Elliptical Machines for 5K Race Training

Fit woman smiling at camera

A 5k race is the most common race distance. The 5k stands for 5 kilometers, which is about 3.1 miles. Running a 5k race requires a great deal of preparation and training. One piece of equipment that many runners find useful for this is an elliptical machine. These machines provide an excellent cardiovascular workout, which can provide good results come race day.


The first elliptical exercise machine was introduced in 1995 by Larry D. Miller for the company Precor, which continues to make high-end machines to this day. Miller filmed a runner in motion and translated that movement into a machine that mimics the elliptical movement.


Elliptical exercise machines utilize foot pedals that move along an elliptical pattern. This design has the advantage of low impact to the legs and lower back, making it a safer alternative to other cardio workouts. Elliptical machines can also help develop increased fitness on non-running, or recovery, days. “Cross-training helps you stay mentally fresh, as well as working muscle groups you don’t normally use,” said Derick Williamson, a senior coach with Carmichael Training Systems in an interview on the website Cooking Light.


There are three styles of elliptical machines, classified by where the drive is located. The original machines were rear-drive, with the gears located at the back of the unit. Next, front-drive machines came on the scene. Today, most elliptical machines feature a center-drive design. Some manufacturers offer machines that can be adjusted in various ways to enhance the quality of the workout.

Race training

Most runners use elliptical machines for cross-training and low-impact exercises. These machines should not be used as an alternative to running during training, however, as the machines remove the physical impact of running on the legs and feet, which a runner also must be prepared for on race day. The best way to train for running at a certain speed on a certain surface is to run at that speed, on that surface. That being said, elliptical machines, in concert with a treadmill and actual running, can be a great piece of the training puzzle.


Elliptical machines are a great resource for runners, as they can help to keep them sharp on non-running days. These machines can help prevent runners from injury by providing a low-impact workout with minimal stress on the feet and legs. Ellipticals offer a weight bearing exercise that builds bone density and burns calories. While not suitable as your only training exercise, the current wisdom among elite runners is that one low-impact recovery workout per week is desirable. Ellipticals are sufficient to fill this role.