If you say the word cross-training, most runners’ faces will instantly contort into an expression of disgust. When runners think of cross-training, they think of injuries. But the negative connotation comes solely from runners turning to cross-training only when they’re injured.
Runners need to shift their perspective. Each cross-training alternative has its own unique benefits, and they all are much less impact producing than running. Running is one of the hardest sports on the body. By limiting that amount of force, you put less wear and tear on your body. This means less risk for injuries, and increased longevity in the sport. If you’re training for a Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, cross-training can add variety to your running regimen.
Which cross-training methods are best for runners? Turns out the top picks are aqua-jogging, the elliptical machine, and cycling.
Aqua-jogging: Take your running to the pool. When aqua-jogging, you mimic exactly what you would be doing when running — sans any impact. To help ensure you maintain proper form, wear a proper aqua-jogging belt. You may feel a tendency to lean too far forward. Aim to keep your torso and hips stacked upright. Meanwhile, cycle your legs directly beneath you.
Elliptical machine: Like aqua-jogging, this method resembles the running stride. The machine may make your stride feel shorter, but ideally, it should feel natural. To tailor the workout to the proper effort level, adjust the tension level and incline. Want a change of scenery? Try an ElliptiGO, which is an elliptical bicycle that takes you outdoors. Elites like Meb Keflezighi and Lauren Fleshman use the ElliptiGO to remain healthy and “make up for” some of the land miles their competitors are doing.
Cycling: The bike is perfect for doing short intervals. By blasting 30-60-second intervals, you jack up your heart rate and build leg strength. Increasing strength and power will make you faster. To avoid injuries, make sure the seat is properly adjusted.
Machines like the rower and stair-climber can boost your fitness, too. If your goal is to make applicable fitness gains for running, focus on aqua-jogging, using the elliptical machine and biking. The ideal method would be using an anti-gravity treadmill, but access to those are quite limited for us mere mortals of the running world. Ultimately, the bottom line comes back to effort. If you’re working and getting your heart rate up, you are benefiting.
To pump up your marathon preparation, shift your perspective on cross-training. By taking advantage of this powerful training tool, you can increase your running performance and reduce your risk of injury. In addition, you can maximize your fitness off of less mileage. Whether you’re training for your first or 15th Rock ‘n’ Roll race, don’t underestimate the benefits of cross-training.