Take a break from running with cross training. Change gears and increase your endurance, speed and flexibility.
Give your body and mind a rest while maintaining fitness through other workouts.
It helps against boredom and burnout.
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Our time off allows us to get refueled, refreshed and hungry to run again.
Before you Start
Benefits of Cross Training
Low impact exercise, like swimming or cycling, gives your body a rest from the pounding of running.
It can prevent overuse injuries and helps you recover from speed work or a long run. Add a day or two of cross training to your weekly schedule to help you keep running.
A substitute when injured or you can’t run
It can be depressing without your regular fix of running but we can’t always run. If we’re injured, bored, stuck inside the house, it’s late at night or we’re traveling it’s good to have a backup plan. Another activity keeps your body in shape until you can run again. Make sure your cross training doesn't aggravate your injury. When injured, working out on the bike or in the gym or in the pool can be just as good for your mind as your body.
Add other workouts and have a change from running. Take a group fitness class (e.g. dance, kick box, abs, etc) or do another activity with a non-running friend. You'll challenge other muscles when you mix up your training and you’ll keep from getting stale.
Build up your upper body
Running gives you strong legs but your upper body isn't working as hard. Use cross training to strengthen your arms, shoulders, chest, back and abdominal muscles. You'll improve your stamina and running form. Don’t be afraid of a little muscle definition but remember you’re a runner who occasionally lifts not a body builder who occasionally runs.
We can all do with some quiet time. Mind body exercise like yoga, tai chi and Pilates can calm your mind and help you unwind. They also build overall body strength and flexibility. When you’re back running you can recreate that relaxed feeling by dropping your shoulders and remembering your lessons.
Before you Start Cross Training
Just like running always include a proper warm up and cool down (around 5-10 minutes) when you cross train. Allow time for some
of the muscles you've worked.
Some Choices for Cross Training
Get a great speed or endurance workout on an indoor stationery bike. It's safe and convenient.
Control how hard you work by setting the pedal crank resistance from low to high.
Track the calories burned, your heart rate and distance covered.
Stationery bikes vary considerably but figure four bike miles equal one running mile.
Heart rate and intensity are more relevant.
Spinning classes, with pumping music and a drill instructor pushing you, is a great aerobic exercise. You set your own intensity and determine what you’re willing to put in and get out of the class.
Remember to adjust the seat height for a slight bend in your knee when you're in the down stroke position. Adjust the handlebars so you're relaxed and leaning slightly forward. Padded shorts are a must for a comfortable ride.
Top of Page Intervals on the Stationery Bike
Here's a speed workout to boost your leg turn over. It’s quick and looks easy. Six all out 15 second sprints with a two-minute recovery. But if you do it right your legs and lungs will burn in this short session. If you’re going too fast or it seems too easy increase the resistance. Make sure your feet fit tightly in the bike straps.
- Begin with an easy 5-10 minute warm up with low resistance and easy turn over (70-85 rpms). Check the clock on the bike, as it hits the 5 (or 10) minute mark, go for it.
- Increase the resistance to as high as you can handle and sprint all out for 15 seconds (110-190 rpm). Drop the resistance to 1 or 2 and recover for the first minute. Gradually increase the resistance during the recovery so you’re ready to hit it again when the clock is at 7:15. Do this for a total of 6 sprints and you’ll be feeling it.
- As you build fitness increase the resistance to make the repeats harder.
- Finish with an easy 5-10 minutes of cycling then do some stretching.
For fresh air with a variety in scenery and terrain try riding outdoors. It can also be a cheap mode of transport. Like indoor cycling you'll need to adjust the seat and handlebars. As well as padded shorts you'll want a helmet and gloves. Safety is important so have lights and reflective gear. You'll need to know your road laws and be cautious and respectful in traffic. Cycling’s a great conditioning workout while we let other muscles recover.
Swimming’s a low impact, whole body (arms and legs) workout. As women we're generally more efficient swimmers than men as we have better buoyancy. It's helped by our greater body fat stores and more even distribution of body fat. (It’s about time this paid off.) The warm or cool water can relieve your aching muscles.
Since water is heavier than air, the resistance slows us down and laps don’t come easy. Change your strokes from freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke to butterfly to work out different muscles and relieve the boredom of just swimming up and down. Work one lap hard followed by one lap easy, then try two laps hard. If you're not a skilled swimmer use a kick board and flippers to get a good workout. When you’re back running you’ll appreciate how easy a mile seems now.
Use a flotation jacket in the deep end of the pool. Quickly raise your knees and move your arms as you simulate running and build strength in your legs. Fast intervals in the pool is a good way to add to your speed sessions without pounding your legs. Easy workouts in the water calm your mind and soothes aching muscles.
A fun and challenging workout, like other gym machines, stair climbers let you adjust your intensity with step rate, depth of step and resistance. Once you're familiar with the basics add interval training. Remember to keep your knees aligned with your toes to avoid added stress on your knees. Use the guard rails for balance but don't lean heavily on them.
This gym machine gives you an aerobic total body workout by working your arms and legs. Your feet move in an egg shaped pattern, a little like cross country skiing, and never leave the footpads. This low impact exercise gives your legs some relief from running while your arms get a good workout by pushing and pulling on the handlebars. As with all indoor machines, make sure you have proper ventilation and get instruction on its use. Then build in some interval training.
Top of PageRowing Machine
You'll get a cardio workout and exercise your arms, back and thighs. Make sure you have proper ventilation and get instruction on how to use the machine. Secure your feet in the anchors at the front of the rowing machine. Use a smooth rowing action, coordinating your arm and back rowing movements with your leg extensions. It may take several sessions before you master the action. Begin with a low resistance and gradually build your speed and intensity.
This is an excellent way to build cardiorespiratory endurance. Vary the intensity of your hike by the duration, number and size of hills, your speed, the weather and altitude. Using poles in each hand or carrying a backpack adds to your overall workout. Carry plenty of water to keep hydrated and food for hikes more than one hour.
Yoga involves numerous physical postures done seated, standing, or lying on the floor. You work on strength, flexibility, (which most runners don’t have), coordination and posture. Along with bodywork you'll learn breathing methods for relaxation and stress relief.
This is a low impact exercise that can improve your flexibility, posture and teach you efficient muscle movement. There are two forms, floor/mat work and machine work. Taught by an instructor you'll learn a system of slow, controlled and distinct movements working your whole body. Some gyms blur the distinctions and teach a combined Pilates-yoga body class that’s also helpful.
Tai Chai is known as a moving meditation and a form of martial arts. It works to improve muscular strength, flexibility, concentration, and fitness.
Have fun with cross training and use it to supplement your running. For those of us over 40 or susceptible to injuries cross training can prolong our running careers. It's a chance to learn something new and enjoy another activity.
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Return from Cross Training to Running Training
Return from Cross Training to Women Running Together