Run Your Best Race & Pace Pt. 3: Cross-Training for Runners

When training for a race, especially the longer ones, you run the risk of overtraining & injury which can, in turn, hinder your performance and set you off track. To put it simply: When you run too much, too far, too often your body may not be able to handle it. You may feel weak, fatigued and even actual pain that can lead to real problems. You don’t want to overdo it and then have to sit out of the race you were training for – what an extremely frustrating experience that would be.

When training for a race, or anything for that matter, you want to make sure that you also incorporate other types of exercise that are going to enhance your overall performance and goal. This is called cross-training.

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Strength Training

One great type of cross-training for runners is strength training. Using weights to strengthen the entire body, including the legs, will help your body build muscular endurance and, of course, get stronger. A strong body, with more lean muscle tissue, is going to be more prepared and stronger for a race than one that is not. Generally runners benefits from lighter weights and higher repetitions, so nobody is asking you to do some intense, heavy olympic style lifting, but challenge yourself. Here are some exercises to try:

  • Squat curl-to-press: This move is excellent for strengthening the entire body. Engaging many muscle groups at one time is going to enable you to burn more calories and also get a quality workout in a shorter amount of time.
  • Lunge and twist: This move, beyond strengthening the legs, is really great for balance and core control.
  • Step-up: This move is excellent for the glutes and will do wonders for your runs. This powerful and functional move should be a part of every runners, and everyone’s, fitness routine. We need strong glutes ready to fire when going out on those runs. Find out how strong glutes can prevent injury and improve performance.
  • Stiff-legged dead lift to upright row: This move is really great for lengthening and strengthening the glutes and hamstrings. In addition, the upright row is going to allow you to get some shoulder action in there as well. For additional balance & stability training, you can do this exercise on one leg.
  • You can also check out this Runner’s Workout from Fitness Coach Lunden.

Plyometrics

Have you ever tried plyometric training before? Do you even know what plyometric exercises are? This form of exercise is very explosive, powerful and encompasses a lot of jumping, hopping & bounding exercises while recruiting the fast twitch muscle fibers. Some examples would be: jump squats, switch lunges, box jumps, forward jumps & burpees. While this may sound fun, it is actually a pretty advanced form of exercise and should be done with correct form and great care and caution. Get your form in check before you start jumping around.

Yoga

Another great form of cross-training for runners is yoga. Running can be really hard on the body and cause tenderness in the joints along with sore and tight muscles. Yoga is great for releasing sore muscles, opening up tight hips and much more. Not only is yoga the perfect remedy for these physical issues, but it also brings along a mental component as well. Yoga pushes you mentally, which undoubtedly transcends into your training runs and during your race. Yoga is very regenerative for the  mind and body, and is a great addition to the training of runners, or anyone. Here are some great yoga poses for runners:

  • Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
  • Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
  • Cobbler or Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
  • Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

For more check out these 8 Yoga Poses for Runners.

Rollerblading

Looking to get outdoors for some cross-training, have a little fun and maybe include some of your non-runner friends and family? Roller skating or rollerblading is a great idea. This activity with really work your core and legs, and also get your legs moving laterally rather than just front-to-back as you do in running.

Swimming

Lastly, a great form of low-impact cross training for runners is swimming! Swimming is easy on the joints, provides a different form of resistance to the muscles, yet gets your heart rate elevated and can provide a really create workout. Beyond swimming laps, you can run in the water, walk laterally (working abductors and adductors) and, of course, work the legs using a kickboard or kicking while holding onto the side of the pool.

If you want to excel at a particular sport, you have to think outside of the box. While you absolutely want to practice your sport on a regular basis in order to excel, it’s equally as important to build a tight web of ways that will compliment the desired outcome of improving overall fitness without overtraining. Aim for 1-3 days of cross-training per week, in addition to your current running schedule.

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