The ElliptiGO elliptical bicycle has been designed to provide an outdoor, running-specific, low impact cross-training option for injured and healthy runners. Previous research has shown up to 79% of runners had experienced a running-related injury in a 1-year period (van Gent et al., 2007). This finding is substantial, but not surprising for runners who incur large impact forces, up to 2-3 times your body weight every step over the course of each run. This repetitive impact has been seen to be linked to the high injury rates in runners (Hreljac, 2004). Once injured, a runner has limited options to maintain fitness and performance levels without incurring further injury.
An ElliptiGO elliptical bicycle is a combination of a light-weight elliptical on wheels with bicycle handlebars and modifications to better emulate the running motion as compared to an elliptical trainer (Outdoor Elliptical Bikes-ElliptiGO, 2014). First, the adjustable stride length of an ElliptiGO bike is up to 26 inches long, which allows for greater hip movement and prevents the shuffling motion often felt on an elliptical. Secondly, a running-specific recovery stroke has been designed to position the recovery leg in a downward recovery position, similar to running. Thirdly, the ElliptiGO bike does not have a flywheel, which is a mechanical device that uses momentum to assist in rotational movement during exercise on an elliptical. This means there is no assistance other than the power of your legs to propel the bike forward. Finally, the ElliptiGO bike can be ridden outdoors, which provides a close replication of the running experience as well as the recruitment of balance and stability muscles.
Recently, a research study from Ohio University compared ElliptiGO-only training (ET) and run-only training (RT) on physiological and subjective variables over two separate 4-week training periods (matched for intensity, volume, and terrain). This study recruited male and female runners who were healthy, trained, and highly fit in order to participate (ages 22.83 ± 3.33 years old). These runners performed health and fitness testing, including an incremental VO2max test. Those runners who completed the study had on average 9.25 ± 4.73 years of running experience, 10.68 ± 4.79 % body fat, and VO2max values of 57.92 ± 9.68 ml/kg/min. The type of training was then randomly assigned to each participant and the training prescriptions were representative of a typical in-season distance running program aiming to improve 5,000 meter performance. This training included relative intensities, prescribed based from a participant’s VO2max test, that ranged from below VT (easy, 80% of training) to above RCP (hard, 5%) and in between (medium, 15%) each week. Participants performed both training periods in a cross-over design and completed identical testing sessions initially, following ET, and also following RT.
This research reported similar improvements in ventilatory threshold (VT) between ET and RT regardless of which training period was completed first. This study also reported a maintenance of VO2max, respiratory compensation point (RCP), running economy (RE), and 5,000 meter time trial times for either ET or RT. Enjoyment and perceived effort (RPE) levels were similar between ET and RT throughout the 4-week training period. One clear difference was the lower amounts of lower body soreness produced during ET compared to RT.
Researchers noted that those with minor running pains did not experience these while riding the ElliptiGO bike, and ET was rated as enjoyable as running. The ElliptiGO bike’s low-impact nature and its ability to be ridden outdoors and produce similar running movements is thought to give reason to these findings. A practical, but not significant improvement in 5,000 meter times was seen following RT compared to ET. Participants also reported greater lower body RPE levels during the graded VO2max test following ET, but not RT. Researchers suggest that these practical findings may have been due to the non-specific low-impact nature of the ElliptiGO bike. This study used healthy runners who had consistent run training backgrounds prior to their participation. Thus, these results can then be applied to the healthy running population or to the injured population. In conclusion, the ElliptiGO elliptical bike produced similar physiological and subjective results as compared to running over a 4-week training period in trained and highly fit runners.