Running can be a rewarding recreation and good exercise. However, it can be problematic if it’s the sole source of exercise and physical fitness. One of the worst things an athlete can do for their health and performance is to limit themselves to the same activity every single time they exercise. A focused, singular activity can increase the risk of overuse injuries, create an imbalance of strength, and limit the potential to improve overall strength, endurance, and stamina.
#1 MISTAKE: Running is your only form of exercise
What should runners be doing? The simple answer is to add more variety to a workout regimen. “Cross-training” allows athletes to train multiple areas of the body, and also train the same areas in different ways. For example, a runner should spend some time lifting weights and vice versa. It can also include cycling, elliptical running, yoga, dance, inline skating, or other activities that build physical fitness.
There are several benefits to cross-training, but the biggest benefit is injury prevention. Overuse injuries are especially common for athletes who focus on a singular practice or muscle group. While Astym therapy is incredibly effective in treating soft tissue damage and overuse injuries, ideally, it’s better to not get hurt in the first place. Overuse injuries are largely preventable. By crafting a workout routine that incorporates cross-training, you can avoid using the same muscles repeatedly and allow for periods of rest between intense workouts. It’s especially helpful to mix low impact activities like yoga and swimming with high impact activities like running.
Just as cross-training can help prevent injuries, it can also help during a recovery period from an overuse injury. While Astym therapy is an optimal treatment option for overuse injuries, the first step many athletes take before seeking treatment is to rest the affected muscles. Cross-training in low impact exercises can help maintain fitness goals while giving parts of your body a rest.
Cross-training is also an effective tool for improving certain abilities as a runner, specifically through strength training. Strength training involves muscle building and strength-building activities such as weight lifting or bodyweight exercises. In addition to benefits like weight loss and body toning, strength training can help runners engage muscle groups that are often neglected in their standard training which helps to create a more balanced fitness level. This can enhance a runner’s efficiency, power, and endurance. Cross-training and strength training are no secret and aren’t difficult to get started. Many physical therapists, athletic trainers, and other rehab professionals can help safely transition athletes and runners into more intense workouts, new activities, or training regimens.