Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cross-Training: is it necessary?

My recent experience with a six week layoff due to an injury to my lower leg left me in sort of a conundrum...what do I do while I'm waiting for my leg to heal? I decided to take up swimming, because it was one of the only activities I could do that did not bring more pain to my leg. I'm actually not much of a swimmer, and at first, swimming laps was one of the most boring things I could think of, and one of the worst. For one thing, I could not swim very far, or very long at a time. I could run 50 or 60 miles, but could only swim for about ten minutes without having to stop and rest. That's when I decided that swimming was a pretty good workout. My arms were activated, along with my entire core, my legs, my entire upper body, and all without any impact at all. So, I have decided to keep swimming, even though I am now returning to a full complement of running activities. So, the question runners need to cross-train, and if they do, what types of activities are worthwhole for a runner? My own investigation led me to the following information: It is not totally necessary for a runner to cross-train, but it makes perfect sense to do so. Activities like swimming are an excellent form of aerobic exercise that works the whole body without the constant pounding of the legs. I would say that for older runners (like myself), cross-training is worth considering to prevent injuries. Running always takes precedence over cross-training, but the benefits of adding a day with no pounding on the pavement that reaps such physical rewards toward total fitness is an important element to think about in extending the life of our running careers. Weight-lifting is also a valued cross-training tool, as having a totally fit and stronger body aids in keeping one strong in the later stages of a very long run. Rather than lifting heavy weights, the goal of weight-lifting for a runner are different than for a body-builder, or a football player. The goal is not big muscles, but a strong, yet lean body that is fit and toned. So, rather than lifting heavy weights, a runner should lift lighter rather than heavier, and for more repetitions. Some people can get added benefits from riding a bike...the fitness rewards are amazing, and again...without the impact of running taking its toll on one's legs. Before you get the idea of my transferring to an event like a triathlon, remember, I'm a horrible swimmer, and I would envision myself not performing well in open water...but, one only has to look at the fitness of a triathlete to measure the benefits of running, swimming, and biking. Something to think about! I am including at least one day of swimming and adding it to my weekly schedule, and lifting weights on my easier running days....and the most interesting part about swimming...I didn't really lose much fitness while I was on my injury layoff. Happy running everyone....see you on the trail! Dr. Jerry W. Hollingsworth


Rita De Palma said...

I agree to cross-training. I became a triathlete when I injured myself over training as a new runner, so started swimming and biking while I couldn't run for 6 weeks. I was 43yo when I started running, swimming and biking (2010), and was not a competitive athlete prior. I was afraid of open water and joined a local masters swim team to learn how to swim. I'm now doing triathlon and marathons and completed my first ultra (50k) last weekend and first Ironman Nov. 2012. "anything is possible" and cross-training is awesome! :)

Jerry Hollingsworth said...

Thanks for your comments, and congrats on your Ironman! That's quite an achievement!

Rita De Palma said...

Thanx Jerry, I'm proud of my achievement and worked hard to train. Thank you for this blog and sharing your stories, I'm impressed. It's athletes like yourself that inspire me to continue to challenge myself. I look forward to hearing more stories like yours and meeting more fabulous athletes that I continue to learn from. Rtia :) P.S. you should try and tri sometime and I'm sure you would surprise yourself. Oh, and don't worry about the "run part" ha ha.