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The Importance of Cross Training as a Runner

 I have been a personal trainer for about 8 years and have trained many runners.  I am a runner and have friends and family members who are also avid runners. My passion is in weightlifting, but I am a firm believer in rotating between different forms of exercise too.

I want to paint a picture for you…has this happened to you?  It’s 6 in the morning and your alarm rings.  You sluggishly get out of bed, grab your running shoes, and stretch.  You find your headphones and blast your favorite playlist.  You get out the door and start running your typical route. As you start to warm up you hit that runner’s high and feel like you can run forever.  Then it happens–you hit a wall.  Your knee, foot, or (enter your own injury here) starts to hurt. Now you are in survival mode and just want to see your house come into sight. You’re frustrated, hurting, and your goals have to take a backseat until you can recover.

Disclaimer:  This is not everyone’s experience-just a common use case that I have come across.

How do I prevent nagging injuries?  How do I improve my time in my races?  Why am I not losing a lot of fat even though I am a consistent runner?  Why am I so sore after a run?  Why do I keep hitting that runner’s wall?  I do not have time to run long distances every day so how to I build endurance?  Why do I have such low energy? How do I train for this marathon I just signed up for?

Do you ever ask yourself any of those questions or others not mentioned?  The solution to just about all of these questions is CROSS TRAINING.

What is cross training? It is training in two or more sports in order to improve fitness and performance, especially in a main sport. Adding resistance(strength) training to a running regimen is considered a form of cross training.

Let me go over the benefits of implementing Cross Training into your routine:

Decrease Injury: Many runners have a goal to run farther and/or faster. A common occurrence is over training syndrome.  Instead of cross training, a lot of people will run too much and will experience common injuries: stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, burning muscle tissue, and joint pain.  By implementing cross training into your routine you will strengthen your muscles and tendons, increase joint mobility, improve proprioception and balance, and avoid the damaging effects of doing the same thing over and over.

Increase Aerobic Fitness: Due to the pounding on your joints, even the most gifted runners can handle no more than about 15 hours of running per week. Athletes that implement non-impact endurance training into their routine can usually double the amount of aerobic exercise than they would get from just strictly running.  Some examples would be swimming and cycling.  This also decreases your chances of injury by decreasing all the impact your joints take from running only. Getting fit faster.

More Power:  Another benefit of adding strength training is increased stride power. This translates into greater stride length/reduced ground contact time and consequently faster race times. Adding resistance training will strengthen the tendons and muscles surrounding your joints.  You will maintain lean muscle tissue, which will combat the ability to burn fat off your body.  Great examples of strength training are plyometrics, sprints, weight training, circuit training, HIIT.

Greater Efficiency:  Dynamic flexibility is the ability to perform sports movements, such as running, with minimal internal resistance from your own muscles and joints.  Performing dynamic stretching enhances dynamic flexibility by mimicking the way your muscles and connective tissues actually stretch during running.  A great example of a dynamic stretch is giant walking lunges.  This will help decrease injury as well.  This will make your muscles and joints more efficient in your running therefore decreasing your chances of over work and injury.

Active Recovery:  By performing workouts between runs, you will actually help your body recover faster than the runners who just rest between long runs. You will become fitter faster, decrease soreness time, and increase mobility and flexibility.  

These are just a few benefits. Cross training has other benefits that won’t be covered in this article are enhanced motivation, it keeps your desire for running high; enhances your ability to participate in other endurance sports so you can have fun; rejuvenating; in pregnant women,  it will help postpartum recovery and help you stay fit until the time of the birth.

I offer a cross training program for runners. It will take out all the guess work and set up a plan that will work for your specific goals Cross training will not benefit your running alone,but it will benefit your overall health and fitness.