MAYO CLINIC -- Last month, Mayo Clinic discussed cross-training as one way to break up a monotonous running routine and to use muscles in different ways. This month, Melissa Mapes, a Wellness Coach at Mayo Clinic, expands on these benefits and shares specific recommendations for long-distance runners.
Melissa has been an avid runner for the past 15 years, and has completed nine marathons and ten half-marathons during that time. She enjoys her work as a Wellness Coach as it allows her to help others reach their overall wellness goals.
Q: How can cross-training improve my running stride?
A: Cross-training can help runners develop a more efficient running stride. During long distance running, the active muscles become strong and less flexible while the opposing muscles become relatively underused. Cross-training can strengthen these opposing muscle groups to create a better balance between active and opposing muscle groups, which allows for an improved range of motion in the joints and the body to be more solid as it hits the ground.
Q: What are other benefits of cross-training?
A: Cross-training can help runners in a number of ways. It can help runners train harder and recover faster, improve race time, prevent injury, increase flexibility, become less fatigued, and waste less energy during distance runs. Cross-training can also prevent boredom by adding something other than running to a workout routine.
Q: What types of cross-training activities are recommended for long distance runners?
A: Strength training the whole body-upper, lower and core-is a must for runners, and should be done at least twice a week, if not three times. Adding flexibility into a runner's weekly routine is important as well. Attending a yoga class once or twice a week or stretching after each running or cross-training workout (making sure to hold each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds without bouncing) is an easy way to increase flexibility. Once or twice a week, it can also be helpful to replace one run with another cardiovascular workout such as biking, swimming, using an elliptical or rowing machine, and interval training. Any of these workouts will also give your joints a break from the pounding that occurs with running.
Q: Do I need to cross-train year round?
A: How much a person should cross-train will vary by individual. As a guide, while training for a race, it's a good idea to strength train at least twice a week, stretch after each workout and ideally take one easy run and replace it with a cardiovascular cross-training activity such as biking, swimming, or elliptical. When a runner is not training for a race, it's a great time to try a new method of cross-training or even amp up the frequency of cross-training during the week.
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Mayo Clinic submissions to Mile Marker are reviewed by the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center team. The Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center http://www.mayoclinic.org/sportsmedcenter-rst treats sports and activity related injuries, creates customized exercise programs and provides preventive care for athletes of all levels.
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