Cross Training for Runners

Cross training is a type of training where the athlete trains in more than one sport in order to enhance their performance in their selected sport. For someone who trains in running cross training would involve a different aerobic sport such as swimming, cycling or strength training.  Running has great health benefits for the cardiorespiratory system, but what most runners forget is the importance of training the body to build muscle, bone, tendon and connective tissue strength in order to help prevent injury and muscle imbalances from running. This is where cross training strength training with running will come of great importance.

By adding in strength training into a runner’s workout regime we are becoming proactive in injury prevention, building muscle and flexibility, and correcting muscle imbalances. Let’s take a deeper look into why strength training is beneficial for injury prevention. Injuries that are common in running include Patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee), Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splits, iliotibial band syndrome, stress fracture, and patellar tendon (The most common running injuries and how to prevent them, 2016). These injuries are all caused from one of the following problems: weak muscles, tight muscles, tendon complications, or the breakdown of bone. As we know strength training is important for the human body as it helps strengthen muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissue. Moving forward with cross training it is ideal for a running to get strength training into their routine, so we can take the preventive route avoiding injuries by strengthening the weaknesses. These injuries can come from the constant overuse of the same muscle in the repetitive movement pattern. Injuries will also come about if the runner changes the intensity too quickly putting the body in a vulnerable position from this change of volume. If we add in strength training to avoid the same pattern use we will eliminate the risk of further injury and help reduce the pain if there is an injury. With the strength training we can still target the same muscles, but we would be doing it in a way that will build the muscle to become stronger and healthier. The stronger the muscle becomes from the strength training the least likely it is for the runner to fall into an injury. The most common muscle to be weakest for runners is the glutes. It is important then for the runner to include in their strength program exercises that target to strengthen the glutes. Exercises that are great to target the glutes include: various forms of squats and lunges, glute bridge, deadlifts, and step ups. We want to focus on compound movements that not only focus on strengthening the lower body, but as well as the upper body and the core. It is important to realize the importance of strength training with respect to your core. Strength training will help strengthen the core which then transfers into better posture throughout the day and during your running which will be most beneficial for long distance runners (Why runners need strength training, n.d).  

When an individual is doing strength training it is important we remember to include in some stretching to make sure the body stays flexible and reduce the risks of tightness in muscles. Running can cause tightness in the calves, hamstrings, quads, and TFL. One of the most common injuries which is patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by tight or weak hips. Thus if the runner is to cross train by adding in strength training we can work on strengthening the hips and this reduces the chances of getting this particular injury. By strengthening the hips we are giving the runner a more stable support system as we are making the runner stronger which can allow the runner to make improvements in their performance.

Remember runners a great way to prevent injuries is to try out cross training. Cross training will allow you to build muscle, joint, bone and connective tissue helping to reduce the likelihood of becoming injured. You don’t have to strength train to become a body builder because that’s not the goal here. The goal is to help enhance your performance and allow you to excel in the sport you love.

Please stay tuned for more upcoming articles that will examine how cross training can help with muscles imbalances and how it is better to do strength training over another aerobic sport.

References:

Fitzgerald, J. (n.d). Why Runners need strength Training (and how to get started). Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://breakingmuscle.com/running/why-runners-need-strength-training-and-how-to-get-started

Schwecherl, L. (2016). The Most Common Running Injuries and How to Avoid them. Retrieved August 18, 2016, from http://greatist.com/fitness/most-common-running-injuries-and-how-avoid-them

 

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