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Cross training for long distance running

Posted Jan 03 2012 11:55am
For the past 2 days, my IT band and knee of my left leg have been acting up.  I decided to take a couple days off from training, but I definitely realize what I've been doing wrong.  I have been running a lot and neglecting cross training, which has been shown to be important in injury prevention for long distance runners.  My Team In Training coaches have emphasized cross training, and here are some of their tips for how and when to cross train when you are training for a half or full marathon.

What exactly is cross training?  Cross training is any form of exercise outside of running. It's that simple. This may include some of the more common forms of exercise such as swimming, cycling, elliptical trainer, deep-water running, weight training, yoga, Pilates and stretching. As you can see, cross training involves not only other forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as cycling, but also includes those exercises responsible for improving our overall strength (weight training) and flexibility (yoga, Pilates and stretching).

Why do we cross train?  Simply put, we cross train to avoid injury and to enhance our overall performance.  Cross training allows us to add volume and frequency to our training, in a safe and effective manner. Running is a high impact exercise that involves repetitive motion over a long period of time.  When running at a constant speed our bodies will operate through a specific range of motion, and over time, as with other forms of repetitive motion, our bodies may be susceptible to injury.  By implementing other forms of cardiovascular exercise we can improve our strength, flexibility, and endurance without the added stress of running alone.

Who should cross train?  Everyone should cross train, especially those who are new to the sport of running or who may have a history of injury.  The most common mistake associated with marathon training is OVER TRAINING (doing TOO much TOO soon, running TOO fast or TOO hard all the time, etc.. ).  Listen to your bodies and stick to the schedule that is best suited for you and your current fitness level.  Be sure to make your scheduled “strength” training sessions a priority (2x/week). Instead of adding an extra day of running to your schedule, I recommend that you choose one or two of the activities mentioned above to supplement your training program.  If you are sore or potentially injured, error on the side of conservative and chose a pain free activity in lue of running (just for the record, studies show that “cycling” is the best substitute for runners, but you need to focus on a high cadence (90-95 RPM’s) to replicate the fast turnover we use while we run. Bottom line, just because you are training for a marathon or half marathon does not mean you have to forego all the other activities that you enjoy...please keep that in mind throughout the season.

Hope these tips have helped!
xoxo, Lee

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