Although cross-training provides numerous benefits, too much of a good thing can be counterproductive and detrimental to your running. For example, partaking of certain cross-training activities on a scheduled rest day can leave you tired prior to an important workout, such as a long run (especially if you're in training for a half-marathon or marathon).
Furthermore, engaging in certain cross-training activities can actually increase the likelihood of an injury, particularly during the mileage buildup stage. This, in turn, can prevent you from completing the training necessary to attain your goal of finishing a distance event, from a 5K to a marathon. After learning from this chapter about which cross-training activities are beneficial for running, choose your cross-training activities carefully and schedule those sessions to enhance rather than detract from your running goals.
Benefits and Purposes of Cross-Training
Some of the great benefits of cross-training are that it adds variety to your training and decreases the chances of burnout. Also, certain activities, such as cycling, strengthen running-related muscle groups and soft connective tissue, and so help to prevent running injury. You can occasionally substitute cross-training for easy-day running as an aerobic workout.
Cross-training, of course, provides an extra way to burn fat. Many cross-training activities, such as rowing or using a climbing wall, increase upper body strength. Upper body strength is very important in races of all distances, since neck and shoulder muscles often become fatigued. Upper body strength is also important for running uphill.
Precautions and Considerations
Use common sense when deciding whether to add a particular sport to your fitness regimen. Avoid high-impact fitness routines, especially those with quick or sudden movements. Don't participate strenuously in sports in which quick movements can traumatize the soft connective tissue that surrounds the knees and ankles.
Remember, cross-training is not intended to replace running but rather to supplement and enhance it. According to the concept of sports specificity, in order to excel in a particular sport or activity, you must train your muscles and body systems by participating in that specific activity.
A 90-minute bike ride can't substitute for a 90-minute run because bike riding doesn't provide the same training effect as running. The bike riding has benefit, however, as it can improve your overall cardiovascular endurance and strengthen your leg muscles with less impact stresses on your legs.
Sudden strains or tears resulting from just a fun pickup game can seriously sideline your running goals, so if you've been putting in training time for a big race, why risk it? Also avoid high-impact sports with quick or sudden movements like tennis, racquetball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, downhill skiing, kick-boxing, and aerobic dance.