Cross-Train Like A Triathlete

Adding some cross-training to their workouts has numerous benefits for runners. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Become a better runner by adding swimming and cycling to your workouts.

Have you ever considered that the road to your fastest marathon or half-marathon might require more than just running? If not, you should.

Generally speaking, the best way to improve as a runner is to train as a runner, but unless you were truly born to run, focusing solely on running is probably a very limited strategy. Elite marathoners typically log 100 to 140 miles per week for months on end, but few age-groupers have the rail-thin physique, dynamic strength and soft-tissue elasticity to handle the grind of even half that volume, and attempting it can quickly lead to injury and burnout.

For the rest of us, a dynamic cross-training program can help reduce injuries, accelerate minor injury rehabilitation, facilitate recovery and build aerobic fitness, power and efficiency. It also might be your path to reach new PRs — from the 5K to the marathon — and possibly greater longevity as a runner.

RELATED: The Case For Cross-Training

Cross-training like a triathlete — mixing in appropriate sessions on a bike and in the pool with a reduced amount of running — can actually help many runners endure a higher workload than they can with running alone.

“The approach of doing other types of exercise other than a single-sport discipline really helps you become better balanced with your fitness,” says Scott Murr, an exercise scientist and one of the directors of the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. “When you’re in your 20s, you can get away with solely running to some extent, but, especially as you get older, you’ll need to supplement with other activities.”

It doesn’t mean you have to all of a sudden become a geeked-out triathlete with a $5,000 bike and a garage full of gear. But runners beware: training like a triathlete is often a gateway to racing like a triathlete.

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