A: Runners are more informed about proper cross training than ever before. If you ask most runners, they will tell you that the importance of cross-training is to prevent overuse injuries. But although injury prevention is the most recognized benefit of cross training, it’s not the only one. Take advantage of cross training to rehabilitate injuries, correct muscular imbalances, rejuvenate the mind and the body by giving yourself breaks from formal training, enhance your motivation and if you’re pregnant — cross train to stay fit. Research also shows that cross training improves your running economy, meaning you’ll go faster, longer and use oxygen more efficiently.
A: The most useful exercises are the ones that are closest to running in terms of muscles used and aerobic systems tackled. Try yoga, swimming, elliptical trainers, cross-country ski machines, stationary bikes and water running. Use the rower machine at the gym in addition to the step machine. Combine your cross-training with running to maximize running fitness with lower actual mileage. Try substituting 25-to-30 percent of your weekly “mileage” with cross-training.
A: Avoid trying to do too much cross-training when you’re injured. This approach can leave you hurting and can even end up hampering your return back to running. Also, cross training can’t help you with your footwear choices, so make sure you’ve got the right shoes during your cross training exercises. Watch for elevated resting heart rate, increased fatigue, repeated illness/injuries or extensity muscle soreness.
A: Variety is the spice of life when it comes to cross-training. Every runner will have to listen to what their body is saying. But if you’re training for a specific running event, I would recommend cross training three times per week. If you run to stay fit, you can cross train 3-5 times per week and run 3-6 times per week. The key is to make sure you are not overtraining and make sure you are taking 1-2 full rest days per week.