Importance of Cross Training for Running Better

Cross training gym

Cross training refers to using one kind of sport to improve training in your primary sport; in this case, the primary sport is running, and there are tons of sports and physical activities that can be performed for cross training purposes.

Cross training helps construct the muscles that are not utilized while running. It basically balances your muscle groups. Running usually builds up the muscles on the back of the leg and neglects the muscles in the front. This can lead to painful injuries for the runner. Running also does precious little for the abdomen and upper body, which might result in an unbalanced form.

Cross training is used to tone all the muscles in your body and overcome all problems related to running.

How Cross Training Benefits the Runner

For a novice, cross training can strengthen the cardiovascular system, tone up the muscles, and help avert overuse injuries. It can help the beginner ease into a physical training regimen in a smart way, steadily building up his or her body in a balanced manner.

An experienced runner can get the advantage of strengthening the upper body. If you are someone who is running marathons or ultra marathons, you can also benefit a lot with cross training. If you are suffering from an injury, you must begin cross training as soon as your injury heals. Proper cross training will help your injury heal and maintain your fitness level.

In addition, if you are on a vacation or traveling and cannot maintain your regular running schedule, you must make use of cross training to ensure that you do not lose your form. Many hotels will have a gym. If not a gym, they will definitely have a swimming pool where you can swim or water jog or do water aerobics. If you are not too keen on that, you can also do yoga or aerobics in your hotel room itself. You can resort to cross training to maintain your fitness during extremes of weather when running becomes really torturous.

Activities Considered As Cross Training for Running

There are numerous activities that can be considered as cross training. Here are just a few.

Swimming

Swimming, unlike running, focuses on working on the upper body. It can help you relax after a rigorous workout. It is also one of the best workouts around.

Rowing

Rowing also pays attention to the upper body and also the abdomen. This is beneficial if you have been running for a long time. It teaches you to balance your upper body.

Strength Training

Strength training helps you during an injury. It also helps in balancing the muscle groups. So does yoga. In fact yoga helps in toning and conditioning the muscles used for running.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing strengthens your whole body. So does roller skating and ice skating.

Gymnastics or Dance

Both gymnastics and dance are great activities for building up entire-body strength, endurance, and flexibility. Give one of them a try. Even if you’re not comfortable going to a gym or joining a class as a beginner, you can easily find good gymnastics mats to use in your own home, which can then be used for gymnastics training, dance, or even yoga.

Other Kinds

Other kinds of sports include water jogging, biking, race walking, baseball, basketball, tennis and similar others.

All kinds of runners can benefit from cross training. If you’ve never cross-trained before, you’ll find that doing so improves your performance in your primary sport. Give it a try.

Challenge of Running

A runner running in winter

This article was contributed by James C.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only soft bodies.” Bill Bowerman said it best. When Im at home enjoying the television, hearing the rain outside pour and pour; that feels like cozy weather, napping weather.

But when I’m outside, pushing through several miles, shivering under heavy soaked clothing, it doesn’t feel to cozy anymore.

A Winter to Remember

The winter of my senior year, I felt like the entire world had gone mad. That weather itself was out to destroy me! Everyday had to be colder than the next. So, in light of this, I became stubborn, and pushed through what ever came at me, up until I reached this utter physical and mental breakage. Now in spite of this, you would assume Id become wiser for it. That maybe, this circumstance could be avoided in the future. But unfortunately for me, I had a revelation. On one sunny evening in early February I was stretching before my workout, and it came to me. Quality over quantity. See in cross country, endurance is key, but you need also foot speed and stamina. In track, the 400m and 800m (my events) foot speed and stamina is key. You need speed and you need to be able to be fast for a long time. The 800 may seem more distance, but not quite where I lived, where the big boys played, it was nothing but a sprint to them. So when I say quality over quantity I mean going on shorter runs, and decreasing my times. Run shorter and faster. I felt like a freaking genius! Ofcoarse I had my speed workouts at the track, but I wanted to combine that into my endurance training. A hybrid frankenstein, of track workouts. Ok, so im not some revolutionary, trainer or anything but it was new to me and my body, and I was excited.

Also, A Summer to Remember

Running in the heat, is literally like having a monkey on your back, but you dont know it’s there, and gradually it wears you down till your nothing but a wimpy shell of your former self. My plan for this revolutionary training was coming off great. My times decreased, and my strength definitely increased. I think it was around early April I noticed things were getting a little tougher. My times steadied, and then eventually slowed down! Now you can understand i was pretty frustrated with that. So what does stubborn, moronic me do? Push harder. Little did I know that I was slowly crippling my legs. Rest should be the number one thing on a runners mind. Proper amounts of rest is important, or basically your screwed. I honestly can say that three weeks of my life, for about 3 hours a day, I felt like I was dieing. Pushing through the pain my times improved, I managed to even get some new pr’s in certain interval trainings. But man was I tired. Running became a chore, and thus my velocity fell and my willingness decreased greatly, I wasn’t the competitor I was anymore, and no matter what anyone tells you that is what you need overall everything, endurance, rest, stamina, foot speed are all second to the will to run and that sense of accomplishment we all get.

