SparkPeople Blogs  •  cardio  •  running

The Benefits of Cross-Training: Now I'm a Believer

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my current running injury. I’ve got Achilies tendonitis, and have been doing weeks of physical therapy which will (hopefully) get me running again. When the therapist told me I wouldn’t be running for at least 6 to 8 weeks, I panicked for a few reasons.

First, I love to run and use it as a stress reliever. So I’d have to find a new hobby, at least temporarily. Second, I didn’t know what else I was going to do for exercise. Aside from a few days of strength training each week, running has been my only form of cardio for a very long time. I became a very fit runner and was proud of the fact that I could easily go out for a 6-8 mile run any day of the week. And because I liked it so much, I never saw much of a reason to try any other activities. That is, until I became injured.

Being forced to try other activities has shown me that I’m not really as fit as I thought I was. Although I became a good runner, I was pretty unfit in a lot of other ways. My flexibility was terrible, and because I never cross-trained, other cardio exercises were more difficult for me than they should be. I know the benefits of cross-training and when people ask for my advice, I encourage them to try a wide variety of activities- both for enjoyment and for overall fitness. But there are many times when I don’t take my own advice, and this was one of them.

Four weeks ago, the thought of incorporating other activities into my permanent routine would have sounded ridiculous. The idea that I might only run 3-4 days a week would have been absurd. But I’m learning that if I want to be a lifelong runner, and if I want to be fit in a wide variety of ways, I’m going to have to cross-train. They might be activities that I don’t enjoy quite as much as a good run. But my running days are numbered if I don’t start taking better care of my body.

Whether your primary form of cardio is running or some other activity, you can still benefit from trying different exercises. Cross-training is a great way to condition other muscle groups that you aren’t regularly working. It also gives a rest to those muscles you’re consistently stressing, which helps prevent injury. Cross-training also helps prevent boredom and can add a boost of motivation to your regular routine.

Do you cross-train? Do you like trying a variety of cardio activities, or do you tend to stay with just one?

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I love to cross train makes going to the gym fun because I am never bored with the same everyday routine. Report
I love to run too. I broke my foot early in the summer and was forced to move to water only activities. I think I did okay with that... but dang it, if as soon as I was cleared, I laced up my shoes and hit the bricks again. It's pretty much become my only cardio again. Because running is free. How does one cross train when you don't have a gym membership? a bike? or pool access any more? and no extra funds at the moment to get any of these things? Report
I not yet the runner I would like to be, but I have been cross training. I have incorporated yoga and now spinning into my workout and have started to notice changes in my body and my fitness level. In particular, the spinning has made my legs stronger which has made my running better. As a bonus, the variety makes working out much more fun. Report
I love running and sometimes it can be hard to remember to cross train, especially since running is as easy as putting on my shoes and leaving the house. But there are a couple of other activities I like to do to mix things up and I try to do them at least once or twice a week in addition to my normal running schedule. I especially love road biking and yoga. My husband recently discovered a community pool so we're going to try to get over there to swim more frequently and maybe that will lead to a few sprint triathlons - who knows? I'd also like to do more dancing, but I'm hopelessly lacking in rhythm and afraid to dance in public - hence my Netflixing several dance workout DVDs to do in the privacy of my living room. None of it replaces running as my favorite activity, but it's all fun! Report
Thank you for this blog! So timely as I was out of running for several months. One of the biggest mistakes I made was no cross training and it caught up with me. I now do my ST every other day. Report
On-going injuries have made it necessary to cross train. Usually, biking was my go-to sport when running injuries hit. Now I'm at the gym using weights and taking boot camp. And I'm more consistent with yoga. I'm always surprised at how difficult it can be to incorporate new exercises into my routine. I feel out of shape when I add new weight exercises or when a new exercise is introduced at boot camp. There's so much more to being fit than just having great aerobic capacity. Weight training and yoga help create a balance and provide core strength which is important in running and everyday activities. Report
I, too, have a short attention span. I can't imagine running for any long period of time (yet).
I enjoy a variety of activities and classes at the gym, taking advantage of the Les Mills classes offered such as BodyPump (strength training), BodyJam (dancing), and BodyFlow (tai chi/yoga/pilates). I've even taken up yoga to gain flexibility and have been complimented on my better posture and lean appearance. Report
I have a short attention span at the gym, so I use several different machines over the course of one visit. I'm a beginning runner, and I am terrified of injuring myself and having to stop running again. I've done it once already, and during the two weeks off I learned to use the elliptical machines and I really like them. It is hard for me to tell if the cross training helps me run, but it is definitely getting me healthier. I can go for 45 minutes or more without trouble breathing. Report
The same thing happened to me. I tried to start the C25K program, but when my knee ballooned up on me and my orthopedist told me to cut it out, I joined Planet Fitness and tried the elliptical for the first time. Clearly, I hadn't been getting an aerobic workout before! Since I started, I've improved noticeably and am thrilled to have found a new challenge. Report
About 3 years ago the gym I belong to first opened. I offered everyone in the family a membership and about a year later my first son took me up on it and a year later the second did. Since then, they have each become personal trainers. Well, now the younger one is at college and the older one works at another gym. My older son makes up a new routine for me each month, and it is different for Mon, Wed, and Fri. He introduces me to things I never thought to do before, so even when he gives me an exercise I don't particularily care for I do it because I know there are 7 or 8 more that are new and exciting for me that same 45 minutes. It is great to have such good personal trainers so close to home (even if he doesn't come to the gym with me, his cross training works). Report
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