If You Are a Runner, Cross-training is Key!

Posted 11/09/2015 | By HealthCorps

Running is a great workout. You can do it year round, running outdoors when the weather permits, and training on a treadmill if the weather is too cold, rainy, or if it snows. Most runners want to improve their running times or extend running distance, and that may require engaging with other types of exercise. Remember that when you’re running, you’re mostly using your legs, though upper body movements can help. Exercise experts suggest that other bio-motor skills like strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination are important if you want to run faster or farther. In fact, runners need to “train like athletes” and not just focus on running singularly. Cross-training is the key.

Focus on strength training moves by holding free weights and doing combined upper and lower body moves like a squat into a shoulder press. Always start with lighter weights and one set of eight to ten repetitions. Increase the challenge by increasing the dumbbell size and doing a second or third set of repetitions.

Lunging backwards and off to the side, in a curtsey format, can help with core strength and also improve power and coordination. Do each leg individually for ten repetitions and then alternate side to side for ten repetitions. Increase the challenge by holding weights and by lunging off of a low step.

Squat jumps can help specifically with improving power, since they’re considered explosive moves. Start by slowly squatting down, with legs hip distance apart and toes straight. When you push up off the ground, be explosive so your feet come up off the ground surface almost kicking your rear. Land and return to squat position. Repeat eight to ten times. Over time, you can add light free weights and do two to three sets of these moves with a minimum of two minutes of recovery time between sets. The goal is proper form, not necessarily the number of repetitions you perform.

Walking lunges while alternating legs can really help to increase overall leg strength. Focusing on your form is key when performing this exercise, so make sure someone knowledgeable watches you and corrects any alignment issues. You can increase the challenge by holding weights while you do the walking lunges.

Deadlifts and single deadlifts can also help to improve leg strength. Start with regular deadlifts and then add single deadlifts when you feel you have proper form. This is an exercise that really allows you to keep increasing the free weight size, to add challenge. Make sure to engage your core when you come up to full standing position.

You should also consider doing a full arm workout one or two days a week. Bicep curls, front raises, lateral raises and pushups will all help to build upper body strength which helps to propel you when you swing your arms during a run.

Glute bridges will help to strengthen your gluteal or butt muscles. First do repetitions just with your own body weight. Increase the challenge by keeping one leg off the floor during repetitions and then switch to the other side. Consider balancing a weight on your pelvis to increase the intensity and challenge, when the regimen becomes familiar.

Cross-training also means doing other aerobic exercise modalities like cycling, swimming, and using an elliptical machine. Aerobic cross-training will challenge your body in different ways, and allow your body some rest from running. You will benefit from the added challenge of performing different exercises, and you’ll also reduce your risk of injuries from overusing specific muscles.

Sources: Well + Good
American College of Sports Medicine

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