What is cross training?
Cross training refers to taking a day or two out from running to focus on another activity, such as cycling, swimming or rowing. Cross training can be utilized on days where you are resting from running, as it uses different muscle groups, giving your other muscles time to rest.
Some good cross training activities for runners include:
- Strength Training – can be done using your own body weight or additional weight from dumbbells, barbells or kettle-bells. Helps to improve your muscle strength and dexterity.
- Yoga – Improves flexibility and can reduce muscle stiffness whilst improving running efficiency.
- Swimming – low impact activity which doesn’t put additional stress on your joints. It is also a full body workout and a great way of burning calories for those who are looking to lose weight.
- Cycling – not as high impact on your joints. Uses the same running muscles but in a different way allowing you to build strength in your hamstrings and glutes.
- Aqua Jogging – aqua jogging (“running” in a pool) is a great way to run without putting pressure on your joints. The resistance from the water will also help build strength and power, improving your running efficiency.
Why is it important?
- Injury Prevention – It is important to work other muscles as it improves your overall flexibility and strength, which in turn reduces your risk of injury, and also improves your running efficiency. It is especially important that beginners include rest and / or cross training days into their schedule in order to allow their muscles to adapt to the increase in physical activity.
- Build Fitness – It also allows you to build your cardiovascular fitness whilst taking a rest day from running. Running is a high impact sport which means the body has a limit on how much running it can do per week – experienced athletes have a limit on how much run training they can perform, whereas this number is almost doubled when compared with an Olympic swimmer or cyclist.
- Prevent Boredom – Cross training also ensures that you mix up your schedule to prevent boredom or from becoming burned out from just running. It allows you to try another sport and opens up other opportunities.
The key to cross training is to pick another activity that you enjoy to ensure that you stick with it. It is also a great way for beginners to get into triathlons as they can improve their swimming and cycling as cross training methods, and then if they enjoy it or want to push themselves, they can enter a triathlon to complement their running.
I have a gym membership, so I have access to a lot of machines which help me cross train, such as the elliptical and stair machines. I also enjoy rowing as it challenges me and is a full body workout (it’s a lot harder than it looks!). I aim to start swimming soon – I used to do a lot of swimming as a child, but haven’t swam for over 10 years. I’d like to do a triathlon in the future, so at that point I’d also need to factor in some bike work, but at the minute my focus is purely on my running.
Do you cross train, and if so, what activity or activities do you choose?