Can cross training for runners really make a difference?
Michael Cavanah has helped a lot of runners improve performance, speed recovery and prevent injuries.
He's also a physical therapist and multi-sport athlete.
Wondering if cross training for runners works? Here's his take on mixing things up...
Running, like many other sports, requires consistency and effort to improve.
A typical running program consists of different types of workouts including:
Not many address the benefit and need for cross-training.
And that's a problem...
The bad news: Many runners never reach their goal due to setbacks from overuse injuries.
The good news: Cross training for runners can provide substantial gains in running performance and significantly lower injury risk. This approach provides consistency in training and a better chance at achieving your initial running goals!
Cycling and swimming are two highly-effective forms of cross training for runners.
Let's take a closer look at both...
Cycling stresses the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles while requiring core stabilization to maintain proper posture.
The pedal stroke involved during cycling has two stages, the down and up stage.
The benefits: Mixing in cycling with your running program will improve your lower body strength and power to get up that big hill or pass that athlete in front of you.
Like running, cycling is an endurance sport meaning that the majority of training sessions hinge on the athlete’s aerobic capacity.
The gold standard for measuring aerobic fitness in the VO2 max.
So to be a faster runner, you need to have the greatest aerobic capacity possible to improve the heart’s capacity to deliver oxygenated blood to the extremities and prevent fatigue early on in the race. Cycling can help you improve VO2 max.
While cycling is demanding on the body’s aerobic system, it is relatively easy on the joints due to the fact that there is no impact with the ground.
The motion provided by cycling also increases the blood flow to the:
After a long run, add some cycling to your training schedule. Why?
Cycling flushes out lactic acid after a long run and helps speed recovery. This allows for increased duration and frequency of workouts which in turn yields greater improvements in lower body strength and aerobic capacity!
Swimming is extremely beneficial to running, because it encompasses whole body movements.
Did you know the glutes are the driving muscles during the kick of freestyle swimming?
It's similar to how the glutes drive the legs while running. But there's a big difference...
Because water is 800% more dense than air, it provides the perfect environment to strengthen your legs.
Like running and cycling, swimming requires excellent core stabilization. Why?
Core stability also plays a major role in improving proprioception...knowing the body’s position in space.
Swimming is completely non-weight bearing, making it the perfect complement to any running program.
Swimming requires staccato breathing and intervals of holding breath, and it's great for runners...
The answer: It depends on a variety of factors like:
If you are just beginning your running journey, I highly recommend alternating running days with cross training. Why?
If you are a seasoned runner then perhaps you only need to add in cross training after your hard workouts or longer run days.
Running is an excellent sport and activity that almost anyone can participate in.
It improves our mental, emotional and physical health and provides a sense of freedom that appeals to our inner nature.
Cross-training for runners will:
Want to be a better runner? Consider implementing some of these activities into your training to maximize your potential and be the best version of yourself!