Elliptical 5K Training Program

Have you ever told yourself that you simply don’t have it in you to train for a 5K run? If you’re like most weekend warriors, then you took one look at that complicated training schedule and turned around in the other direction!

There’s no reason that you can’t prepare for even the most grueling half marathon with easily accessible equipment, but you have to know the right way to do it.

Can You Train for a 5K on an Elliptical?

The easy answer is that you can train for a 5K on nearly anything, but there are a few specific advantages to using an elliptical machine that you might appreciate. 

Athletes have most often promoted these futuristic-looking bikes for the fact that they do comparatively little damage to your joints. 

If you plan on running any great deal, then you’ll need to have joints that are in good health.

Any sort of aerobic exercise is going to help build up endurance has the potential to increase muscle tone. 

Cross-training on an elliptical can help you train muscles you don’t normally use. You will need to train with a treadmill as well as by putting your shoes on the ground outside.

The key is having a coordinated program that features elliptical training, running and some time in the weight room too.

5K Elliptical, Running & Weight Training Program

Regular 5K or 10K runners have to vary their workout for weeks leading up to the big race. However, for the sake of discussion we’ll assume that you’re training semi-continually to put yourself in the shape of a 5K runner. 

In theory, this kind of schedule would work for anyone in decent condition but you should always talk to a professional before beginning any exercise regimen and make necessary modifications to fit the schedule to your personal needs.

Consider the following hypothetical week as a baseline to build on.


Cross-train for at least 45-60 minutes on this day, either with your trusty elliptical machine or another similar activity such as swimming. This gives your joints and running muscles a break without hurting your rhythm.


Interval workouts come on the second day of the week. After you warm up, run a hard lap or period on your treadmill before recovering by jogging the next. You’ll want to do several intervals based on your training requirements. Always be sure to cool down with an easier jog at the end.


Try either running several miles or perhaps use the tempo run system, making sure to always warm up and cool down properly each time. 

Tempo running usually starts with a 10 minute easy jog followed by 20 minutes nearing but not meeting your race speed. You’ll want to finish it with an appropriate cool down.


Try a 40-60 minute tempo run, followed again by an appropriate cool down period.


Since you did a speed workout on Thursday, make Friday a rest day.


Incorporate a heavier weight training regimen into your Saturday schedule, since Friday was a day of rest.


Depending on your fitness level, you’ll want to make Sunday’s schedule either feature light or intermediate weight training.

Keep in mind that you never want to have two heavy days in a row! You don’t want to run when you’re injured. 

Doctors studied some of the top recreational runners in the UK and found that over 80 percent kept running while they were injured (1). This causes health problems and also hurts your athletic performance.

One nice thing is that elliptical trainers are gentle, so you can actually add them on your weight training days if you feel fit enough to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Best Way to get a Good Workout on an Elliptical Trainer?

Before you ever press start, make a plan and set an intention for your workout. Once you start, monitor your perceived level of exertion throughout to make sure you’re not just phoning it in. 

If you’re on a machine with movable levers, then actively push and pull them while maintaining a solid posture. Otherwise, your arms are just going along for the ride.

Kick things up a notch if you don’t feel like you’re doing anything. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that these machines are pointless, though. That’s a complete myth.

According to scientists from the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, an elliptical trainer can raise your heart rate more than a treadmill (2).

Can You Train for a Half Marathon on an Elliptical Machine?

Absolutely, though you don’t want to make it your sole area of focus. Take a look at your half marathon schedule. Any days marked for cross-training are ripe for you to put some time in on the elliptical trainer.

Is an Elliptical Machine Good for Marathon Training?

Yes, it’s a great way to train provided you use it correctly. Train on the elliptical on days that you’re not working your core running muscles. This gives them the chance to recover while working groups that otherwise wouldn’t see much emphasis.

Is Elliptical Running Good Cross-Training for Runners?

Since you’re working completely different muscle groups when working on an elliptical, it’s an excellent way for runners to cross-train – especially if they add in some other techniques too.

Is an Elliptical Workout Equivalent to Running?

While elliptical trainers are great for runners to work with, using one isn’t at all the same thing as running. There’s actually two different sets of muscles involved in these very different tasks. 

Scientists working with the Gait & Posture journal found that elliptical machines greatly reduced weight-bearing stress (3). This makes it an excellent alternative to running, though they’re not the same thing.

You’ll want to incorporate both to give yourself a well-rounded workout.

Is an Elliptical Workout Easier than Running?

No, but it probably feels like it. Researchers at the University of Padua in Italy found that elliptical machines superficially feel so easy many athletes found training on them boring (4). 

This study is particularly interesting because while the participants seemed to think their workouts were easier, there really weren’t. You can make this effect work for you by taking your elliptical cross-training periods to levels you’d never reach with other techniques.

How Long Should You Work Out on the Elliptical Trainer?

This all depends on your fitness level and goals. Some people have developed intense quick 20-minute elliptical workouts. Other people prefer a full hour of interval training that includes a complete warm up and cool down.

Your machine might have several preprogrammed routes to work with.

Should You Incorporate Strength Training?

Yes, both elliptical and weight training compliment one another. You can use an elliptical machine on strength training days to lighten the load on your joints while keeping up with an aerobic workout. 

Others might want to have dedicated cross-training days. Either of these two can be mixed in various combination, so you might want to experiment depending on your current goals and fitness levels.

Even if you’re not training for a 5K, it’s a good idea to inappropriate both strength training and another form of aerobic exercise simply for health reasons.


(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29853263 

(2) https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2010/06000/Comparison_of_Energy_Expenditure_on_a_Treadmill.29.aspx 

(3) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636213005997?via%3Dihub 

(3) https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.2466/29.06.PMS.119c15z3             

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