Author: Clyde Rosanowski, Triathlon Australia – Development Coach (Level 1) and member of the BRAT Triathlon Club
Quite simply our running performances are a direct result of a few main factors which make up our overall performance; Vo2Max (size of our engine), running efficiency (economy/biomechanics). One of the key limiters to us developing the first factor (Vo2max) is injury. Put simply not all of us are blessed with the biomechanics of an Olympic Marathon runner and can’t sustain massive running volumes. We know that we need to progressively build up our overall aerobic endurance but don’t want to push too far with our r8unning and get injured.
Cross training can be the answer. What exactly is cross training then? Cross training is participating in another sporting activity to compliment your primary sport, in this case your running. So, what can we do? Swimming, Cycling and Gym work are the obvious choices.
I’ll start with swimming. A lot of us runners swim like stones which makes a few lengths even more of an aerobic challenge. Once you have mastered a continuous swim of say 1km in the pool it is time to have some fun and do things that are just plain hard when running. By this I mean, high intensity reps with minimal recovery time. As swimming is zero impact you can manage more high intensity, more often and with shorter recovery. A session like 300m warm up, 5 x 100m at max pace with 30 sec recovery and 300m warm down will get the blood pumping but not leave you wrecked for days like a running track session may.
Cycling has fantastic aerobic benefits and a lot less impact that running. You can also get to new places that you may never running or even in the car! Remember to be road aware and obey all road rules as unlike when you are running you are treated as a car when on your bike. Spinning which means high revolution pedalling is a great way to pump the blood through your legs and is awesome for recovery. A 90 min flat ish ride a few times a week will do wonders for your running. Be careful not to go out and do 7 hour rides if running is your primary goal as this will promote weight gain in your legs.
Strength training in the gym should be the runner’s best friend. Old fashioned core work will keep you in alignment when running and improve your biomechanics in each step. Pilates and Yoga are also awesome supplements to your running program and promote strength and flexibility which are both critical to running fast and injury free.
When I began thinking about what I was going to write in this post I began to think about the sheer volume of people that started by adding a little cross training to their run program and then became Triathletes. So, be careful or you may love the variety so much you change sports!