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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Substitutes for Running

A long wait is finally over. My appointment with a knee specialist in the Sports Medical clinic here in Ottawa is scheduled this week. A sudden lateral movement when in squatting position strained my knee when playing with my 2-year old in our living room. Improbable injury but it happened right after Ottawa Marathon in May last year when my legs were tired and vulnerable. My right knee has never been the same practically preventing me from intensive speed workouts. However, adversity can be turned into opportunity. Not being able to do my usual millage I resorted to a cross training trying to maintain my fitness level.

Swimming at Carleton University pool on Friday evening became my regular routine even though I'm not a big fan of those 25-meter laps back and forth. To swim 1KM one needs to do no less than 40 lengths while watching a black line below.  However, this swimming routine somehow grew on me in recent weeks. I have to admit it's been a great non-impact workout improving strength and cardio.

Spinning class twice a week at GoodLife gym downtown provides much-needed intensity. After 60-min of pedalling through various "tracks" of blasting music, the floor around my bike resembles a small pond. My heart rate is typically around 145-150 making it sort of equivalent of a tempo run.

You either love or hate the rower machine. This workout can be painful with your heart pounding, quads and arms burning, and your stomach on a borderline of puking. Sort of like an intensive interval training that can push your heart rate into a red zone. Initially it was quite challenging for me to row even 2,000 meters at 2min/500meters, but over time doing this workout twice a week I developed enough strength to sustain this pace for 30 minutes.

My long runs are done on elliptical machine usually on Saturday morning.  It takes 60 minutes to do a 10K elliptical run. So those 30K "long" elliptical sessions give me full 3 hours to watch CBC news, TSN highlights and English premier league. That's my weekly dose of TV.

Just between you and me, despite my doctor's recommendation not to run, once a week I hop on a treadmill, increase incline to 5% and run for 30 minutes doing my "hills" which is a speed work in disguise with relatively low impact.

Having incorporated various running substitutes I have been intrigued by translating these various workouts to some sort of equivalent of running to be able to properly adjust my running substitutes and comply with my training log. The common denominator I have been using is the number of calories burned.

According to Feb 2015 Consumer Reports which did evaluation and rating of gym equipment, in 30 minutes a typical 150-pound person would burn the following number of calories:

  • 125 - walking at moderate pace
  • 350 - running at moderate pace
  • 180 - moderate effort
  • 270 - vigorous effort
  • 250 - moderate effort
  • 305 - vigorous effort


  • 290 - moderate effort
  • 360 - vigorous effort

One conclusion based on the above data is that I need to add 30% of mileage on the elliptical to have equivalent of running. 30 minutes of vigorous effort at elliptical burns 270 calories which is about 30% less than 350 calories burned when running at moderate pace. So when my training log calls for 30K long run I should really be doing 40K elliptical session. Well, that's 4 hours in front of TV in my gym. I can watch two full soccer games and still have time to catch TSN highlights.

Run Strong,

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