To the Future

The breakdown. It was a sunday evening, I was very tired running, most sundays are full of multiple workouts. Normally, I wake up early and run, workout after, run lightly in the afternoon, and then a full time run in the late evening. I was at the high school on the track doing mile intervals, because my second lap in the 800 was to slow, I needed to fix that soon. I believe it was the third lap on the fourth mile I started to falter. Cold sweat was pouring all over me, and the sun was so bright going around turn four, I couldn’t even look up. I noticed my toes started to skid on the track, and I tried to pick it up, but I couldn’t. Stopping is never an option (other than heat stroke), no matter what. You lose so much when you stop on a run. So I had to press on, my splits were well enough for that point in my workout, but that particular lap was terribly slow. I picked it up. Pushing and churning I felt every muscle in my body scream simultaneously. The final 200. Every runner I’ve talked to, speaks miles of the final 200m, in long races. Some say the final 100m is more important, because that’s when the runners fully kick and push out everything they have. But psychologically the last 200m is the monster. You dread the coming onslaught towards your body, but you don’t stop. Its almost as if your running to your doom, willingly! The last 200m puts the idea in your mind your going to have to push even harder than you already have. So their it was my final 200 meters. I was freaking out, but I didnt submit. I moved every gnarled, tightened muscle in my body, with extreme displeasure until I made it home. The line was sweet to cross, even if for just a second, but as soon I stopped I feared I had pushed to hard. That mile was 10 seconds faster than any of the other three, with a lap that was 12 seconds slower than any lap I ran that day! How I managed such a pushed, in the heat, with that monkey riding me, I don’t know, but I did manage a smile, well, before I passed out. I woke up about an hour and a half later on a picnic table next to the track. It was dark, and I had absolutely no idea where I was, slowly moved my aching body up, got in my car, and went home.

The break down was painful, and I was too sore to run for three days. But unlike this time, my body may have been destroyed, my mind was very much aware. I meditated on the scene, for hours focusing on what gave me such ability. It was just me, doing it for me that day. No track, no cross country, no angry coaches, or disappointed fans, I remembered for a second the actually reason I was running, and though im no to sure on it now, and im sure not alot of runners are, I knew the facts even if it was for that split second pushing down the last 200 meters. Endorphins would rolled through my mind and body with that acknowledgment and that’s exactly how I ran a 4:20 mile after 3 previous miles and eclipsed a personal best by 5 seconds. What runs through my mind about that day, is unbelievable. I’ll never be able to do that again, I know. But the once in a life time moments are why we do it everyday.

Why and How to Taper Your Runs

Tapering is a running term that means taking a break from training in order to give your muscles a time to repair themselves from all the damage you’ve been incurring on long runs. This recovery period usually takes place about three weeks before a big event, such as a marathon, and it’s a gradual process. Three weeks before an event, many runners cut back to about 75% of their normal run. The next week finds them at 60% and the week after that one finds them at 50% or 40%, depending on how they’re feeling. These percentages refer to the distance of your runs, not necessarily the effort you’re putting into them, although hard sprinting is generally discouraged when you’re tapering.

The benefits of tapering are obvious. Muscles that have had time to heal will feel better on race day and will also be much less likely to be injured if you take a misstep or push yourself a little too hard. Tapering can also get you more excited for an event, particularly if you’ve been training for a long time. Many veteran runners see the start of tapering as the start of the event and they spend those shorter runs getting mentally geared up for the big day. Tapering can also be rejuvenating, particularly if runners have been more fatigued as runs have become longer and cumulative stress on the body has taken its toll. Although cumulative fatigue is normal, it can be frustrating for runners and tapering takes some of the edge off.

However, tapering in itself can be frustrating for some runners who enjoy their running time and find themselves with excess energy when they cut back on their runs before a race. To avoid feeling jittery or crabby during your tapering period, be sure to get plenty of sleep. If you miss the time to yourself that long runs provided, try to fill that time with other activities that are just for you, such as catching up on reading, taking long baths, or indulging in a long visit with a friend. You can also eat foods that increase your feel-good hormones including serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Whole grains, nuts, salmon, and avocado are all likely to make you feel better without weighing you down or giving you an artificial sugar high. If you really feel like you can’t take it anymore, you can take an extra run, but be sure to take it easy the next day.

How To Care For Persistent Running Injuries

One of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise all around the world is running and people of all ages will engage in this activity on a regular basis in order to stay fit and healthy. However, running injuries can occur regardless of whether you are a marathon runner or a casual jogger and as such it may be a good idea for you to learn how to care for and prevent these injuries.

