The return from our Summer activities marks the beginning of a more regular schedule in the Fall, and for many, the start of a new running season. Sadly this also is a time when many running-based injuries occur. It’s not long before we start feeling the aches and pains that come from pounding concrete, breaking in a new pair of shoes, or simply getting back into running after a few months off.
From a neuromuscular perspective, the best way to become more proficient at an activity or sport is to practice that very thing. We become better runners simply by running. However there is also wisdom in adding a little variety into the mix. Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a novice runner, cross-training can help you both physically and psychologically.
Benefits of Cross Training
- Injury Prevention – Many running groups advocate a regime that includes 2-4 days a week of running, focusing on speed, endurance and general conditioning. The body is constantly adapting to our environment, however if we introduce change at a rate that is faster than our adaptation rate, the risk of injury can increase. Including a day or two of swimming, strength-training or cycling will decrease the amount of time spent pounding concrete and allow the body more time to recover from the impact. Strength training in particular will result in changes such as increased bone density, tendon thickness and muscle diameter. These adaptations create a more robust and damage-resistant frame.
- Cardiovascular Conditioning – Running is great for improving cardiovascular fitness.However it does involve high impact on a unforgiving surface. This places physical stress on connective tissues and joints as the body attempts to buffer the forces that come from repeated loading. Reduced impact activities such as cycling and swimming provide an option to continue improving your fitness levels without the stress of high impact.
- Injury Rehabilitation – this is the part of the journey that every runner dreads, as it will most likely involve a break from running. Cross-training will not only allow a person to continue improving their cardiovascular fitness, but will also facilitate the recovery phase as all rehabilitation protocols should involve some form of gradual, progressive loading to stimulate healing and repair.
- Keeps You Motivated – The monotony of one foot after the other can lead to boredom and demotivation, impacting you and other runners around you. Cross-training will give your mind a break from this movement pattern, helping preserve the motivation you had in the beginning. Engaging in other activities will also help keep your overall fitness life exciting and fun!