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Effective cross-training can make you a healthier and better balanced runner.
Everybody knows training for a marathon requires lots of running. But, other exercises need to be incorporated into your training regimen to ensure that you cross the finish line strong and healthy.
When I trained for my first marathon I ran at least 5 days per week and did little cross training. Throughout my training program I struggled with shin splints and knee pain. It was frustrating to deal with these injuries.
While training for my second marathon I was taking a power yoga class twice a week. I also incorporated weight training and some cycling.
My marathon training program only required 3 days of running per week and emphasized cross-training. Here is a sample week from my training:
My Sample Week
- Sunday – rest day
- Monday – run 5 easy miles + stretching and core workout
- Tuesday – power yoga 1 hour
- Wednesday – run 6 mile intervals + stretching and lower body weight training
- Thursday – power yoga for 1 hour
- Friday – 1 hour of cycling + upper body weight training
- Saturday – 12 mile long run + stretching
I was able to finish this second marathon without injury and discomfort and felt like I was stronger and in better shape overall. Now I highly recommend a schedule of stretching and cross training to anyone training for a marathon.
Benefits of Cross-Training
- Balancing muscle groups
- Increasing cardiovascular fitness
- Improving strength and power
- Decreasing your chances of injury
- Giving injuries time to heal
- Busting boredom
- Swimming – good for the upper body and general conditioning
- Water jogging – perfect for avoiding hot weather and for the injured runner
- Rowing– best for upper body and abdominals
- Weight training (uses a weight for resistance) – great for building strength
- Strength training (uses body weight for resistance) – balances muscle groups
- Yoga – involves strength training and builds flexibility, balance, and stretching
- Cross country skiing – total body workout that is cardiovascular and non-impact
- Cycling/Spinning – focuses on lower body and increases cardiovascular fitness
- Elliptical trainer – mimics the running motion in a non-impact way
- Walking – uses running muscles with lower impact
- Group sports– great for decreasing boredom and getting a cardio workout
Rules for Effective Cross-Training
- Cross-training should not be a substitute for a scheduled run unless you are injured
- Don’t let your cross-training wear you out and decrease the quality of your running
- Have a plan. Don’t go to the gym and just meander around
- Add cross-training gradually if you are not accustomed to the activity
- Use appropriate cross-training activities that will benefit your running (not golf or bowling). It should have a similar duration and intensity to your running
- Don’t put more stress on injured areas
- Know when to stop
- Enjoy the benefits
If you are training for a race it is important to refrain from high-impact, jarring sports such as tennis, racquetball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, skiing, and aerobic dance as these may increase your risk of injury. Injured runners should use cross training as allowed by their doctor.
I highly recommend effective cross-training, focusing on stretching after every run, core training at least two times per week, and weight training two times per week. It can greatly improve your running performance.
- Begin cross-training regularly every week
- Leave a comment. Tell us what type of cross-training exercise you love