Yes. Whether you’re preparing for your first 10K or looking to achieve a new personal best, cross-training can be of benefit.
The term “cross-training” refers to the use of different forms of exercise to train for a specific sport. For instance, if you’re a runner, you might do some of your cardiovascular workouts by biking, swimming, deep water running, cross country skiing, using an elliptical trainer or ElliptiGo bicycle, and/or rowing, rather than only running. Non- or low-impact cross-training workouts can be done on “off days” or easy days, without adding the impact stress that running involves.
Cross-training also prevents you from becoming stale, both physically and mentally. Doing only one kind of exercise can be boring, and it can lead to overuse syndromes. Varying the kind of exercise that you do can keep you excited about sticking with your regimen. You’ll also see greater physical benefits, because your body needs a variety of exercise stimuli to continue to improve fitness—and you’ll use different muscles and joints, and in different ways, which will help prevent injury. For all of these reasons, cross training can help you prepare for your 10K and can enhance your performance.
Another kind of cross-training is exercise that’s supplemental to a run. Many people like the simplicity of running—the ease of just putting on a pair of running shoes and getting started. However, it’s a good idea to prepare your muscular system to absorb the shock of running. Our muscles work best when they’re in balance, and a dynamic warm-up before your run can help you keep or improve that balance. Include exercises to strengthen your buttocks, hips (especially the muscles on the side of your hips), quadriceps (the muscles in front of your thigh), and calves. Don’t forget to stretch as well, once your muscles are warm, to aid flexibility.
Last, but not least, it is important to incorporate rest into your workout regimen.
Theresa Chiaia is a physical therapist in the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. She has been a part of the HSS Women's Sports Medicine Center since its inception and has consulted with and performed pre-season screening examinations for the New York Liberty and college soccer programs. Chiaia coordinates the HSS team at the TCS New York City Marathon Monday Recovery event, helping runners to stretch, providing consultations, and talking about post-race recovery.