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Cross Training for Runners

With the weather warming up, we are seeing a lot more runners on our drive over the Ravenel and all around town. Our Made 2 Move team has also seen an influx in patients for running related injuries. Is there a way to minimize the risk of injury in runners? Yes! It is our beloved, underappreciated cross training. Whether you are a competitive runner or you just started running because it feels nice outside, cross training is a way in which we can ammeliorate aches, pains, or overuse injuries often seen in runners.

Cross training for runners: what exactly does it entail? Cross training is a buzz word often thrown around in the fitness world in relation to sport. What are the benefits of cross training? How should runners cross train?

What is Cross Training?

Defined on The Run Experience, “Cross-training is a mix of alternative workouts and exercises that’ll benefit your primary sport” (Martin 2023).” Cross training is beneficial for any athlete honing in on one sport not just our Made 2 Move runners.

An important note about cross training: it should serve as a complement to your running. It should be beneficial, not detrimental. Cross training could look like biking or swimming, low impact activities that can serve as a break from the high impact nature of running. Your bike rides or swims can serve as an active recovery at an aerobic heart rate or could be bike sprints, hills, or tabatas for a more intense workout that is still low impact.

Resistance training is also another great way to cross train. Doing a HIIT workout or 100 heavy snatches the day before a race? Probably not the best way to cross train. Cross training should be applicable yet varied: applicable enough to complement your running but varied enough that your body is getting exposure to stimuli outside of your traditional run.

Why is Cross Training Important?

Running is a repetitive motion. You’re loading your joints and activating muscles in a predictable, routine pattern, as well as moving through the same plane of motion. Cross training adds some variety, some spice per se, that balances out this repetitiveness. If running is the white rice, cross training is the salt. Would you ever eat white rice without a sprinkle of salt?

Cross training can help prevent burnout. Running can become monotonous (white rice is pretty bland by itself) and mixing in some days of different movement: yoga, swimming, biking, or weightlifting (the list goes on), is a way to minimize the risk of burnout or mental fatigue. Cross training in the form of low intensity movement can also serve as an active recovery day for those go-getters who don’t like to take days off.

Cross training can also minimize the risk of overuse injuries. Because running is repetitive in nature, the same joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are constantly being loaded. You can load up to 8x your body weight with each step while running! Adding some salt to the rice allows it time to cool so you don’t burn your mouth. In the same way, adding cross training to your running routine allows the body time to recover so you don’t suffer an overuse injury.

Without a break from running, you run (no pun intended) the risk of aggravating one of these important structures. Doing a 45 minute strength + plyometric workout or a round of golf on a non-run day can train movements outside of those typically used in running.

Examples of Cross Training for Runners

Every runner’s cross training routine is going to look a little bit different. It should, like any program, be individualized to the specific runner’s needs and interests. A few of our commonly prescribed cross training routines for runners seen here at Made 2 Move include:

  • Strength Training: As a runner, you need to strengthen the entire kinetic chain, not just your lower body.

    • Plyometrics should be included to train the spring like qualities and reactive abilities of tendons like the achilles.

    • Rotational work, like lateral medicine ball slams or core twists can train the core in a powerful, rotational manner, different than the forward, more endurance focused motion used in running.

    • Core strengthening: While you might not think about it, the spine is compressed and decompressed each time you take a step while running. Strengthening the core- yes this includes your back muscles- can mitigate the risk of low back pain, a condition commonly seen in the population today.

    • Running is a series of single leg hops. Thus, strengthening our legs through single leg movements like Bulgarian split squats, lunges, or RDLs are another favorite of our Made 2 Move team.

  • Yoga or Pilates

    • Exercise like yoga or Pilates lets you move in patterns you wouldn’t normally do whilst running. Additionally, breath work and mobility are simultaneously trained during these types of workouts: an incredible complement to your aerobic endurance and mental health.

  • Aerobic and cardiovascular fitness

    • An obviously vital piece of the running equation, cardiovascular fitness can be trained by biking, swimming, rowing, sled drags, or using the Ski Erg. Essentially, you are just attacking your cardiovascular fitness in a varied, low impact manner.

Another note on the research surrounding strength training for runners (we are arguably biased towards this one at Made 2 Move because we have seen the positive impacts it has on our athlete’s endurance, running economy, and overall injury rate).

A 2016 meta analysis found significant improvements in running economy after incorporating a cross training program that included resistance and plyometric exercises. (Balsalobre-Fernández 2016). Your strength work serves as a tool to address weaknesses and attack planes of motion outside of the one you run in!

Another 2016 study looked at a 40 week strength training intervention to see what its effect would be on a few markers of performance in 20 elite runners. Researchers examined: maximal strength (1 rep max), reactive strength (think a counter movement jump or depth jump), running economy (RE), or form, and vVO2 max, which is your velocity, or how fast you can move at your maximal oxygen uptake.

Researchers found, “The intervention group showed significant improvements in maximal- and reactive-strength qualities, RE and vVO2max, at weeks 20 and 40” (Beattie et. Al 2016). The control group didn’t exhibit improvements in any of the markers!

They also looked at the effect of the 40 week strength program on overall body and fat mass. No changes were seen in body mass, a highlight since runners often prefer a lower body weight and many people still believe weightlifting will make you “bulky”

With cross training, make sure it is enjoyable and fun for you. Hobbies are important and can be utilized as cross training- golfing, paddle boarding, or hiking are a few examples. Take a yoga class or go on a walk to catch up with a friend!

When choosing your cross training, choose something that complements your running. If running is your #1 goal, we want to complement that, not hinder it or make you so sore that you can’t run the following day.

Made 2 Move for Runners

A few weeks ago, a couple of the Made 2 Move PTs did a running workshop with the Ethos Run Club on injury prevention in the foot, ankle, and calves. We provided runners with some exercises and warmups to complement their running. This workshop just scratched the surface of cross training for runners!

Are you a runner looking to build a cross training regimen into your running routine or get back to running pain-free? Or are you a competitive runner looking to improve running economy, strength, or other performance measures? If any of these apply to you, reach out to today to start a conversation with one of our physical therapists!

2 Σχόλια

Henry Hubbard
Henry Hubbard
24 Αυγ 2023

Hey there! I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic of racism in to kill a mockingbird racism. This classic novel by Harper Lee explores the theme of racial discrimination in a powerful and thought-provoking way.

Throughout the story, Lee vividly portrays the deep-seated racism that existed in the southern United States during the 1930s. The main character, Scout Finch, provides us with a lens through which we can see the injustice and prejudice prevalent in her community.

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It's a cool article, it's nice to read about how people take care of their health, because in our time, not everyone pays attention to sports, not to mention the minority. Every time I read about cardio, I immediately recall the dance studio images where I danced for several years, and that's where the real cardio was, because running is not for me at all, it's monotonous work, somehow it doesn't make me happy at all, so I preferred to move more chaotically, but with the same energy expenditure.

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