Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't Forget to Cross-Train!

A few days ago I wrote about the importance of sleep for runners. Another important element of training that often gets neglected by runners is cross-training. A typical training plan will incorporate a couple of rest and/or cross-training days. Remember what I said in the previous posting; be sure to use your rest days for rest. But, what should you be doing on your cross-training days? You know when you go to the all-you-can-eat buffet and there stretched before you is an entire bounty of goodies? You also know how that bounty includes some healthy choices and a whole lot of not-so-healthy-choices? Well, cross-training is just like that.

Running is a high-impact activity and it can take its toll on your body. Thus the need for cross-training: low-impact activities that continue to strengthen the body and workout the cardiovascular system without pounding your joints. Cross-training also allows you to work on other muscle groups that might never be addressed with just running. This helps your overall conditioning and makes you a stronger runner.

On your cross-training days, you need to make sure you're making "good choices" for your cross-training activities. Even though your cross-training activities will be low-impact, you can still become injured. Know your limitations. For example, if it's three weeks before your marathon, you probably don't want to start using the stair master machine at the gym for the very first time, nor do you want to bench press that 300lbs for the very first time. Listed below are some typical cross-training activities.

Cross-Training Activities for Running:
Walking (treadmill or outside)
Elliptical Trainer
Deep Water Running
Rowing Machine
Nordic Track Ski-Simulator
Weight Training

Be sure to add a variety of cross-training activities to your training routine in order to obtain more balanced, overall conditioning. If you have two cross-training days a week in your training program, try to alternate upper body and lower body cross-training activities such as using the elliptical machine and the rowing machine. Or, include an activity such as yoga that may workout both the upper and lower body.

If you belong to a gym, consult with one of the fitness instructors and let them know your need for some cross-training activities to compliment your running program. They'll be able to help select the cross-training activities best suited for your needs.


Running Through Life said...

Great advice. I need to be more diligent in my cross training efforts. I seem to get consumed in running and neglect this important aspect.

Jocelyn said...

I heard that the elliptical wasn't good for cross training and that you should stay off you feet? Maybe that was a lie. I normally bike or weight lift, but walking is a great suggestion too! Thanks!

Can sleeping count as cross training? hehehehe

RunnerDude said...

Hey RunningThroughLife! I'm the same way, I have to make sure I get the cross-training in. I'm better about it during the winter, but once spring and summer come, I wanna be out running!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jocelyn! I've never heard that about the elliptical. What makes a elliptical trainer unique is the ability to offer a weight bearing workout that puts minimal stress on the joints. Your feet never leave the pedals of an elliptical trainer, which eliminates any impact in your workout. Whether you go forward or reverse, and regardless of the level of resistance, there is a reduced risk of injury from overusing any one-muscle group. You might want to see what a fitness instructor or personal trainer says at your local gym, but I think you're safe using the elliptical machine. But, like anything, don't overdo it. especially the closer you get to race day.

NoMeatAthlete said...

I love the idea of cross training because it's nice to get to swim or bike, in hopes of someday doing a triathlon, while still focusing on running.
But interestingly, I got hurt once I started replacing my easy run days with swims and bikerides. Somehow it seems like the easy run days are actually more beneficial in terms of avoiding injury than not running at all. I'm wondering if has any logical basis, or if it's in my head!

RunnerDude said...

Hi NoMeatAthlete!You know you have an interesting point. I'll see what kind of info I can find. What I have read says that if you're adding cross-training to a routine that previously didnt' have any, to be sure and keep the intensity level the same. So, if you're replacing some easy runs with your swimming or cycling, then make sure that the new cross-training workouts are not more intense than your easy runs would have been. This wasn't your case, but if a runner's adding a crosstraining activity that's new to him/her, he/she needs to be sure to ease into it. If they blast off on their road bike and haven't done it in the past year, they're increasing their chances of injury. Also, besure that you're not replacing all of your easy runs with crosstraining. Those easy runs are important and needed. They also help strengthen muscles that aren't used when you're being speedy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder, RunnerDude! It is so easy to get caught up in your weekly runs, especially with the weather warming up (finally!). It's hard here in NYC to cross train with anything other than walking/hiking because a lot of us don't have bikes (no place to keep keep them in these tiny apts.) and there are not a lot of pools here. But a good gym membership can solve that problem, it's a just a matter of getting yourself in out of the nice weather. I have a feeling I'll be more inclined to cross train once the weather gets too warm! But again, thanks for the reminder- we always love reading your tips!

RunnerDude said...

Hey! I know what you mean. Hard to go to the gym when it's so dang pretty outside. It's beautiful here in NC right now. But like you said, in about a month when the NC humidity kicks in and if feel like you're swimming instead of running, I'll it'll be hard to get out of the gym! LOL!