Back in September, I went on a pretty epic vacation to the Galapagos Islands. Just weeks away from the Scotiabank half marathon, I was a little concerned about how the vacation would affect my training. Luckily, we picked an awesome trip through a cool company called BikeHike Adventures so there was no shortage of activity. Every day we did something active. As you might assume we biked and hiked, but we also snorkelled and kayaked. In fact, that trip also marked my longest and most intense bike ride of my life: a 32K mountain bike up to the largest pit crater on Santa Cruz Island.
The vacation came and went. I came home and completed training and finished the half marathon without issue. Turns out all that non-running activity didn’t derail from my training after all. In fact, it might have actually even been good for it!
For runners, cross training is actually the best thing ever. Here’s a few reasons why every runner should add some cross-training to their weekly routine.
The most common and widely recognized benefit of cross training is injury prevention. When you do one activity over and over, you work the same muscles all the time. That overuse that is so common in runners is one of the main causes of injury. Mixing it up is a great way to prevent injuries. By doing things like bike riding, weight lifting or swimming, you build up strength and endurance in your running muscles, without beating up those super vulnerable joints like your ankles, knees and lower back.
While not a guarantee, there is a widely held belief that all runners are able to run faster and more efficiently by doing some cross-training vs. training by running alone. Other sports help improve your overall fitness which in turn, makes you a better runner.
If all you do is run, chances are, you’re going to get bored after a while. Adding in a variety of different exercises like bike riding, hiking or weight lifting can help increase your motivation to get out there. If the thought of running seems arduous but the idea of going to a spinning class seems more enjoyable, DO IT! There’s plenty of times where I don’t feel like running and would rather go jump around in a class at the gym. At the end of the day, you’ll end up in a much better place than a runner who doesn’t cross train.
Being sidelined with a running injury sucks. I suffered from some IT band related injuries post marathon last year and it was devastating. There is nothing more frustrating to a runner than not being able run. Doctors generally recommend that runners who suffer from running injuries take a break from running. However, there are some activities (like swimming) that injured runners can do while they heal. This can be key maintaining fitness and dealing with the frustration and disappointment that comes with running injuries.
I recognize that cross training in the Galapagos Islands is a much more appealing opportunity than going to a spinning class at your local gym, but the bottom line is, cross training is awesome and makes you a better runner. No more details needed. Now go out there and ride a bike.
Wondering what sorts of activities are good cross training activities for runners? About.com has a great list here, along with their associated benefits.
If you want to know more about the trip I went on, you can check out the itinerary here. Also, I highly recommend this trip if anyone is planning a visit to the Galapagos. It was absolutely one of the best trips of my life.