Cross-train like Olympian Nick Symmonds to gain strength, increase your speed, avoid injury, and keep things fresh.
Like it or not, running takes a toll on our bodies. Train too hard, and sooner or later you won’t be training at all. The best insurance for staying injury-free is a strong body. And this added strength is best gained not from logging more miles, but from embracing other activities that engage your metabolic system and increase your body’s overall functional strength.
We caught up with two-time U.S. Olympic middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, a huge advocate of cross-training, as he worked out in his adopted town of Seattle—a true urban playground for endurance athletes. We talked with him and his coaches to learn how you can benefit from a varied and fun approach to your run training.
“I’m a huge believer in cross-category exercises,” says Danny Mackey, coach of the Brooks Beasts elite training group and one of Symmonds’ chief advisers. “Because contact with the ground is such a stressful experience, we can’t exercise 35 to 40 hours of running each week like a cyclist can on a bicycle, so you’ve got to get it in other ways.”
So how does cross-training make you stronger and faster?
You can get the same aerobic effect from other activities with less pounding. If you think of exercise in terms of units, you can train longer with low-impact activities than you can with running, allowing you to put in more time building up your speed or your overall endurance than you can strictly by running.
Those of us who love running love to self-identify as runners—and in the past, that meant sometimes forgoing other sports. But becoming a more effective runner now means embracing other activities. It’ll boost your speed, strength and endurance, and lessen your risk of injury. In the end, this will allow you to run longer and faster—which is what we’re all really after, isn’t it?