How to Cross Train for Competitive Advantage vs. Overall Health & Fitness!

How to Cross Train for Competitive Advantage vs. Overall Health & Fitness!

With school back in session, you may have a little extra free time or may just be looking to change up your running routine and schedule! Whether you’ve been running for years or are relatively new to the sport, adding in cross training will not only keep your plan exciting, but it will also help you train your muscles in different ways that contribute to your overall running skills!

That being said, there is a big difference between running-specific cross training and cross-training for overall health and fitness goals. Below, we will break down the benefits to each and give suggestions on how to add a little cross-training into your plan!

Running Specific Cross Training:

What is it? According to RRCA, “running-specific cross training consists of activities that mimic running form and improve the cardiorespiratory system”. The goal is to enhance your training by strengthening running pattern and muscles you utilize while running. Examples of this are “aqua running, cycling, cross country skiing, elliptical, stair-stepper, walking/hiking, swimming, and ice skating” according to RRCA. All of these activities either mimic running form and/or enhance the cardiorespiratory system in a way that will ultimately improve your endurance running.

These types of activities can also be lower impact than running itself and are a great option to add into your running plan to give your legs a break while still contributing to your overall training goals. Level of experience, training cycle, and personal preference are all factors that can help determine how much running-specific cross training you should add in. In general, RRCA suggests about one session per week. A great time to consider adding this in is the day before or after a difficult run, that way you can shake out the legs without adding in more mileage. Overall, think of it as a competitive advantage – you’re getting one step closer to your goal while preventing injury and actively recovering from a hard workout.

Cross Training for Overall Health and Fitness:

This type of cross training is considered as an extra fitness activity that contributes to your overall health and wellness but does not necessarily mimic running form or improve cardiovascular endurance for running specifically. These are fun add-ons to any plan that will keep you excited about exercise and give you a nice change of pace! Examples of this type of training are yoga, Pilates, weight training, kickboxing, cross-fit, HIIT/Circuit training, and other group fitness classes or sports. Be mindful when participating in these, especially if it is a new activity to you, and be careful to take options throughout the workout as needed to prevent injury.

These activities will give you overall muscle strength, balance, stability, flexibility, and more, and can be added on to your training plan sparingly! They are also fun to add in between training cycles for a change of pace and a mental break from logging miles or for a way to socialize and meet other fit-minded people in your community. It can also be a go-to for injured runners looking to stay fit while healing your injury (with your doctor’s approval, of course).

All in all, when considering adding cross-training to your regimen, ask yourself if it will bring you closer to your training goal? Will it give you a competitive advantage? For example, if training for a half-marathon, consider adding cycling in one time per week which will give your legs a break from running while still contributing to your training goal. On the other hand, doing a cross-fit class may be better placed between race training cycles so as not to detract from your overall goals and leave you feeling too sore to run efficiently. The bottom line? HAVE FUN! No matter what type of cross-training you choose, enjoy it and be proud of trying something new and staying healthy while doing it!

Written by: Ashley Morrison

Ashley has over 17 years of running and racing experience and is both NASM CPT and RRCA Certified. For more running tips and tricks, find Ashley at Run With Ashley on Instagram or on her website and blog.

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