Doing other forms of exercise as well as running can help keep you fit without loading your joints with too much impact. Cross training can mean using muscles in different ways, allows tissues, muscles, joints and tendons to return to optimal health and gives you a physical and mental break from the repetitive nature of running. Here’s our pick of the best ways to cross-train:
Swimming is a great cardiovascular and muscular supporting exercise. It’s non-weight bearing (your body is supported by the water) and so gives you a break from the impact of running. It’s particularly good at working runners’ arms and shoulders, improving breathing control and promoting increased range of movement and flexibility. Swimming can also be great for muscle recovery and general relaxation. Swimming can help maintain aerobic fitness and so can be built into a regular running programme.
Including some deep water running or aqua jogging into a regular running programme might not be everyone’s cup of tea yet it does keep injuries at bay, especially if you’re prone to breaking down with too many miles. Aqua jogging is carried out wearing a buoyancy belt in the deep end of a pool (ideally at a quiet time of the day!) and is performed as a running action underneath the surface. Make sure your chin is just above the water surface, keep a slight lean forward at your hips and use your arms in the same way as you would on dry land. Imagine pushing off the bottom of the pool when your foot is under you.
A well-structured strength-training plan can help prevent new or recurrent running related injuries. Improved running efficiency, economy, enhanced performance and ultimately enjoyment. It’s important not to randomly select a bunch of gym equipment that gives you an aerobic thrashing but to identify a series of structured, personalised and relevant exercises.
An effective running specific strength and conditioning program should follow include exercises for all the major muscle groups, notably the back, chest, legs, shoulders and core. A qualified personal trainer should be able to help you put together a good plan.
All over body conditioning, flexibility, strength and toning for running can also be improved by joining an exercise class. These vary from low impact and low intensity relaxation classes like Tai Chi and Pilates through to high energy classes like Body Combat, Zumba dance, Body Attack, Spinning and step/aerobics.
Yoga helps improve and maintain an optimum range of motion, flexibility and the quality of stability, strength and the way in which the feet, legs, pelvis and spine relate to each other. This can improve your ability to absorb and dissipate the ground impact force and help prevent problems often found in the knees, lower back and IT bands. Yoga is also good for the development of breathing technique and control. Yoga breathing techniques have long been used for stress reduction, greater energy levels, and an improved nervous system. Through effective breathing runners can release excess muscle tension, improve core stability, coordination and performance.
Cycling (outdoor road and MTB)
Cycling doesn’t generate impact forces like running does and it offers a great cardiovascular workout. As a runner you might like an undulating, hilly route. Seated riding helps works the hamstrings and standing on the pedals as you climb helps works the quads. Hills are the best way to get a tough cardiovascular workout on the bike in a short amount of time. Off road riding on a mountain bike is a lot more varied than road riding and gives you an extra upper body dimension to your biking workout. The balance, control, and lifting and carrying of the bike all mean that riding off road riding helps uses other muscles and skills as well as developing your stamina.
British Military Fitness classes
BMF provides a challenging, motivational and social workout in the outdoors. Classes take place in parks throughout the UK, are led by military style instructors and provide varied whole body workouts.