Preventative measures are always the best way to go. As anyone will tell you, prevention is better than cure, and as such it is a good idea for you to take certain measures in order to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.

The best way of doing this is to make sure that you run in the right way and you dress for the activity. The most crucial aspect that you need to consider when you are running will be your shoes. You need to focus on purchasing running shoes that are well fitted, comfortable, and specifically designed for running. At the same time it is important to you to warm up before you engage in any running exercise and warm down after you have finished.

It is also important to you to think about how frequently you run as well. This will be particularly important when you are first developing a routine. If your body is not experienced in the high impact activity of running then injuries are more likely to occur. As such, it is a good idea to develop a load schedule to start with and then build on this as your body gets used to the high impact activity.

Repetitive injuries can be treated primarily through rest. Any injury that you suffer from with your knees, ankles, hips, or muscles, can be naturally repaired by the body if given enough time. Of course, this will depend upon the severity of the injury, but in most cases rest should be sufficient. All you need to do is simply reduce the amount that you run, reduce the number of times you run per week, or stop running completely for a specific time period.

During your rest periods away from running or on a reduced schedule you can make up your exercise routine by engaging in other cardiovascular activities. Try to focus on cardiovascular activities that are not quite so high impact and don’t have such an effect upon your joints and muscles. For example, swimming and cycling, or using machines in the gym such as the cross trainer, will be very beneficial.

If you find that you do have areas of your body that seem to be prone to repetitive injuries then it is a good idea to try to build up that specific area. This sort of rehabilitation can be done through physical therapy or by working with a personal trainer.

Always make sure that you do see your doctor or your physical therapist if certain injuries to persist. It is important for you to get a proper diagnosis so that you can find proper treatments for more serious injuries.

Shin Splints from Running

Anyone that has ever exercised knows that when you begin there are aches and pains that must be worked through. After your body has been at rest for so long, it doesn’t want to get up and work so it must be trained to. One of the many kinks that must be worked out is often shin splints. Shin splints refer to pain in the leg. It is not the diagnosis itself, rather the description of the type of pain you are having.

According to healthline.com shin splints are pains in the front of the lower leg caused by exercise. They usually appear after a period of relative inactivity.

What Causes Shin Splints?

There could be many sources of the pain. The real issue is finding what caused it and fix the problem. Exercise is obviously the main culprit, but there is probably an underlying problem such as the shoes you wear. More causes include not stretching properly and the environment you are exercising in such as running at the gym on a treadmill or running around your block on the pavement. Carrying your body weight while your feet are pounding on pavement can be very stressful to your legs. There isn’t much there to absorb the shock.

How to Deal with Shin Splints

There are many remedies that can help ease the pain of shin splints, however, the main thing is staying off of your feet until the pain is gone. Do not try to suffer through the pain. This could cause more harm than good. Your legs need time to heal before you try again. You should also put ice on your legs every night for about half an hour. This helps reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatory medication such as Aleve can also be taken to help with swelling. If possible, message your legs every night along with the ice to promote healing.

Preventing Shin Splints from Reoccurring

Once your legs are healed and you feel you’re ready to start exercising again, you should take some preventative measures to keep the pain from coming back. The first thing to look at is your shoes. Are they made specifically for running and exercise? You can go to any sports store and they will be able to tell you if you need new shoes. Another thing is stretching. This is very important. It helps warm your muscles which reduces strain. You wouldn’t think of starting your car and instantly driving off in 20 degree weather, would you? Your body is the same way. One more tip is to stay off the pavement until your body can handle the stress you’re putting it through. Try running on a treadmill if one is handy and if not the grass should do just fine.

The Benefits of Running

running at dawn

Why is it that more and more people are running than ever before? It’s not just a coincidence; the sport has many great benefits to the human body. Also, any runner can tell you that running is addictive. It’s a great habit that many people have formed and stick to. What’s in it for you?

1. Increase Cardiovascular Health

One of the greatest benefits of running is increasing your cardiovascular health. Every know and then, doctors will be astonished at the low number of heart beats per minute in their patient. The patient will most likely say that he or she is a runner. Running makes your heart work harder, so that when you are not running your heart will beat more slowly than before. Running will lower blood pressure and maintain the elasticity in your arteries. The arteries are contracted and expanded three times as much during running than resting. Running will increase your overall bodily functions, decreasing your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.

2. Shed Pounds

In order to lose one pound, you must burn 3500 calories, which can be divided into 500 calories a day. Many runners are able to burn that amount under an hour due to the great deal of energy put into running. The more energy input, the more calories burned. The number of calories burned depends on a person’s weight, intensity of the exercise, and length of the workout. Normally, about your body releases 0.1 calories/minute per pound of body weight. Losing weight is a great motivation for running because of the quickly burned calories. It doesn’t have to be painful. Start off slow and before you know it, running will be a habit. If you find yourself thinking that the workout is too long, grab a friend to motivate you and keep you company.

