Cross Training Benefits for Runners

When I first started running, I had no idea of the benefits of actually working out other muscles. Of course, you would think that this would be second nature, but this is coming from someone who never works out…ever. My workouts have been so sporadic you could probably fit all of them into one year…total. In fact, today, when I went to the gym, I decided to do the elliptical machine because I had been getting bored with just running in my neighborhood. I also met a guy who kind of creeped me out…and tried to talk to me while I was running, and maybe looked like a pedophile, so I thought maybe getting back in the habit of going to the gym was good for me. I get on the elliptical machine and do 30 minutes of cardio, and then decide to ask the guys how to do the machines, because I honestly have no idea how to work out.

First, I’m completely ignored while standing at the customer service desk. Finally after clearing my throat one guy stops flirting with a girl long enough to talk to me. I tell him I’m interested in having someone show me some of the machines. Turns out, he has a personal training appointment so he directs me up front. The women at the front can’t leave the desk, so they direct me to a personal trainer who tries to sell me personal training lessons. At $200 extra dollars a month! Um…no…

Finally, I get someone who can just show me how to work the machines. And work them we do…holy crap, I did one machine where I could feel the muscles by my ‘love handles’ working…and I know I’m going to be sore tomorrow. And see, being sore is why I always quit working out. I have a really intense, good session at the gym, really feel the burn and get excited about fitness, and then day 2 happens. It’s always worse the second day. And I get so sore I can barely move. It makes me not want to do it again (even though logically I know it will get better) and I stop going. But what about the benefits of working out?

One of the biggest benefits I’ve heard about cross-training from fellow runners is prevention of injury. If you’re a new runner and just starting out, it might make you feel awesome if you run 4 days a week! But your muscles are untrained and untested, and it turns out you actually might be hurting yourself without knowing it because you don’t have the experience to know the difference between being sore and a potential injury. But that’s not the only benefit. Runners also use cross training to improve fitness, rehabilitate themselves after injury, enhance motivation, enjoy competing in other sports, stay fit in times running isn’t possible (such as pregnancy) and rejuvenate the mind and body.

Personally, I’ve begun cross training in order to improve my overall fitness. My first 5k is going to be an untimed race, but don’t think that just because I’m not being officially timed that I won’t be timing myself. I’m shooting for doing this in under 40 minutes, but I’d like to continue to improve as I continue to run 5ks. Cross training is really beneficial in making your running stronger and improving your efficiency in competing. Yes, running alone will definitely make you better than if you sat on your couch the whole time and didn’t do anything, but adding in strength training will also help you increase your power, efficiency and the amount of time you are able to spend training or running without getting injured.

It can also help enhance your motivation. No matter how much you love running or are passionate about fitness, the same workout every day can bore even the most staunch athletes. Cross training can switch up the routine and make it easier for you to continue working out when you might not want to. Take me for example…I’ve been getting bored just running as I mentioned earlier. It isn’t as easy to motivate myself to get off the couch when I’m sitting home alone and I can read a book or get on the computer instead. Having something to look forward to, and even going to the gym where other people are working out, feeds my need to be stimulated in a variety of workouts.

For me, the final important benefit that I want to point out is the rejuvenation factor. No person can train hard the entire year, and be strong endlessly. Everyone needs breaks and needs periods of rest. Especially after you’ve reached a new milestone. Thus I’ve added in a day of yoga per week. Yoga is very relaxing to me and helps me to rejuvenate. It also stretches out the entire body, thus allowing me to stretch those muscles that are constantly working during my harder workouts. It increases flexibility so I don’t have to worry about pulling a muscle as much as if I didn’t stretch, and it’s just an overall relaxing workout that I can do. A workout such as this still makes me feel good and get fit, but it doesn’t really feel like you’re working out.

Those are my personal favorite reasons for cross-training. What are yours?

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