April is here and preparation for race season is in full swing. Whether you love marathon, obstacle or adventure races, cross-training will add huge value to your performance. Cross-training is a broad term that can include resistance training, mobility/stretching, and low impact endurance activities such as cycling and rowing. These activities combined with running not only boosts performance but considerably reduces the overuse injuries common to runners.
Here are the top 5 reasons to add a cross-strengthening program into your training plan:
1. Greater Performance
Cross-training benefits running performance and allows for longer periods of training. Because of the impact on your joints caused by running, few runners (especially beginners) can handle more than 6 hours of running/week without running into injury. By including low-impact endurance activities such as cycling and rowing, allows you to train twice the amount whilst improving your cardiovascular fitness.
Mobility refers to the overall range of motion a joint can move through. This is more than simply flexibility (muscle length) as it also refers to how well the nervous system controls the joint/muscle. When you have trigger points(knots) in your muscles, your control of that muscle is inhibited and stretching won’t always help. So, in addition to your stretching program, try using a foam roller and release balls to get deeper into your muscles allowing for better mobility. Look for a restorative class in your area that uses myofascial release or a good massage always helps!
The key to a great performance for any athlete or weekend warrior begins with strength. Back, core and hips are among the most common areas of the body that require proper strengthening when first starting a running program. These areas often take the brunt of the impact associated with running and produce the most explosive force(hips) during an activity. Building strength initially involves lighter weight and great attention to detail as proper technique is the priority. Finding a qualified trainer to help you build a solid strength foundation will not only improve your running, but aid in post-workout recovery and injury prevention.
A further benefit to strength training is improving power. Power is your body’s ability to produce high amounts of force in short periods of time. As a runner, by improving your power, you will also improve your stride length and efficiency thereby improving your running pace. This can be done with HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts defined by short, intense bursts of activity followed by a rest interval.
5. Injury Prevention
Cross-training not only prepares the body for the rigors of running, but also for what happens after. Over 50% of overuse injuries runners experience relate to a weakness in the hips (gluts mainly) thereby affecting other structures down the chain in the lower limbs ie. knees/ankles. By strengthening the hips, core and surrounding structures, you drastically decrease your chance of injury. We recommend starting with 1-2 low impact endurance activities per week of about an hour such as cycling to lower the impact your joints experience.