Training for me has been a little all over the map lately and I haven’t really been following a plan at all. After experiencing some new knee pain in the late stages of training for the Calgary Half Marathon I decided to cut back on my mileage substantially and instead focus on just finishing the Half (which I did – yay!) and then diverting my attention on overall strength and conditioning.
For those of you following me on Instagram (@little_miss_sparkly_runner) you know that I’m participating in the #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS run/walk challenge for the month of June but aside from that i’m not running much at all. My body needs some serious strengthening right now…
I don’t know about you but I have such a hard time with cross training – I just want to run. I’m not much for weights and other forms of training but I do know first hand just how important strength training and overall conditioning is and how a lack of it can really affect our performance and overall health as runners.
If your new to running I highly encourage you to get in the habit of incorporating cross training NOW. Make it as much of your routine as is lacing up those running shoes.
What’s in it for you? Well let me tell you…
Less Chance of Injury: Many runners, myself included, typically have a goal of increasing mileage or pace. The problem is, the faster we increase speed/mileage, and harder we work, the greater the chance we have of overuse and suffering from injury. Instead of incorporating cross training we just run too much (like there is such a thing right??? haha) and experience common injuries like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, joint pain or the dreaded ITBS. When you add cross training to your routine you get to strengthen your muscles and tendons, increase joint mobility, and hopefully avoid or decrease the damaging effects of doing the same thing over and over.
More Speed & Power (insert evil sinister laugh here): Another huge benefit of adding strength training is increased stride power. As you know, greater stride length = reduced ground contact time which usually correlates to much faster race times. Adding resistance training will also help strengthen the tendons and muscles surrounding your joints. Plyometrics, sprints, and weight training are great ways to add resistance workouts to your routine.
Increased Aerobic Fitness: When you add in low or non-impact endurance training into your routine you can usually almost double your aerobic capacity. Some great examples would be swimming and cycling. When I started throwing in a few long bike rides during the week, when I was marathon training last year, I quickly found I could keep up the energy a lot longer on my long runs. Plus, this also decreases your chances of injury since your decreasing the impact on your joints as opposed to the impact your joints would take if you were just doing running alone. It’s all about working smarter – not harder people! 😉
Better Efficiency: The ability to run with minimal internal resistance from your own muscles and joints comes from dynamic stretching. It helps your flexibility by mirroring the way your muscles and tissues actually stretch during running. A great example of a dynamic stretch is walking lunges. These are one of my favorites and I try to throw them into my routine when I can. The lunges can help make your muscles and joints more efficient in your running which, in turn, decreases your chances of over work and injury.
Faster Recovery: I know it seems totally counter intuitive but by doing workouts in between your runs you actually help your body recover faster than if you were to simply just rest between long runs. The low/non-impact activities, resistance training and dynamic stretching all help you become much fitter, much faster. It all also helps decreases the time those muscles are sore and cranky after those long runs and increases your overall flexibility. All good things if you ask me!
So how am I incorporating these types of activities into my workout routine? Right now i’m a Galloway runner following a 3 run/week schedule. I have one rest day and the other days are spent doing a Yoga class, Ballet Barre class, at home weight/resistance training, and either cycling or hiking (weather depending).
For this month, I’ve decreased my run days and increased my cross training to try and get my body (specifically my troublesome knees) ready for Rock n Roll Las Vegas training which I will probably start in mid July.
Coming up next on the blog i’m going to talk about some of the most common running injuries and some tips to help you get back on your feet. But for now, I want to hear from you! How are you incorporating cross-training into your workout routine? What are some of your favorite activities? Sound off in the comments below….