Cross-training: the benefits

Emma Dunnett, as a keen Runner, has learnt the benefits of Cross-training and here’s why!

Cross-training can take a variety of forms depending on your sport. Typically runners will use any form of non-impact activity such as cycling or swimming to maintain fitness, bridge the gap in a period of injury or to reduce weekly impact in a high intensity training phase. Cross training has a wide scope of benefits to your training and should be considered a useful tool as part of your weekly training all year round. Particularly as we are heading into the winter season, cross-training can act as a vital element of training when the weather is too wet or cold to venture into.

Of course, I absolutely support training in these conditions for two reasons:

  1. Training in tougher conditions makes it easier to race in tougher conditions;
  2. It’s ‘mentally’ challenging to train outdoors on those cold days, which helps with your resilience for both tough training sessions and again, for racing in poorer weather conditions.

To get a reprieve from cold and/or wet conditions, cross training can support your training and racing goals, whilst keeping you indoors. As aforementioned, cross-training for runners is often a non-impact activity, with the aim of supporting your training plan, paying particular attention to replicating what you could achieve if outside. However, it has the added benefit of buffering your joints for a session and keeping your body warmer and less-likely to risk a cold-weather-related injury. Cold weather itself does not cause injury, but failure to warm up properly in colder temperatures certainly can be a risk factor.

For cross-training to be successful, it needs to support the effects of your usual training, i.e. what training zone are you aiming to work in, what is the aim of the training session, what benefit will this form of cross-training specifically have? To break that down, your cross-training session should follow the same principle as when you take yourself out for a run and can simply be replicated in another form of activity. The benefits to a specific choice of cross-training may be training or racing goal related, but it can also be driven by mental health.

From personal experience, I appreciate that some forms of cross-training need to be process and performance driven, in order to achieve specific goals. However, I would also encourage a form of cross-training that brings you enjoyment and allows you to simply look forward to training. Performing one discipline of sport for a long period of time, take preparing for a Marathon as a prime example, can be mentally exhausting, let alone the physical exhaustion. The monotonous, yet essential training can take its toll and it may be that choosing an enjoyable form of cross-training breaks up that monotony and gives you a fresh look into your running-specific training for the week ahead.

If nothing else, cross-training allows you to explore different forms of activity and maybe you’ll find something that you didn’t expect to enjoy.

Cross-training can be beneficial all year round to facilitate your training and racing goals, as well as reducing your weekly load and support injury prevention.

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