Lora Vaccaro: Cross-Training, A Critical Element

Lora Vaccaro has become an avid user of her ElliptiGO. Photo: Lora Vaccaro

This week’s topic got me fired up: cross-training! It’s a critical element in preparing for any race distance, but it is often neglected. I’ve learned the hard way. I’m undoubtedly stronger and faster when I incorporate non-running workouts into training. These sessions not only help me fight injury, but add variety to the regular weekly grind.

Once upon a time, I thought marathon training only required running. My naive running self met the consequences of my inexperience in the form of overuse injuries. I suffered the likes of plantar fasciitis, shin splints, piriformis syndrome and worse. Each injury caused pain and cost recovery time. Eventually I realized I needed more than running to become a stronger athlete.

Through trial and error, I’ve found cross-training workouts I enjoy, that also address some physical imbalances and weaknesses. I’ve tried studio classes, private instruction, and at-home workouts. My preferences shift as I become more confident in my training and more skilled at these non-running options.

The reality is cross-training can be both simple and effective, as long as you do it. While I’m always fine-tuning my ideal combination of exercises, I personally enjoy the following:

Strength Training: I love simple body weight exercises. They’ve helped me increase overall strength, tone muscles, and combat known weak spots. Admittedly, I prefer working with a trainer to ensure correct form; however, I’ve learned enough to do many of these routines at home. The bonus is you don’t need complicated equipment for an effective workout.

ElliptiGO: I don’t blame the elites for turning to ElliptiGO to cross-train. I’ve owned one of these since 2010. It provides an unbeatable cardio workout. Like its gym-bound cousin, it’s a no-impact workout, but mobile and outdoors! It’s gentle on the joints but provides a beast of a workout, especially on hills. I also use mine at home on a stationary indoor trainer.

TRX: TRX is a great tool for strength training at home using your own body weight. Setup takes minutes by securing the straps over a door. The amount of exercises you can do with TRX promises you won’t be bored, and you can vary the difficulty based on your fitness level.

Spinning or Cycling: I love the intensity of a tough spinning workout, and appreciate the quick recovery time. I spent years going to studio classes. Eventually, I replaced the classes with a road bike. While I’m still getting my feet wet with outdoor cycling, I love the convenience of my road bike on the indoor trainer. Whether on my own, or following a video workout, this allows me to fit a spin session in any time of day, in any weather.

Yoga: Yoga is an incredible workout. It strengthens, tones, elongates muscles, improves flexibility and provides a meditative forum. When I practice regularly, yoga does wonderful things for my overly tight running muscles and joints. Its biggest benefit—for me—is the environment it provides to decompress from the stress of everyday life and visualize training.

It’s true that cross-training helps maintain a healthy, injury-free body on the way to a marathon. Yes, it requires more time on top of everything else we do. And yes, it is one of the easiest targets for elimination when we are stressed or time-crunched. Trust me: it is worth the extra effort, time, and creativity to fit it in. Your body will thank you for safeguarding it during the increasing demands of marathon training.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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