Personal Trainer and Nutrition Guru, Samantha Olivier, dropped in to give us the lowdown on cross-training essentials for runners...
Preparing for a race or marathon is tough, especially if you are a working mom with tons of family responsibilities, chores, and errands on your hands. Still, achieving top shape for the big day is feasible, granted you keep a regular running schedule and are open to experimenting with workouts other than your sprinting sprees. Cross-training can significantly improve muscle strength, stamina, and endurance in runners, all of which play an important role in the final race rankings. If you are eager to supplement your training with a dynamic non-running routine for improved fitness and workout variety, here are four routines you might like to add to your weekly agenda.
Biking is a low-impact aerobic workout that can significantly promote recovery after a running session. Cycling improves cardiovascular system functions, enhances nutrient and oxygen exchange in the muscles, boosts the shape of quadriceps, shin muscles, and glutes, and strengthens connective tissues in the joints, thus preventing knee, hip, or ankle injuries. For optimal performance, include a quick biking session on your running days (run first, ride a stationary or outdoor bike afterwards for 30-60 minutes), but avoid biking on non-running days to allow your body enough time to recover from the training.
A great non-weight bearing exercise for runners, swimming increases heart rate, engages all muscle groups in the body, extends the hips, and takes the pressure off leg muscles, allowing runners to work on their aerobic fitness without straining lower limbs. A low-impact routine, swimming is excellent for all-body toning and is often recommended as therapy for runners recovering from an injury or those who want to increase their total weekly mileage by over 10%. Depending on your cross-training goal, include 30-45 minutes of lap swimming in your agenda 2 or 3 times a week. You can check in at the pool on both running and non-running days as your leg muscles will not be under too much strain as you are doing the laps.
Strength training can improve endurance, muscle strength, and overall performance in runners. Bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, planks, pull-ups, and push-ups are also a fail-safe preventive for injuries, while deadlifts, box step-ups, and calf raises can strengthen the glutes and lower limbs. Strong obliques, core and pectoral muscles and hamstrings are a runner’s vital asset as they keep the body upright and prevent slumping during long races. For a dynamic and engaging cross-training session, perform strength exercises twice a week and combine different bodyweight moves following the 30-20-10 routine (30 sec of one move, followed by 20 sec of another move, and 10 sec of a third move, with 1 minute of rest in between sets).
Runners looking to boost joint mobility and increase their stride can try aqua jogging. The low-impact training in water is extremely beneficial for increased muscle strength, joint conditioning, and improved blood flow. In addition to that, aqua jogging is the ideal therapy for runners recovering from an ankle sprain or foot injury, and some coaches recommend it as a supplementary workout for avid runners who want to maximize their race results without adding bulk to their lean physique. After a 10-minute easy-pace warm-up, mix light water running with intense 1- or 2-minute sprints, and repeat the exercise 3-5 times before cooling down.
Regular exercise is the fountain of youth and good health, especially if you mix up your training. Professional athletes cross-train too, because engaging in physical activity other than your normal workout adds interest, boosts fitness results, promotes endurance and all-body toning, and prevents overuse injuries. Are you prepped for the next competition? Add one or two of these activities to your training agenda, and you will definitely be ready for the next race within weeks.
Article by Samantha Olivier
Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Twitter, or in a tea shop. She blogs over at Ripped.me.