Cross training is an excellent way to build strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t use. It can also prevent injury by correcting muscular imbalances while the variety can prevent mental burnout. Consider adding these to your training:
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
Hitting the weight room or a strength and conditioning class 2-3 times each week can help with your running program and overall fitness. Try to perform 10 different exercises, targeting different muscles/muscle groups. (Aim for 8-16 repetitions of each exercise, 2-3 sets.)
Remember to rest at least 24 hours between strength training sessions to allow your muscles to repair and strengthen.
When tapering for a race, put your strength training on hold. Tapering is a time to preserve muscle strength and store glycogen for a great performance on race day!
Although running is one of the most efficient ways to boost cardiovascular fitness, sometimes your legs need a break! You can keep your fitness level high by incorporating any heart-pumping exercise into your training routine. Swimming and cycling are particularly good cross-training activities for runners since they keep your heart rate up without additional impact.
Swimming is a great activity to complement a runner’s aerobic development. It can be a very technical but is a great upper-body/core cardio workout.
Bicycling allows you to do considerable volume without risking overuse injuries. Cycling requires more quad activation while running relies on your hamstrings, so it’s good for balancing your lower body muscles.
PLYOMETRICS (jumping, bounding, and hopping to generate explosive muscle power) Stanford University’s Director of Rehabilitation recommends this routine for runners (Jumping into Plyometrics):
1. Alternate bounding: This is a very long running stride with exaggerated knee lifts. Bound 30 – 80 yds. (rest 1 min). Do 4 repetitions.
2. Skipping: Skip for 30 – 80 yds. (rest 1 min). Do 4 repetitions.
3. Split-squat jump: Start in a lunge position, and jump upward and forward, pushing off the front leg. Land in the lunge position, and repeat continuously for 10-80 yds. (rest 45 sec). Do 3-6 repetitions.
4. Two-foot ankle hops: Stand up straight, and hop forward for 10 yards, keeping feet together; rest 45 seconds. Do 3-6 repetitions.
Experienced, injury-free runners should ease into a weekly plyo routine:
Initially: 5-10 min. once a week.
Gradually build to: 20-30 min. 1-2 times a week.
Combine cross-training with running to maximize running fitness with lower actual mileage. You can substitute 25 to 30 percent of your weekly “mileage” with cross-training.