Perhaps you have always been a runner, or perhaps you happened to fall into the wonderful world of running through a friend or through your desire to improve your fitness. Either way, once you started running you found yourself hooked and will do anything to make sure you keep going.
Often the question gets asked on RMA about cross training; what kind you do and what is best for runners. There are many reasons that runners choose to cross-train, or should cross-train. Firstly most runners will say that it is is to decrease the chance of injury, and this is true. Overuse injuries are the number one cause of injuries among runners. Day after day of running on the road, or the trail without any other form of cross training may see you house an injury or two. Most injuries occur when the body hasn’t had enough adequate rest and recovery between sessions, or are caused by bio-mechanical issues with the body (such as muscle imbalance or problems with running form) or imbalances causes by tight muscles that haven’t had adequate rest.
Adding some cross training to your weekly schedule may help you decrease the chance of injuries occurring. So, for example if you have a long run on a Sunday, perhaps you could back up your long run the next day with a swimming session or a bike session for your recovery day.
Not only does cross training help to decrease injury, but it promotes recovery. You can use your cross training days as active recovery days. Get out on the bike, into the pool, go for a walk or use the elliptical at the gym. Giving your legs a rest and using different muscle groups in a different way to running will help you to recover for your next hard running session. Activities such as yoga also help gain flexibility which is important for running and decreasing the likelihood of injury.
Cross training can also help runners with their running fitness. Getting into the pool or onto the bike, doing boxing or weights etc can help runners develop efficiency and make them stronger. Just by adding some leg workouts at the gym will help to improve the power in your legs for running, plus making them stronger to help prevent those dreaded injuries. Swimming in the pool will help your lungs to take on more oxygen for running, riding a bike can help the legs to recover after hard running sessions, but also can build muscle, helping them to be more powerful when running.
Some different types of cross training are:
Body Weight exercises
Different Sports (other than running, such as tennis)
Tabata style workouts
Of course all these benefits of cross training are important, but perhaps the most important is that it can provide some variety in your program which will see you more motivated to keep going in your running journey. Cross training can also be a great way to meet new people and get social at your local gym or PT group.
So consider adding some cross training to your schedule. It will restore and build your body and mind, and will ensure you are on your way to running strong bothy physically and mentally.