Before running became such a big part of who I am, I was a gym rat. I loved cardio equipment, weights and classes such as step and yoga. I loved having a variety of workout options so I never got bored. Then I got rid of my gym membership right around the time running and I became serious. My variety changed but I still did weights at home, cycle outside or on a trainer, hiked and occasionally would take Barre or Yoga classes at a studio.
About 2 years ago, I went back to the gym and am still cross training.
Cross training has never been an issue for me. It’s what I like. While I love running, I need some variety in my workouts Variety is the spice of running for me. I’m not someone who can run six or seven days a week. My muscles and joints need a break from pounding the pavement and trails otherwise I end up injured. With cross training, I get that break and am able to use different muscles and movements that enhance my running.
A lot of hard core runners advocate that there is no cross training in running. It’s only a thing to do when you are battling an injury. When I attended the RRCA coaching certification workshop years ago, there was a hot debate about cross training. The instructor was adamant that runners did not need cross training. His explanation – If you want to improve your running, you need to run. It’s the law of specificity. I agree with that but I personally need other activities in my life even during training. It makes me happy and keeps me running longer! Plus, I think you are more likely to have over use injuries if that’s all you do.
The short answer – do what works best for you.
With all of my run coaching clients, I encourage cross training. There certainly is no down side to adding cross training to your running. The benefits definitely are plenty.
So what exactly is cross training for runners?
There are many forms of cross training. At the gym, it could be cycling, the Arc Trainer, Elliptical, Stepmill, treadmill walking, pool running or swimming. These activities in some way mimic running but also work muscle groups that aren’t necessarily used while running. That can mean picking an activity that uses the same muscles that are used in running or it can be an aerobic exercise that works the cardiovascular system in a similar way.
Equipment like the bike, elliptical and of course, pool running, helps build muscle endurance in the quads, hamstrings and glutes – the same muscles used in running. It also helps with leg turnover if cadence/rpm is equivalent to running.
If you live in a cold climate, skate skiing and snowshoeing are also great winter cross training activities.
Will these activities make you a better runner? Studies say no BUT it will help increase or maintain your cardiovascular endurance. So for overall fitness, it’s a good deal.
Here are 4 cross training workouts that can help any runner whether it’s while battling an injury or supplementing their running.
Do you cross train?
What’s your favorite way?
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