Cross-training means including a variety of activities in your training routine, and there are many potential benefits to training this way for a marathon.
One, cross-training can decrease the chance of injury because it balances your weaker muscles with your stronger ones. If your cross-training includes low-impact activities such as swimming or water running, you will also reduce the stress on (and potential for injury to) your joints. If your cross-training includes activities that build upper-body strength, such as swimming, you’ll also reduce your risk of fatigue and injury in the late stages of the marathon, when neck and shoulder muscles often become fatigued. (Upper body strength is also an important asset when climbing hills.
A second reason to cross-train for a marathon is to build core strength, which is essential for maintaining proper form throughout the marathon.
A third reason to cross-train is to reduce the risk of burnout. Doing non-running workouts will give you a much-needed mental break from running, which is especially important for those training for long-distance events such as marathons.
Cross-training should replace running workouts; you should not add it on top of all the running you’re doing, especially at this point with the marathon less than six weeks away.
Dr. Jennifer L. Solomon is a board-certified physiatrist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Her practice is devoted to using non-operative and minimally invasive treatments of spine and sports injuries. Dr. Solomon served as a team physician for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and has worked at such sporting events as the ING New York City Marathon, other races, and tennis and volleyball tournaments.