Cross-training or not cross-training? The question has been around for a while in the running community. If you want to last and continue to run for long without injury, there is no debate: cross-train. Running requires not only the support from your legs but from your whole body. Other muscles will support your efforts, either running, lifting big stuff or having fun with friends when skying during winter. By training other parts of your body, you will not only strengthen your other muscles but also improve your cardio ability, improve your breathing and no longer look at a guy with strong legs and thin body.
The nature of this additional activity will impact your performance, the development of your strength and the impact on your running abilities. So, chose carefully and select something that will
- exercise other muscle groups than your legs (arms, abs, chest)
- develop your cardio vascular capacity (improve your breathing capacity)
Some ideas about potential activities? Swimming an hour, riding your bicycle, using an elliptical (that uses both arms and legs) or lifting weights are good activities that will complement a good training plan. As for running, start slowly and increase the intensity and duration every week or two weeks. The goal is not to set new records but to exercise other parts of your body. As for running, these activities are not expensive (you can find a pool in many gyms or university and you can even use body-weight training – I personally use the Lafay method, I will develop that later)
One key is to find the right balance between all these activities. A common rule is to run three to four times a week and cross-train two to three times a week with the following rules in mind:
- Alternate the cross-training with running: it will then let enough time for each muscle group to recover. Using the muscles break them, they are growing when sleeping and resting.
- Do not have two activities the same day: you will be at risk of over-training, potential injury and do not let the muscles to heal and recover
- Keep at least a rest day (you can still go for a nice walk to exercise!)
- Take your time and do not push too much: it would then has a side-effect on your running training program (not enough juice in the tank to run).
What I am doing? I run about 10 miles every day and cross-train every two days during 20 to 30 minutes by using body-weight training or swimming at a medium intensity. Push-ups, abs (everything from the Lafay method) all positions that could train your body using your own weight (it just adapt the workout activity with your weight – the heavier you are the harder!). For sure, my muscles are not exceptionally big and I do not look as s body builder but is this not the goal. On the other hand, it provides enough support for running every day 10 miles and be able to keep running more than 80 miles a week injury-free. Again, this is a matter of setting goals and objectives and, in that context, cross-training seems to work, hope it could help you as well!