Do non-running activities help you run better? Which activity is the most effective? If you’re curious and search online and ask around, you’ll get a lot of different answers. While most people mean well, it can be confusing when everything from swimming to P90X is recommended to help you “cross train”.
Furthermore, it can be frustrating when the fastest runner you know swears by yoga and you realize…you hate yoga.
Oh, by the way, I’ve been playing with Pixton.com graphics! It’s great fun. Anyway….
Everyone seems to have their own answer about the type of cross training you should or should not do. What to do? Find what works for you. Trust me. It’s worth it.
I believe there are two criteria for the most effective cross training:
- It addresses your biggest “need” – the area you could improve the most.
- It’s an activity that you enjoy.
Ask yourself this: Where can I improve the most? What is my biggest need?
Do you immediately think “SPEED!?” Most of us do….
In reality, it may be overall fitness. I know that is a super unsexy answer, but the truth is many adult-onset runners, like myself, found running in a fitness void.
We went from sedentary to long-distance jogger. We started off thinking running alone will get us in “better shape.” Then, 10 half marathons later we’ve hit a plateau. Our fitness has improved narrowly, but not overall, and we don’t seem to be getting any better at running either….
If you have room to improve your overall fitness, than ANY activity that will help you do that is likely to result in easier or faster running.
If yoga makes your core stronger or P90X helps you loose weight, that is awesome! Chances are that will positively impact your running.
The funny thing is, many adult-onset runners who swear by one particular exercise routine simply experienced an increase in overall fitness. Therefore, they called that exercise “cross training” and started promoting it as such. Again, they mean well, but it could be completely unhelpful for you.
What if I’m super fit?
If you are fit as a fiddle, you probably need to do activities that have a more direct relationship to running than, say, Zumba. I mean, you can still do Zumba for funsies, but it won’t directly improve your running all that much.
Many seasoned runners who say one particular form of cross training works best have simply found an activity that meets their biggest needs; correcting an imbalance, targeting a weakness, preventing injury.
Usually these cross training activities are things like cycling, swimming, elliptical, or even strength training.
No matter what you do, you have to like it.
If you hate your cross training activity, you aren’t likely to get much out of it. I often hear runners say: “I did THIS and it worked better than anything else!” What they mean to say is, they liked doing that activity better than anything else, were consistent and therefore, saw more results! So ask yourself:
What activities do I actually like to do?
Someone once told me she hated yoga but would do it if it would help. You have to be REALLY passionate about running if you’re willing to do something you hate, with regular consistency, for no other reason than the fact that it might benefit your running.
If you’re not
passionate getting paid for that torture, then I suggest you keep looking until you find something you can like as opposed to simply tolerate.
The more you like it, the more often you’ll do it.
This is true for all people with fitness goals, not only runners!
What do you think?
- Do you consider any and all non-running exercises to be good “cross training?”
- If you want to improve as a runner, do you consider improving your overall fitness?
- Do you use non-running activities for “mental cross training” or to prevent boredom?
- Is there a common cross training activity that you can’t stand?