Crosstraining For Runners
As a personal trainer, I often get the question “how can I be a better runner” or “how can I be a faster runner” or “how can I help prevent injuries.” There is a principle that all fitness professionals are taught called the SAID principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands). This simply means if you want to be a better cyclist, you need to ride your bike, if you want to be a better runner, then get out there and run. However, there is only so much you can perform a specific sport without causing overuse injuries. Cross Training is the answer to provide a path to a better athlete and help to prevent injuries. Perfect additions to training for, specifically, running are non-impactful activities and strength training. The following are activities that runners can add to their routine to achieve performance goals and help to prevent injuries:
Single Sided Strength Training Exercises – Add in single sided exercises to help strengthen the smaller stabilizer muscles and improve muscle imbalances, especially in the ankle, hip and around the knee. Single leg squats, either with or without dumbbells, will quickly show the athlete which leg is stronger and more stable. These can also be done on suspension straps (like TRX) to help assist with balance or challenge the athlete with a deeper squat.
Strengthening the muscles of the core (abdominals, lower back and hips) will help especially longer distance runners complete their distance without a sore back. Runner need a strong base to be able to stabilize their upper body and go the distance. Traditional core training should suffice with exercises like:
- Side Plank
- Bicycle Crunches
More advanced strength trainers can opt for weighted variations like sit-ups while holding a dumbbell or holding plank with the toes in a TRX strap.
Rowing is a great cross training tool for runners or as an alternative when dealing with an injury. The fitness gains of rowing easily translate to running. Athletes will notice increased strength in glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps while still getting a fantastic cardio workout with low impact.
These are just a few options that can be mixed in with a running routine. Of course, as stated at the beginning of this article, to be a better runner, you must put the miles in. But, being strategic with other modalities can help the runner take advantage of time off the road.