Cross training is the secret sauce to a more well balanced and happy body. Whether you're a runner, cyclist, baseball player, rower, triathlete, it's important to use your free time (or free up some time) to do something that enhances your overall cardiovascular fitness, possibly targeting the muscle groups or movements that support those you use during your training. This isn’t for everyone, as a lot of pros, especially in the sport of triathlon, tend to stick to the three disciplines. But for us non-pros, we can make some exceptions.
I have a few favorite activities outside of swimming, biking and running, believe it or not, and I am not about to give them up completely because of my race calendar. Of course, I don't advise any athlete, beginner or advanced, go against a coaches orders or lifts weights that will leave them sore for days. Don’t derail the training - simply find the happy medium.
This past year I found mine. l fell in love with kickboxing. I started punching and kicking my way through weekly classes that helped me blow off some steam and brought on some serious girl power strength. I've found that my time zoned in on a heavy punching bag has been very beneficial for my body - greatly increasing my flexibility, especially in the hips and outer quadriceps (which is needed considering I slightly pronate on the run). My back and shoulders have also grown stronger, aiding my strength in the swim and with long intervals leaning on my bike handlebars. Also, a sport like triathlon requires great balance - to stay smooth on the swim, streamlined on the bike, and upright on the run. With every kick of the bag, my standing leg is working hard to maintain good form and I can feel a 360-degree power system radiating from my core to my toes. Aside from all this, I take my tough days in with me and I walk out fresh and focused with a positive outlook. Plus, I’m ready to fend off attackers. HI-YA!!!
Then of course there is weight training. Clear those myths from your head about avoiding weight lifting to stay skinny. Let me tell you - every time I supplemented my training plans or general workout schedules with weight training (even 3-4x/month), I’ve greatly increased my power in my sport and I’ve gotten stronger and leaner in the healthiest of ways. Skinny does not equal fit; you need to lift to learn and ultimately live longer. It is a fact that weight training is most beneficial even as you age; it will keep the heart pumping, the brain sharp and will improve rate of reaction, which is extremely important when you’re older. Running over and over and over may get you to the 5k, 10k, marathon finish line…but it is the art of cross training mixed with smart training that will ultimately get you there injury free, with a quicker recovery time and you’ll be stronger than you could have imagined.
I stress being a "cross boss" so that aside from being a well-rounded athlete, you can experience something new from time to time. You may not always have time for the multiple runs a week suggested in your marathon training plan. As long as you stay active and work with those running-specific muscles, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll make real gains in your sport and hit some new personal records.
**Some cross training tips for:
*Try an elliptical (for speed and flexibility)
*Indoor/outdoor cycling (to build quad/hamstring strength)
*Weighted squats (not too heavy) (to build lower body strength)
*Swimming/water running (to aid in movement and avoid impact)
*Rowing/push-ups/planks (to strengthen shoulder/back/arms which often get weak during races)
*Restorative Yoga/ stretching (to stretch and lengthen the body and improve flexibility)
*Yoga/ stretching (flexibility, elongated muscles, balance, restoration)
*Cross-country skiing (improves stability and muscular coordination)
*Rowing (improves upper body strength, endurance)
*Kickboxing (improves balance, flexibility, upper & lower strength & endurance)
*Yoga (helps improve breathing control & range of motion)
*Running (builds dense & strong bones)
*Cycling (helps to spin out legs & build strong bones)
*Medicine Ball Throws (helps strengthen arms & core)
Give your muscles some love today.