Even Elite Athletes Have Limits

The Key is Understanding – and Finding Another Path to Success

Say “stress fracture” to an elite runner and chances are you’ll elicit a wince. The rigorous demands of training and competing at a world-class level can bring a finely tuned body to its knees.

Amanda Eccleston knows that all too well. Throughout her college years at Hillsdale College as an undergrad and University of Michigan as a grad student, Eccleston suffered more than her fair share of debilitating injuries while trying to match the mileage of other top-tier athletes. Now a professional, she continues to train in Ann Arbor under the guidance of Mike McGuire, head coach at Michigan. To help reduce the number and severity of injuries, McGuire encouraged Eccleston to integrate ElliptiGO training into her program. Now, she runs about half the mileage of some of her competitors, but the “running like” cross-training keeps her performing at the highest level.

In February, Eccleston finished third in the famed Millrose Games Wanamaker Mile – her 4:26.63 making her the 9th-fastest American woman ever in the indoor mile. This week, she will be running the 1500 meters in the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, where she will attempt to finish in the top two and earn a spot in her first World Championships, which will take place on that same track one week later. With her new approach to training and help of an ElliptiGO long-stride elliptical bike, she’s in a better position than ever to make her first National Team.

Through her experience, Eccleston has come to understand the importance of individualized training, which she recently blogged about in “You Do You and I’ll Do Me.” We checked in with Eccleston to see what insights she could give us about training and how she has adjusted over the years.

ElliptiGO: How and when did you first learn about ElliptiGO bikes?

Eccleston: I first heard about ElliptiGO bikes from my coach (Mike McGuire). He prompted me to try it out one day after an easy run because I cross-train often. I could tell immediately that I was getting a really good effort on it – my heart rate was soaring after about 10 minutes that first day.

ElliptiGO: Many elite runners are all about running mileage: the more the better. You’ve discovered – the hard way – that that method doesn’t work for you. What is your mileage “sweet spot” and what advice do you have for runners who think “I just need to run more”?

Eccleston: My ideal, injury-free mileage is probably about 40-45 miles a week, but 45-55 is where I like to be to feel really strong. It’s sort of a balancing act between running enough to feel strong and not so much that I get injured.

I think runners easily fall into the thoughts that more mileage will automatically make you faster, but that’s not the only way to improve. I really haven’t increased my mileage that much in the last 8 years (I ran 40-50 as a freshman in college). Instead, I’ve increased my overall volume by adding in significant amounts of cross-training, gradually increasing my pace over time, and increasing workout intensity. More mileage often leads to more injury, so I would encourage other runners to first add volume through cross-training. You will be surprised how much stronger you can feel with 3 extra hours of cross-training a week without adding a single extra mile!

ElliptiGO: 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? What types of workouts do you do on it and for how long?

Eccleston: How I use the ElliptiGo depends on how healthy I am feeling and what stage in my training I am at. When I’m injured or coming back from an injury, like last winter, I use it both to add onto runs or simulate runs for some workouts. Here’s an example week from last March (I do several forms of cross-training to mix it up):

Monday: 5 mile run, 60 min aqua jog

Tuesday: 40 min ElliptiGO, 30 min bike

Wednesday: 6 miles on Alter-G, 50 min aqua jog

Thursday: ElliptiGO workout: 50 min total, 6 x 800, 2 x 400 (on outdoor track w/ 1 lap easy in between), PM: 4 mile run

Friday: 4 miles on Alter-G, 70 min aqua jog

Saturday: 7 mile run

Sunday: 3 mile run, 35 min ElliptiGO

Now that I’m in the last phase leading into important races (USATF Indoor Championships followed by IAAF World Indoor Championships), I use the ElliptiGO 1-3 times a week, usually to add on to an easy run day (7-9 mile run followed by 30 minutes on the ElliptiGO), for a shakeout (30-40 min easy), or to simulate an easy run completely (45-60 min steady). I don’t tend to do very intense workouts on the ElliptiGO when I’m running hard workouts; it more so gives me added volume and aerobic work without all the pounding. Here’s the week of the Millrose Games this year and how I used the ElliptiGO:

Monday: AM: 30 min ElliptiGO (simulating an easy run); PM: 11 mile workout (Tempo segments: 10, 6, 4, 4, 2 min, 4 x 80m sprints)

Tuesday: OFF!

Wednesday: 9 mile workout (2 x 1000 tempos, Ladder: 150, 200, 300, 400, 400, 300, 200, 150)

Thursday: 8 mile run (4 outside, 4 on Alter-G), 30 min ElliptiGO

Friday: 4 miles easy

Saturday: Millrose race

Sunday: 90 min ElliptiGO (simulated “long run” because of some ankle/shin tenderness)

ElliptiGO: You have access to many great training tools like aqua jogging and Alter-G treadmills. Where does ElliptiGO fall in your order of preference and why?

Eccleston: I consider the Alter-G pretty much regular running (otherwise my mileage would be super low!), so my two favorite forms of cross training are aqua jogging and ElliptiGO. I find the ElliptiGO better for simulating a regular run; my heart rate is very similar and it feels like the perfect effort. When I need something a little more recovery style, I go for the pool. Another advantage to the ElliptiGO is being able to go outside! It is so much easier to cross train on beautiful days when you can enjoy the weather.

ElliptiGO: At the recent Millrose Games, you were 6th going into the final lap of the Wanamaker Mile, but then you unleashed a strong kick to finish in 3rd. How are you feeling going into the USA indoor championships?

Eccleston: Thanks! I’m feeling confident and excited for the USA champs. There are some very talented women in the race who are always fierce competitors, but if I’m right there with a lap to go, I think I have as good a shot as any of them. We’ve been working on both strength and explosiveness in the weight room, and both of those things will come in handy in the final parts of the race. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I perform in a race that might be a bit more tactical than those I’ve run lately. It will likely come down to a very fast finish. My goal is to finish top 2 and qualify for the World team, but I approach every race with the goal of winning. Never sell yourself short!


Follow Eccleston on her blog and Twitter @AmandaEcc

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