One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to fitness is doing the same thing day in and day out every week. Cross-training can help you prevent injury and stiffness and help make you stronger and faster.
How I got from 10km to marathon running injury-free
When I first started flirting with fitness five years ago all I used to do was run. I did the odd 10km race and ran a whatever-felt-good pace – no watch included – until I decided I wanted to level up and aim for my first half marathon.
I struggled with knee and ITB pain badly until I started adding strength training to my routine. I mixed up my running routine with S.W.E.A.T.1000 and got leaner and stronger and successfully ran my first 21km. And then another and another and another… Until I decided to level up again and go for my first marathon.
Running like this can really leave your body feeling fatigued and tight and injury-prone, which I was. At this time I started practicing yoga in-between the long runs. Yoh, was I TIGHT! My muscles had shortened and I could only dream of touching my toes. Regular yoga practice really helped me strengthen up the muscles I wasn’t using and forced me to get the much-needed stretching in (I was very bad at stretching after a run), plus it helped improve my breathing.
Fast forward a couple years and now I’m doing triathlon training: swimming, cycling and running – and still some yoga in the mix! I also have a coach now, who has designed a programme specifically for the type of cross-training I’m doing. Steve Atwell is a certified IRONMAN coach and level-2 triathlon coach. Here, he gives us some insight into the benefits and importance of cross-training.
Why runners should swim
“Cross-training allows for the use of different muscles, muscles that are perhaps not challenged in your chosen sport,” explains Attwell. “It also gives the hard-working muscles a chance to recover. For example, if you are running a lot, and you swim on your off days, the swim gives your legs a break while challenging the upper body more. It still gives your cardio a good work out, so you never feel like you are not getting a good work out.”
Attwell also suggests swimming with a pool buoy to completely alleviate the urge to kick.
Why runners should do strength training
“Strength work is also a key session,” explains Steve. Not a gym person? Or can’t afford a gym contract on top of the money you’ve put into your running gear? Attwell recommends hill training.
“Incorporate a steep hill into a training session and run hard up the hill for 30secs and walk/jog back. Depending on your level, you can increase the duration of the hard effort. Over the 12-week running programme we facilitate, we will start our runners on 30 secs with 6 repeats and each week increase the duration and reps, until they reach 15 reps of 1min!” says Attwell.”