ElliptiGO cross-training speeds return to competitive running

Kyle Merber is a professional middle distance runner for HOKA One One and the New Jersey New York Track Club. He grew up on Long Island, where he had success as a New York state and national indoor champion in track. He ran for Columbia University, where he had his first major breakthrough in the sport in 2012, when he ran an American collegiate record in the 1500m (3:35.59) as a senior.

Kyle Merber at Sir Walter Mile

Photo by Cheryl Treworgy

After college, he stayed in the New York area to run professionally for the legendary Coach Frank (“Gags”) Gagliano. Since then, Merber has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, with one of those upswings coming in 2015 when he lowered his 1500m PR to 3:34.54 and ran on the world record-setting distance medley relay for Team USA.

Heading into the 2016 outdoor season, Merber’s primary goal was to qualify for the Rio Olympics in the 1500m. But he suffered a sacral stress reaction that took him away from running for a full five weeks, including the whole month of May, just weeks before the Olympic Trials.

Below, Merber talks about how cross-training, including time spent riding an ElliptiGO elliptical bike, allowed him to salvage the season and still qualify for and compete in the Olympic Trials final. While his 9th place finish fell short of his goal of making the Olympic Team, his accelerated return to competitive fitness led him to have arguably his most successful summer season ever, following the Trials. That success included a new personal best in the mile (3:54.57) at Sir Walter Miler on Aug. 5, less than a month after the Trials and just 2 months after returning from his injury.

ElliptiGO: How and when did you first learn about ElliptiGO bikes, and why did you start incorporating ElliptiGO training?

KM: I first learned about the ElliptiGO in 2012 from Julie Culley and hearing that she had been using it to supplement her training. Eventually, Mike Rutt and other members of the New Jersey New York Track Club began using it for cross-training as a way to steal some extra mileage. I started using it while I was injured because my hip would hurt when running, but not while ElliptiGOing.

ElliptiGO: Many elite runners are all about running mileage – the more the better. Others have to be more creative in their training. What is your mileage “sweet spot,” what is your approach to cross-training, and what advice do you have for runners who think “I just need to run more”?

KM: I am definitely one who gets addicted to mileage. I ran 12 straight weeks of 90+ miles last year, but that resulted in injury and therefore a lot of ElliptiGO miles. Moving forward, I am going to be way more strict about taking “down” weeks and start with a rotation of 90-90-75 running miles per week as a means of staying healthy. I believe in mileage, and I think if you want to get better at running, then running is probably the best way to do it. But with that said, you have to be smart about the way you build your mileage and listen to your body in the process. I think effective run-specific cross-training is probably the best way to transition into higher volumes in training and serve as a compromise to prevent your body from breaking down.

Kyle Merber on ElliptiGOElliptiGO: Many of our followers like to see how elite athletes go about their training. How do you integrate an ElliptiGO bike into your training plan, both during injury and when healthy?

KM: To this point, I’ve used ElliptiGO the most during stints of injury. I will generally go for long aerobic rides of 90 minutes to 2 hours. I wouldn’t go especially hard, just the same effort as an easy run. I would combine that with all-out intervals in the pool to get my heart rate way up and work all systems.

ElliptiGO: What kind of results have you been able to see that you believe are correlated to ElliptiGO integration?

KM: I was injured for 5 weeks in late spring leading into the Olympic Trials. I wasn’t able to start running again until the end of May, yet was still able to qualify for the 1500m finals at the Olympic Trials. It wasn’t the dream season I had hoped for leading up to that, but I strongly believe the amount of cross-training allowed me to salvage my fitness and continue on to run my mile PR less than a month later at the Sir Walter Miler.

ElliptiGO: Coming off a season of great races and new PRs, what are some of your goals heading into 2017? And will you approach it any differently based on what you’ve learned from 2016?

KM: My biggest goal is to stay healthy. I think my whole career has been limited by circumstances, and if I can string together a full block then I could reach a level I never have previously. I am going to try a couple of 5Ks; I think that event may be in the cards for me on a more permanent basis down the line. But first, I still need some new PBs at the 1500 and mile.

You can follow Merber’s training and competition through his social media and blog:

Twitter: @TheRealMerb
Instagram: @kylemerber

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