Supplement your running with cross-training exercises this May!
“Everyone who has run knows that its most important value is in removing tension and allowing a release from whatever other cares the day may bring,” says 39th President Jimmy Carter. Indeed, running is gloriously cathartic. Running is a liberating release from the stress of the day. Running is freedom as the legs take us around town or into the deepest woods for time alone.
Frequent running releases the mind, but it can cause issues for the body. Muscles in the legs tighten and fitness drops. “Runners have their obvious strengths: power, endurance, tenacity. But within those strengths lies the potential for weakness: quads that overpower our hamstrings, neglected upper bodies, and poor flexibility—qualities that could lead to problems,” say the editors at Runner’s World. So, as you continue your preparation for the 2018 AJC Peachtree Road Race this month, look to cross-training for additional help.
If you are currently nursing an injury or desire to improve overall flexibility, visit the local pool. “The pool is a perfect place to stretch out tight muscles because the water’s buoyancy helps improve range of motion,” says John Rembao, director of track-and-field operations at the University of California at Berkeley. Injured runners that need to temporarily avoid weight-bearing exercises will further find the pool beneficial. Strap on a flotation belt and run through the water to mimic the benefits of time on the road. “The ideal pool workout should include 30 minutes of lap swimming and 30 minutes of pool running to ensure a full body workout,” says Michael Joyner, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic.
“Whether you hop on a road bike or a fitness bike at your gym, both are non-impact cross-training exercises that help build your engine—your lungs, capillary network, and heart strength,” says Jason Fitzgerald for Strength Running. Cycling on the roads is accompanied with added risk in automobiles. Stationary bikes “lend themselves to more structured workouts based on time rather than fartleks based on landmarks or terrain,” adds Fitzgerald. If your legs need a break from running, mount a bike in the gym or the garage and go for a ride.
Experts are calling out the benefits of lifting weights. “Strength training plays an important role in improving all of the vital contributors to a faster run speed: anaerobic power, neuromuscular efficiency, running economy, and power development capabilities,” says Jon-Erik Kawamoto, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Furthermore, like running, form matters. If the exercise is performed poorly, gains will be minimal. What’s the ideal lifting routine for runners? It varies, so check with an expert for a personalized plan.
In summary, utilize cross-training exercises to improve your running. Runners love to run, and it’s certainly the best exercise to prepare for a race like the Peachtree. However, injuries require rest and time for recovery. What’s more, the body simply needs a periodic break so muscles can heal and strengthen. Cycling and swimming remove the weight while strength training keeps a healthy body strong all year. Between the bike, pool, and dumbbells, be sure not to overlook abdominal exercises either. A strong core is the foundation for strong running.
Austin Bonds is a Guest Advocate at the Big Peach Suwanee location.