My go-to cross training activity is swimming. When I do it consistently I really feel an improvement in my endurance level. But, to be honest, it's also the activity that I opt out of a lot. When I feel like my body needs rest I'm more likely to skip a cross training day than I am to miss out on a run...
I'm even worse with body weight strength training and CrossFit type activities cause let's face it... squats suck, burpees will kill you, and no box is low enough for me to jump on it without immediately falling off.
The problem with being inconsistent with cross training (mainly because I'm not good at it) is that I will NEVER be good at it without being consistent. I really have no excuse because consistent cross training with steady improvement will help me run better and stronger. And when I’ve stuck with it during my marathon training I’ve noticed those exact results.
Over the past few years and training cycles I've complied a list of my top 7 cross training tips that (when I actually follow them) have proved to be beneficial. My goal is to follow them as I train for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6th because I have some serious PR goals for that race...
Hopefully some of these tips will help you when training for your next big event!
1. Choose a cross training activity that you LIKE to do
Nothing is worse than dreading your workout. And, if you choose a cross training activity that you hate, you're less likely to do it (and certainly less likely to do it well). Try and incorporate a form of cross training that you like to do! Make it a "break from running" that will ultimately help improve your running.
2. Cross training should supplement (not impede) your running
If your cross training activities are too intense then you essentially won't give your body enough time to rest and recover. With marathon training "time on your feet" matters a lot. However, if your muscles are sore from your running miles AND sore from all the minutes you spend cross training, then eventually you'll be too sore to do anything at all! Cross training should complement your marathon training, not detract from it.
3. Schedule cross training with the same commitment that you give your training runs
It's easy to give in to the temptation to skip a cross training day. Try not to. Make it an essential part of your overall marathon training plan and tackle it with the same commitment that you do your runs. Of course, if your body needs rest or you're injured then take the time off you need. But don't skip cross training just for the sake of doing so. It's important so treat it as such.
4. Join forces with a friend for extra motivation
You know how those miles fly by when you're running with a friend? Well cross training can be even more enjoyable when you're working out with a friend. Use the opportunity to motivate each other while simultaneously supporting each other. Whether it's one more rep or one more lap in the pool, help each other get it done!
5. Avoid impact activities that don't allow your legs to rest
Running works specific leg muscles and they need rest. Doing high (and even moderate) impact activities can inhibit your ideal "leg rest" period. Try to incorporate cross training activities that work different muscles and are less taxing on your legs. It's especially important to work on strengthening your core and upper body (as those areas tend to be neglected when marathon training).
6. Track your progress just like you track your miles
Who doesn't like setting a goal and accomplishing it right? Cross training goals are important. Start off by determining your baseline (e.g. How many pool laps can you swim without stopping? What weight can you lift for strength training? etc.) and aim for steady incremental improvements. Do you max out at 20 squats? Aim for 25 the next time. Can you swim up to 800 meters? Aim for 1000 the next time. Focus on gradual improvement and celebrate those accomplishments!
7. Don't forget the goal is to become a stronger runner!
At the end of the day when you’re training for a marathon your goals should be to finish strong and injury-free. And, for many of us, we also want to finish as fast as we can while ensuring those first two goals are accomplished. Cross training should always focus on those end goals. It should be fun and, just as importantly, it should be beneficial.
Since we are at the official start of training for the Pittsburgh Marathon (did you guys do the kick off training run last Sunday?) now is the best time to figure out what cross training activity (or even a couple of activities) you're going to do to get ready for the big day! And if you still haven’t registered yet, use my discount code: YOUNGDSGPM18 for $10 off your registration fee (you can register HERE).
I look forward to seeing you on the course!
What’s your favorite cross training activity?
How many cross training days do you schedule in your half/full marathon training plan?
True/False: Squats are worse than Burpees (my answer – TRUE!)