. That is, if you use it the right way.
Just like that. Exactly. Well, so, I used the elliptical for my "tempo run" on Tuesday and managed pretty well-kept my heart rate at the right pace for a tempo run and did just a bit over what my tempo time has been for 5 miles (about 41 minutes). Today was...speedwork. According to the "written" plan, I was supposed to do 12 x400 at a 7:15 pace. How does one do this on the elliptical?? You got me. So we did our best. Hopped on, did 5 minutes EZ, then alternated 2 minutes all out with one minute "recovery" 12 times, with a cool down of 5 minutes = 45 minutes total. I felt like I got a pretty decent interval workout this way ( I also alternated levels during the workout) and it wasn't jarring on my knee, which is awesome. As I finished my cooldown, I took a look at the screen.
Total time: 45:07. Check
Total distance: 10.01 miles
Calories burned: 1007
Wait, WHAT??? See, this is why the elliptical and I have a love/hate relationship. Based on what it's telling me, I obviously need to quit my job, go train with Meb Keflezighi and re adjust my goal for the National Marathon to a sub 2 hours, which, by the way, is a firm world record. Now that I'm so good, I can also confidently post on Slowtwitch, cause everyone there is a rockstar and until today, I just couldn't compete...
So you heard it here first, folks, watch out, I'm gonna be famous!! I think I'll just do my 20 miler on the elliptical....
Ok, reality check. Clearly I went nowhere near that far or burned that many calories. Based on RPE (rate of perceived exertion) I probably burned about 400 calories and went about 5 miles. I know that, but it makes me sad to know that plenty of people will take the stats they see on the machine as the god's honest truth and go eat an extra thousand calories with dinner feeling completely justified. Therein lies a big rule for all of you out there starting out or working out at the gym: DO NOT believe what the machine tells you in terms of "calories burned" or "distance" especially on the elliptical. If you enter in your weight (which I did) it is usually more accurate, but not always.
One of the better calculators of energy (calories) burned that I've found is here. Its helpful that they ask for your weight and list quite a few activities to choose from-but keep in mind it's more about intensity. as in, if I just used the elliptical lackadaisically, I burn far less than using it for interval training. According to this website, I burned 500 kcal, which is MUCH closer than the 1007.