It's no surprise that runners like to run...but do you ever wonder if its necessary to do anything else? Cross training is highly recommended for runners of all levels and offers a great bang for your training buck.
Simply put, cross training is when you perform any other fitness activity other than your main sport for physical gains. For runners, this could be cycling, swimming, weight lifting, yoga or even your weekly Zumba class.
There are a host of reasons why cross training can benefit your running. Here are the top 5 reasons you should start cross training today.
1. Injury Prevention
Running is a repetitive, single-plane movement; meaning you are using the same muscles in the same ways over and over and over and over...which often leads to overuse injuries. Every body has limitations and compensations. By doing physical activities that move your body in different ways, you can strengthen and stabilize muscles that running ignores. This translates into stronger and improved performance and less chance for injury.
2. Keep You Motivated
Humans need novelty. By doing the same activity repeatedly not only can we set ourselves up for injury (see above) but we can also get bored and lose motivation. Cross training offers our bodies and our minds much needed change. Keep things fresh and interesting by trying different sports, classes and activities during your off-season or base training cycles.
3. Active Rest
Rest and recovery are important aspects of any training plan. Too much high intensity physical activity can actually have a negative affect on performance leading to over-training, greater chance of injury and mental fatigue. Full rest and active recovery are necessary to alternate with higher intensity workouts. Cross training is a great way to keep up your physical activity while letting your running muscles get the rest they need. Shoot for low-impact activities like yoga, swimming, walking/hiking, or cycling and perform these activities at a gentle pace to receive the greatest benefit.
4. Greater Running Performance
Cross training is a key way athletes can enhance their running performance and speed by increasing their efficiency and power. Training different muscles in different planes (front to back, side to side, twisting) can strengthen stabilizing muscles, improving core strength, running form and increase your efficiency of movement; meaning less wasted energy!
By performing explosive movements; anything involving quick reactions and jumping movements (kettlebell swings, box jumps, jumping rope, medicine ball throws, etc) can work to enhance your body's ability to create power. This translates to great push-off and ability to move your body forward. Coupled with greater efficiency this means faster speeds and improved running performance.
No matter the precautions you take, injuries happen. Fitness can decline quickly when you're told not to run for 6-8 weeks (or more). Cross training is a way to keep up your muscle tone and cardiovascular health while allow your injury to heal. Swimming is one of the best activities for rehabilitation since there is virtually no impact on the body. Other great options are cycling, yoga and light weight training; anything that doesn't aggravate your injury and is "ok'd" by your doctor.
As you can see, there are a myriad of reasons why you should start cross training. Ready to start? Check out our Yoga for Runners class February 4th at 7pm or our Boot Camp class starting in mid-March.
No matter what you do, do it with joy!