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Cross-training is something that many runners don’t make time for. When I was training for my first marathon, I found all the running to be so exhausting that I barely had the energy for physical activity that wasn’t running. This turned out to be a mistake. I ended up in physical therapy two months before my first marathon because I had injured myself. My story is all too common: A runner tackles a new distance, is overwhelmed by that distance, stops cross training and ends up injured. I was lucky that I was able to heal and still run my race, but that is not always the case.
Here are three reasons why you need to keep up your cross training, no matter how many miles you are running each week:
Cross-training really DOES help prevent injury in runners.
Now, just for the record–I’m not a doctor, a trainer or a certified expert. But I’ve read the science and worked with my PT enough to understand the basics behind this statement. Many overuse injuries are caused by weak stability muscles. Running doesn’t help to develop these smaller muscles. But cross-training and strength training does. For example, I had extremely weak stabilizing muscles when I began training for my first marathon which led to ankle pain. Once I began doing things OTHER than running, those muscles strengthened which helped me to run pain free.
Other activities help to alleviate boredom.
Sometimes you can get tired of running the same routes, day in and day out. By switching up your routine and mixing in some different fitness activities, you can keep yourself excited about running.
It can make you a better runner.
Cross-training can help increase your aerobic threshold, without the risk of injury from pounding the pavement. Additionally, exercises that focus on your core can really help you improve your form during runs.
So what cross-training works for me? I really love barre classes. I’ve found that the full body workout, with the emphasis on the core, has helped me immensely. I also enjoy spinning for the cardio benefits. Another very popular method of cross training is swimming because it is so easy on the joints. My advice is to find something other than running that you like, and try to work it into your schedule a couple times a week.