Only running? Think again. What is XT (cross-training)?
“The action or practice of engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one's main sport.”
Cross-training can be divided into two things: (a) cardio cross-training is any physical activity that is low or non-impact (i.e. elliptical, walking, hiking, biking, aqua jogging, cross country skiing, etc.), and (b) strength, plyometric type training.
Importance of Cross-Training
Cross-training is exercising using low-impact activities for gains in strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility.
Active Recovery- (especially for those with ants in their pants 😉, cross-training is a great method to use to stay physical, yet injury-free when recovering from other hard workouts or races). This also allows you to flush out toxins and increase flexibility.
Overall Fitness- (for those who can or can’t run 6-7 days in a row) adding in some cross-training can help increase endurance and volume without the injury. Spin cycling is a great illustration of a non-impact activity that allows you to work on your leg turnover and speed. This transitions nicely into running.
Motivation- Switching it up can help increase motivation taking you out of the tedious days of relentless running.
Revitalize- restore balance and find longevity in running. Overtraining is not healthy and no one should continuously run hard. This affects your immune system, adrenaline glands and is imperative to keep your insides functioning optimally as well as your outside!
Explore- finding new loves can make even the old ones that much better too!
Rehab- A great way to get back in action without irritating an injury.
As an ultra-runner myself, I absolutely include cross-training in my regimen. As a coach, it’s essential to have cross-training built into my athlete’s programs too. It should be in good proportion to the athlete’s strengths, base, as well as goals and race distances. For those who don’t know my personal story, I’ve had to have several surgeries, in which cross training was key to my comeback. Using a holistic approach, strength and non-impact activities are what I built on until I slowly made the transition into more running. I always keep strength as a priority though, for it has its benefits too!
Lean muscle mass diminishes with age and YOU WILL INCREASE YOUR PERCENTAGE OF BODY FAT…if you don’t strength train. Therefore, strength training increases lean muscle mass and increases bone density. Whether you are a runner or not, you will have stronger bones and longevity to whatever sport or walking you do!
Reduces the risk of chronic disease by improving insulin sensitivity
Reduces your risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (large waist circumference, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar) that raise your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Reduces PMS symptoms
Lowers inflammation. Especially heart disease and cancer-prone peeps.
Improves cognitive function and reduces anxiety and depression. Plus you look damn good 😉
It can even increase your anaerobic and aerobic cardiovascular fitness. Try a circuit, higher intensity program to accomplish this.
And of course reduces the risk of injury by building strength in bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
And don’t forget to explode! I mean do some explosive strength training like plyometrics. This adds a whole new benefit to your running economy, not just the cardiovascular side (only add the plyos if you aren’t focusing on recovery and low impact!)
So How? What? Where? When?
Get a coach that has credentials (not just an elite runner, but one that has a degree or certification…an EDUCATION to back it up).
Get a coach that uses a holistic approach. If they don’t take everything into consideration, you aren’t going to benefit as much. You will most likely lose motivation because the program doesn’t fit into your schedule, lack of communication can leave you with questions, and ideally, you want to improve overall fitness for overall health and wellbeing too.
Consider participating in a running camp. One that includes a learning experience not just running on the trails! At Rugged Running, we include drills for running performance and efficiency, strength exercises for injury prevention, gait analysis, hill drills for strength and power, nutrition (both daily and race), mobility…and so much more.
Invest! I HIGHLY recommend investing in a cardio cross-training piece of equipment. Ellipticals are semi-weight bearing but one of the most useful tools, however, minimally, I suggest an upright bike. This is one machine that you can use through injuries, come back from injuries, as well as work on your leg turnover. Injured or not, machines can have benefits on bad weather days and early morning xt!
Hot Tip: After testing and even purchasing and assembling other brands of ellipticals, I got smart and purchased my elliptical from COLORADO CARDIO. They have commercial-grade equipment so you know you aren’t getting junk! They warranty their work so if you have an issue they will come fix it, and they even deliver and assemble for less than $200.
After having such a great experience with our recent elliptical purchase from Colorado Cardio we have added them as one of our partners so you can get up to a $250 discount on your purchases from Colorado Cardio. To get the discount, follow the instructions on our website that can be found here.
The bottom line is you should always include recovery cross-training after a race, and within your weekly program. Consider strength training full body 3 times a week except for the week after a race, and always try to back it through cross-training if encountering an injury.