Cross Training to Be a Better Runner

I have been cross training to supplement my running for a few months now and wish I had started sooner! My primary form of cross training has been the 2 times per week that I have been riding my bike to work. The positive results of this is that I am a better runner now, and my legs and knees no longer have that constant dull ache I had when I was running 5 to 6 times per week.

I think we all have read about the benefits of cross training but I think that most people don’t do any for the simple fact that it is more time consuming to focus on multiple types of sports. When we get into a particular routine it is easy to just get out and do that run. If you need to complicate it by going to a pool to swim or the gym to do an elliptical trainer, then it becomes more difficult to get started. This was definitely the case for me. I needed to figure out a way to ensure that it fit in with my current schedule and didn’t take time away from my family.

My approach to get these cross training sessions in has been to bike to work. I do this twice per week. It is about 11 miles each way and takes 53 minutes door to door. As I need to get home after the days work, I actually do this cross training workout 4 times per week – 2 times to work and 2 time back home.

The benefits that I have realized from biking are primarily in my legs. As we all know, running really uses those hamstrings a lot. With biking, I find that my quads are taxed more and my hamstrings get a good stretching. It balances the muscles out. I also find that my leg turnover has improved.

I did a bit of research on the web and have found some pretty good tips on incorporating cross training into a training program:

* Just be careful not to overdo it. Reduce your running to accommodate any new activities. Overtraining is overtraining, whether it’s in one sport or a combination of them (Cool Running)
* When biking, make your knees track up and down; do not splay out – otherwise you will lose the knee injury protection (http://home.sprynet.com/~holtrun/bicycle.htm)
The following are from About.com:
* Swimming focuses on the upper body and general conditioning. It can help you relax and recover after long or hard workouts. Swimming provides an aerobic workout without being a weight-bearing exercise, thus making it a great option for marathoners and injured/recovering runners.
* Rowing also focuses on the upper body, as well as the abdomen. This can be useful for runners who have run for years and are interested in both learning a new sport and balancing their upper body and core area with the strength they have earned in their legs.
* Strength training can focus on keeping your legs strong during an injury or on strengthening unbalanced muscle groups.
* Yoga can be used in much the same way as strength training, since some poses use your body weight as resistance to strengthen your muscles.
* Elliptical machines at the gym or in your home offer an alternative for nasty weather or for injured runners who can still run, but need no-impact.

I think the most important part is to ensure that the cross training is fun and provides you with a break from running.