While it’s true that more time spent running will go farthest in helping you improve as a runner, there are also occasions where you’re better off doing something else entirely.
Cross-training is great for a number of important reasons:
- Minimizes risk of overuse, repetitive strain-type injuries and ailments
- Helps build supplemental fitness including strength and flexibility
- Offers low impact alternatives to aid and expedite recovery from hard running
- Breaks up the monotony of repetitive and continuous running
Depending on how much you run, cross training for just a few days each week is a great addition to any training plan.
Be sure to choose activities that you enjoy but which also challenge you to improve aspects of fitness oft-ignored by running such as general strength, flexibility and upper body exercises. Weights, yoga and swimming are all good options. Cardio activities such as cycling, spinning and even brisk walking are also great for non-running days and offer effective means to actively recover. Cross training can be done for a little as 20 minutes but as much as an hour (or more), several times per week.
Cross-training should be scheduled for non-running days but should also not replace rest days meant to be taken off completely. Cross-training can be particularly beneficial for days following hard workouts and long runs when running more may be risky but alternative (cardio-based) activities can aid in recovery. When feeling sore, fatigued or on the verge of injury, cross training can often be used safely and effectively to maintain (perhaps enhance) fitness while also not risking further problems caused by running.
Continuous running and training can also become boring, stale and uninspiring over time. Cross training offers an opportunity to break up the monotony of running while providing a physical and psychological boost to your exercise routine.