7 Ways to Become a Better Runner Without Running

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Pool running should be executed in the deep end of a pool (or if you are game, a lake or even the ocean), and you should use a flotation vest or belt to make sure your upper body is in an erect position—this will facilitate proper breathing and leg extension. Virtually any workout can be replicated in the pool, from long runs to the hardest of interval sessions. Remember that it is harder to elevate your heart rate in the pool without the weight-bearing aspect of running on land, so most sessions can and should be more interval-based to keep heart rates higher. Try the session below to get started.

Sample Pool Running Session
  • Warm-up: 12 to 15 minutes of easy lap swimming
  • Pool Running Workout (wearing flotation vest or belt)
  • 6 sets of 45 seconds hard sprint followed by 15 seconds recovery
  • Transition immediately into 5 sets of 1:30 sprints with 30 seconds recovery
  • 10 sets of 15-second hard sprints holding both hands high out of the water with 15 seconds recovery between each set
  • Repeat entire sequence 2 to 3 times
  • Cooldown: 12 to 15 minutes of easy lap swimming

Risks: Pool running is not without risk. Hip flexors take a large load based on the resistance of the water, and occasionally IT band problems appear with the slightly less than normal "pull" into extension on the follow through phase of each stride.


The elliptical machine gets a B grade in the category of non-running exercise that improves running. Overall there is a slight weight-bearing aspect to the elliptical, and the motion of the apparatus replicates running to a degree.

Risks: Problems often arise with the elliptical machine as it relates to the hips and hip flexors. The main issue here is due to the lack of natural cross over found in land-based running. The elliptical machine by design keeps the hips on a T plane, maintaining space between the legs. This is of course contrary to a runner's natural follow-through pattern where the hips create a Y to allow feet to land in a line. Herein lies the biggest danger with high amounts of elliptical training because the hip flexors can be overloaded in trying to maintain balance between the two legs.

The elliptical machine allows for a smaller application of weight in injury rehabilitation and a positive means of supplementing your normal weekly training volume.

More: 3 Benefits of an ElliptiGO

Stationary Biking

Athletes of all sports have used the stationary bike for decades, but researchers only recently looked at the effects of using regular stationary biking workouts to improve running based performance. The results were surprising even to this coach. Stationary biking, when executed properly, can improve overall leg speed as well as hip flexor strength and even the range of motion through your hips. Critical to these improvements: Position yourself properly on the bike and keep the resistance of the bike to a minimum. Think quicker rotation, and consult your local bike shop owner for insight into how to position seat height and angle.

Risks: Hamstrings tend to be the biggest problem related to stationary biking. More often than not these problems can be resolved with proper positioning. 

More: The Cross-Training Fix for Weak Hamstrings