Runners-The importance of cross training

On April 22, 2011
By Dr. Nekessa Remy | 1 Comments

Cross-training is any sport or exercise that supplements your main sport — in this case, running. Whether you’re a beginner runner or an experienced marathoner, you can benefit from cross-training.

Why Cross Train?

•It helps balance your muscle groups. Cross-training helps strengthen your non-running muscles and rests your running muscles. You can focus on specific muscles that don’t get worked as much while running and may be weaker than your running muscles.

You’ll maintain or even improve your cardiovascular fitness. Many cross-training activities are great cardiovascular workouts, so they build on those similar benefits of running.

It reduces your chance of injury. By balancing your weaker muscles with your stronger ones, you’ll help reduce your chance of injury. Participating in low-impact cross training activities, will also lessen the stress on your joints, which are often a sore spot for runners.

•You’ll avoid getting bored with running. Running day after day will eventually burn out even the most hard-core running enthusiast. Cross-training gives runners a much-needed mental break from their sport, which is especially important for those training for long-distance events such as marathons.

•You can continue to train with certain injuries, while giving them proper time to heal. Runners suffering from injuries are sometimes told by their doctor to take a break from running during their injury recovery. But, with certain injuries, it is possible to continue with cross-training. Cross-training can help injured runners maintain their fitness and deal better with the frustration of being sidelined from running.

How often should I Cross-Train?  

The amount of cross-training you do really depends on how you’re feeling — both mentally and physically. In general, if you’re a recreational runner, try to supplement your 3-4 days of running with 2-3 days of cross-training. If you’re a competitive runner and run 4-6 days a week, you can substitute a low-intensity cross-training workout for an easy run or a rest day on 1-2 days week. Cross-training can also be great for runners who are traveling and may not be able to run outside or on a treadmill, but have access to other sports.

Some runners, both beginners and experienced runners, may hit periods in their training when they are feeling bored or uninspired to run. Cross-training can be a great way to work through those unmotivated phases. Taking a couple days off from running each week to do another activity can help get you excited to return to running.

What types of activities are best?

Cycling or Spinning: Increase Cardiovascular fitness and increase hamstring strength

( ideal for the following conditions: leg cramps/fatigue, previous quadriceps injury, knee pain)

Spin classes are also great low-impact ways to boost your cardiovascular fitness and strength. Runners also tend to have very strong quadriceps muscles and weak hamstring muscles which can cause injury and spinning is an effective way to increase hamstring strength. How? Pulling up during the pedal stroke.




Swimming: Increase strength and improve upper body flexibility

(ideal for the following conditions: neck and upper shoulder fatigue, recovering from hip/knee/ankle injury)

Swimming is an excellent cross-training activity for running because it’s not weight-bearing, so it gives your joints a break. It allows you to build strength and endurance, and also improve flexibility. It’s a great balance for running because you’ll really work your upper body, while giving your leg muscles a breather. A strong upper body helps you process oxygen more efficiently, which allows you to run faster with less effort. Swimming is especially recommended for people who are prone to running injuries or are recovering from an injury. To get a workout roughly equivalent to running, you have to swim only about one quarter of the distance you would run.

Deep Water Running: Maintain endurance during an injury

Water running is a great alternative for injured runners or as a substitute for an easy running day especially because its places no shock on joints. It’s also a smart way to get in your runs during hot and humid weather. Keep in mind, that water running in shallow water is more challenging than deep water  due to increased stress on the joints.



Yoga/Pilates: Increase flexibility and build core strength

(ideal for the following conditions: abdominal cramping, tightness/stiffness in joints)

Yoga and Pilates build core strength, mental focus, balance–and perhaps most important for runners—flexibility.  Yoga offers some of the same benefits as strength training, since you’ll use your body weight as resistance to strengthen your muscles. You’ll also improve your flexibility since it involves a lot of stretching and range of motion exercises.


Strength (or Weight) Training

(ideal for everyone)

Strength training allows runners to improve the strength in their running muscles, create balance between unbalanced muscle groups, and focus on keeping their legs strong during injury recovery. You can do either resistance training, where you use your own weight for resistance (pushups, for example), or weight training, where you use weights (free or machine) for resistance (leg press, for example). Strength training is an excellent opportunity to strengthen your core, which helps runners avoid fatigue and maintain their form.

To learn more about crosstraining please contact Mississauga’s Sport Therapy Expert Dr. Remy at 905-820-7746 or email drremy@thechiropraacticoffice.ca

1 comments on Runners-The importance of cross training
  • Jul 6 2011
That's way more clever than I was excpeintg. Thanks!

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