What is cross training and how to do it

Cross-training means practicing an alternative activity in order to improve the aerobic capacity you need for your main sport. For die-hard runners like me, this often means the kind of activity you have to do to keep fit and that you apprehend when you are injured. Fortunately, not all runners are like me, and most enjoy practicing other endurance sports. To get the most out of your running, consider cross-training as an important asset to your exercise regimen.

A good example of cross-training is a triathlon, where you swim, cycle and run—three endurance sports that require different techniques, all of which have beneficial effects on your cardio. For a runner, the benefits you get from cross-training have to do with improving and increasing your cardiovascular capacity, which will ultimately increase your running performance, without putting your body through the mechanical stresses associated with running.

Cross-Training: A Win-Win
Every day, we deal with various forms of stress, both physically and mentally, that must be considered when developing a training program. When pounding the pavement, your body absorbs stress at each step. Running is one of the endurance sports that puts the most stress on the body. If you add to that the stresses brought on by school, work and life, how can you improve your cardio without overloading your body with running and risking injury?

Fortunately, thanks to cross-training, you can push yourself and work on your endurance, while limiting the stress on our body. On the other hand, if you have pushed yourself a bit too far and feel pain and injury, cross-training becomes the most effective way to keep fit during rehabilitation. In this case, it is worth remembering to always follow the advice of a health professional.

Various Types of Cross Training
The three cross-training exercises that I recommend and that are similar to running are aqua jogging, cycling and elliptical. In this order, the impact on your body from these activities ranges from lowest to highest. So if you want, at all cost, to avoid impact or intense stress on the body, you should choose aqua jogging. If your body is able to handle some impact on the lower limbs, choose the bike or the elliptical machine. Either way, any of these activities are much less taxing on the body than running.

One way to keep these activities more specific to running is to practice them with the same movement frequency that you would running. If you consider that you take between 170 and 200 steps per minute while running, you should lower the resistance on the bike or elliptical slightly to keep the same pace as you would when you run. The same applies to aqua jogging, where you would normally move at a speed that keeps your head above the surface. If you choose to go at a faster pace, you will increase your heart rate, similarly to running. My favourite tool to track my cross-training heart rate is the Polar M430 watch. It’s water resistant and has a heart rate monitor on the wrist.

In short, cross-training is an essential tool for any runner, either to push yourself to your physical limits, or to keep fit when recovering from injury. A running program with an integrated cross-training component can definitely help you maximize your potential while maintaining healthy stress levels on your body.

Ready to add a little variety to your training? Everything you need for cross-training, be it ASICS workout clothes, bike shorts or athletic bathing suits, can be found at Sportium!