Cross training is important when it comes to efficient running. When only running and not lifting weights, your body decreases in lean weight (muscles) and body fat percentage relatively increases. I'm not saying runners who don't lift weights or cross train become fat. What I am saying is that when you only do one form of exercise your body adapts to that one movement. Think about it in the sense that if you don't lift weights and only run, then your body doesn't think it needs those other muscles for strength. Therefore, your body uses the unused muscles as fuel for running, decreasing your muscle mass. However, there have been countless studies showing how cross training (lifting weights, swimming, tennis, cycling, etc) correlates a positive effect on running. You gain more strength, your muscle mass stays constant or increases, and you use other muscles that you wouldn't use while running. This helps you become stronger, faster, and able to run further distances. Overall, an more efficient runner.
While training for an endurance event (half marathon, marathon, ultramarathon, etc), cross training is meant to keep your muscles fresh and used as an active rest day. This means not to completely fatgiue your muscles so when you go for a long run you don't feel worn down and exhausted. You may experience some soreness, but that's normal. You don't want to experience soreness/fatigue to the point where it alters your performance. Now, when you're not training for an event, cross training is a useful tool to build strength. It's okay to completely fatigue the muscles. This will help you increase lean body weight and aid in performance. Your runs are typically shorter on the off season, so you are able to push through the soreness with more power. Then once you start training for an event you will have built up more strength and endurance, hopefully, allowing you to train harder and faster than the previous time before. At this point, you will then decrease the intensity of cross training back down to endurance building.
Right now during my marathon training I am using strength training and spin class as my cross training. It recently clicked with me that I may be over doing it. I run 5 times a week, lift 3 times a week, and spin 2 times a week. That may seem like a lot of exercise, but it's not so much the amount of exercises I have discovered to be effecting me negativity, it's the intensity. I love exercise, that's a given. I want to be the best and work my butt off each time. However, since starting marathon training I have not decreased the intensity of my lifts. My intensity is heavy lifting, while I am enjoying seeing my muscles grow, it's defenitly affecting my runs. I experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for about 3 days after my workouts, and notice my body has been aching while running. While I give people professional advice on exercise regimens daily, I forget that I am not invinsiable and I am only human. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way to correct the obvious. It clicked with me during one of my runs that my body ached, my running gait was off, I was leaning forward, and my breathing was off. I was compensating for my soreness. My point is, when training for an endurance event, lifting is important for strength, power, and getting faster. However, it's imperative to know that you don't want to do as much heavy lifting opposed to endurance lifting. Meaning, using lower weights and more reps. This way you are still fatiguing the muscles and keeping your strength, but not completely tearing down the muscle fibers to cause the type of soreness that last for days. Endurance lifting aids in keeping your muscles strong and blood flowing to them since you don't primarily use your other muscles while running.
The Old Biltmore Building shining on a Saturday afternoon. I usually pass the historic building during my runs in Midtown.
Training Exercise: Latter (agility) Runs. Being quick on your toes is important as a runner. Although for most endurance runners we run in a straight line for the most part. However, being quick on your toes and able to make sudden movements helps build strength around your knees, therefore, decreasing any chance for knee injuries. You never know, you may need to quickly move over to dodge a snake or dead animal. Trust me, it'll happen if it hasn't already.
Latter (agility) Runs
- Lay out a latter, rings, or even cones. Something to make spaces. Make a pattern each time.
- Run the course as fast as you can making as little mistakes as possible.
- Run sideways, quick toes, football drills, long strides, etc.
- This will help your running gait,work on stride lengths, posture, speed, etc.
Training Tip: Protein! After a long run you want to nourish your body and muscles with protein. When running over an hour, your body starts to break down muscle fibers causing you soreness. Consuming protein will help repair your muscles more quickly and efficiently. It will keep your body from "destroying" your muscle fibers. Good sources of protein include protein powder, bars (you want a bar low in sugar less than 6grams, and low in carbs), string cheese, greek yogurt, or even some nuts.
Training Songs: I've adding some old school 90s, songs we have forgotten about, and some now music! Enjoy!
1. Home- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
2. Faster- Matt Nathanson
3. Pump It- The Black Eyed Peas
4. Neutron Dance- The Pointer Sisters
5. Gonna Make You Sweat- C+C Music Factory
Training Lagniappe: These people inspire me. 36 hours of running, yea, why not?!
Jayme Bergeron, BS
ACSM Health Fitness Specialist