When running is your primary form of exercise, it's easy sometimes to neglect other types of exercise that can benefit your overall health and wellness. If you are training for a distance race or running for total weight loss and fitness, it's a good idea to consider adding cross-training to the mix to build strength and endurance, as well as give your running muscles a chance to recuperate while still improving your overall fitness. No matter your running goals, consider adding one of the five workouts to your exercise plan to complement your running routine.
A regular yoga practice can improve running times as well as reduce running injuries by giving runners a chance to develop flexibility and strength in the core, hip flexors, and other parts of the body critical to running. Adding yoga to your routine can improve not only your physical health but also your mental health. Multiple studies have shown that yoga can decrease the negative impacts of stress.
A few laps in the pool on a regular basis can go a long way in helping runners build endurance and strength in a low-impact manner, giving their muscles and joints a chance to recover from intense running schedules. Different swimming strokes also help build strength in areas often neglected during a running-based exercise plan, such as the arms and gluteus muscles.
3. Weight training
Adding a few days of weight training to your weekly routine can not only increase overall levels of strength while also improving the overall running economy, which in turn can increase overall speed. Another benefit to weight training is the improved metabolism of runner. If you are running for weight loss, consider the fact that strength training can increase muscle mass, which in turn boosts your metabolism and allows the body to burn more calories while at rest.
Road or stationary cycling are good complements to a running routine, as this form of exercise uses the same leg muscles as running but provides a low-impact form of training, which reduces the chance of injury. Cycling for long periods of time is also a great way to build endurance, which can improve overall running.
It may seem counterintuitive, but walking is another form of exercise that can help runners build endurance, which is vital when training for a long distance race such as a marathon. Walking can be incorporated directly into a running plan through the use of walk-run intervals, or walking can be conducted as a separate activity on rest days to build endurance while resting muscles and joints.
Runner's Knee: What It Is and How to Avoid It
Runner's knee, more formally known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is one of the most common complaints of regular runners. Runner's knee happens as when the back of the kneecap (or patella) rubs against the top of the thighbone. The irritation can cause sharp and sudden pain or dull and lingering pain or some of both at the top of the kneecap or all around it. Often the pain of runner's knee will disappear while you're running but return or worsen when you climb or descend stairs, sit for a long time, or squat.
The most common causes of runner's knee are overtraining and weakness in the muscles that keep your kneecap correctly aligned (that is, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles). So, not surprisingly, some of the best ways to keep runner's knee at bay is related to your training schedule and cross training.
Make sure you listen to your body when making your running training plan, starting slow and increasing your mileage by no more than 10% a week. Stretching before and after runs and incorporating a minimum of one day of rest a week will go a long way to keeping your knees, as well as the rest of your joints and muscles, pain-free.
Try adding a weight routine to your training schedule two or three days a week, concentrating on those muscles that support the knee. You can also add bicycling or cross-country skiing to your training regime, both of which are excellent ways to develop the quadriceps. You might want to take up swimming, especially while recovering from running-related injuries. Swimming is a low-impact, full-body, cardio and strength workout that adds real value to any training plan.
If despite your best efforts, you still find yourself suffering from runner's knee, try over-the-counter pain relievers before and after a run for short-term relief. You can also ice your knee (no more than 20 minutes) to help with swelling and pain. Some braces or taping might also help. Wearing proper fitted training shoes will help tremendously.
If the pain of runner's knee persists, consider cutting back on your mileage, perhaps replacing it with low-impact, knee-friendly activities like swimming and biking. Also, avoid running hills until the pain subsides.
Runner's knee is a common complaint of most serious runners, but it doesn't have to be. With attention to building up the muscles around the knee and adopting a reasonable training schedule, most runners can avoid this painful malady.
Overall, adding a day or two of voluntary cross-training workouts to your weekly running routine is a great way to recover from hard or long runs. By doing so, you can build strength, speed, and endurance, as well as boost metabolism and prevent injury. Remember to stay safe when developing a running plan and consult your doctor or a medical professional when making any significant changes to your fitness or experiencing any pain or injuries as a result of running and cross-training.