One of the best ways to ensure your training is successful and your muscles do not tire out is through cross-training, which helps to strengthen muscles that provide support in running. There are many options that are great for runners: strength training with weights, stretching with yoga, toning with pilates or other forms of cardiovascular exercise to build endurance such as swimming, dance, step or cycling. Two of my personal favorite forms of cross-training are yoga and cycling.
Yoga is particularly great for stretching your muscles. Running often leads to tight hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors. Yoga stretches these muscles to keep them relaxed, as well as help prevent injury. I also enjoy this practice for working on breathing and posture. Vinyasa yoga is a specific type of yoga that connects each movement with breath. Finding the perfect rhythm of breathing during running and improving posture drastically help to prevent cramping. The great thing with yoga is that if attending a class or doing an entire video is difficult with your schedule, there are plenty of yoga stretches that you can do throughout the day or after a run to still reap the benefits.
Cycling is a great cross-training activity to improve endurance and speed. I also enjoy this form of exercise because it is low-impact, which is great to mix up from the high-impact of running. Focusing on approximately 100 rpm will help your foot turnover to increase speed. By increasing resistance, you also build the muscles around the knee to build strength and help prevent injury. This does not require a spin class either, just hop on a stationary bike and put in 15-20 minutes!
Recently I have also been incorporating weights into my workouts. During training, I like to stick to lighter weights with more repetition since building muscle isn’t the focus. Rather, building strength and support is my focus. On the days where I strength train, I typically spend about 30 minutes with just a pair of dumbbells. I also really enjoy bodyweight workouts. These are great, inexpensive options that also can fit into your busy schedule!
In order to fit in cross-training, I like to stick to a three-day running training program. This allows flexibility with my schedule to listen to my body and its needs. Currently my schedule includes a variation of cross-training on three days during the week.
My Typical Week
Tuesday: Run, usually speed work
Thursday: Run, usually a tempo run
Saturday: Long run
I use yoga as an active rest day and always take at least one complete rest day. It’s important to embrace running and cross-training, but also allow your body to rest. Rest is certainly part of the program, too!
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.