3. Better Your Mood

When you are upset or angry, try going for a jog. It could even be five minutes long. Runners say that if they are in a bad mood at the beginning of a jog, by the end they are rejuvenated and happier. No wonder! Running activates hormones that allow you to better your mood. Also, it can significantly boost your self-esteem and confidence. When runners set goals ahead of time, during their run they push and motivate themselves. Accomplishing goals can be one of the most rewarding feelings.

4. Slow the Age Process

As runners age, their joints are kept healthy and the chances of experiencing bone and muscle loss are decreased. Because of the demands of your bones during running, they will become stronger while growing as well. Preventing your bones from weakening will lessen the chance of developing osteoporosis.

5. Improve Your Coordination

Many runners have more coordination than those who do not engage in the activity. Why? Running requires a person to hold themselves up straight and go ahead on the designated path. This requires work from the body that will show significant improvement in coordination. Running on trails is even more beneficial because you must run unpaved paths with uneven surfaces, not to mention the rocks and tree roots in your way. Improved coordination will help you in any other exercise and daily activity. You will see that you won’t be trying to find your balance too much.

There are so many great things that come from running, but be careful. Invest in a good pair of shoes that is designed for running. Also, make sure to warm-up and stretch before and after your workout. Do not run if you have any knee pain already. Running can be great if done properly.

Happy running!

Tips for Dealing with Arch Problems when Running

Many runners will eventually deal with arch problems, and arch problems cause a lot of pain and eliminate you from competitive running pretty quickly. Here are a few tips to help you deal with arch problems when running.

Don’t be afraid to take time off

This is one of the most important things to remember when you’re dealing with any running injury. You’ll inevitably need a bit of time to heal, so don’t push yourself. When you start feeling arch pain, study how you’ve been running and where you’ve been running.

Don’t run on uneven surfaces

This can cause serious arch pain, and take a few days off when you begin to experience arch trouble. You can replace your exercise with some other aerobic activity and you’ll be fine. Try biking, swimming, or working out with an elliptical machine, but don’t run for a little while. Your feet will thank you.

Buy good arch supports

You can buy arch supports at just about any retail store in the country, so get a good set. You don’t need to worry about whether the supports have “gel,” or any of those other fancy features; really, you just need something to give your arch a little bit of support. Buy some arch supports for your casual shoes and a separate set for your running shoes. Make sure that you buy arch supports specifically for your gender and activity level-athletic arch supports are different from casual arch supports, and men and women’s feet are a bit different, so it’s a good idea to make a specifc choice.

Stretch

You should already be stretching, especially if you’re running large distances. Add in a few arch stretches if you haven’t been doing so already. Press the tip of your foot against a wall or a tree stump, and slowly add pressure to stretch out your arch. Many hamstring stretches can also help. Everything’s connected when it comes to feet and legs; stretch everything, and you’ll greatly limit the arch pain that you feel while you’re running. Stretch both before and after you exercise.

Pay attention to the pain

Your body doesn’t just hurt for no good reason. It’s trying to tell you something, and if you ignore arch pain, you’re going to run into arch problems that get worse and worse until they’re permanent. Keep track of your arch pain, and don’t run if it’s getting worse. In fact, don’t even walk.

If you’re already wearing arch supports, and you’re still hurting, elevate your feet and apply ice for 20 minutes at a time for about an hour total. Keep stretching, and don’t push yourself. Arch problems are one of the most annoying things that a runner can deal with, but you’ve got a good chance of getting over them if you spend a bit of time paying attention to your pain and giving your arches exactly what they need-rest and help healing.

Avoid Running Injuries

One of the biggest challenges of running is avoiding running injuries. Running injuries are so frequent that people have come to accept them as part of the sport.

An analysis by the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that different studies documented injury rates ranging from 19% to nearly 80%. The knee was the most common site of injury.

While getting injured is certainly possible when we run a lot, we should be aware that there are steps that can be taken to decrease the risk of injury.

In a more recent study conducted by the British Army, a series of strengthening and stretching exercises were found to decrease the likelihood of injury in this study of new recruits going through training.

This confirms that running injuries may well be prevented by engaging in a consistent program of stretching and strengthening. In my experience, many runners just like to run, and it is difficult for them to get motivated to consistently engage in other supporting exercises. It might help to think of a routine of yoga two to three times per week as cross training, rather than thinking in terms of a more traditional stretching program.

In addition to strengthening and stretching as ways to decrease the frequency of running injuries, runners can also protect themselves by using sound principles in the development of their running plan. It has been shown that increasing mileage too quickly increases the likelihood of developing an injury. Be patient and increase mileage gradually. Even increasing mileage by one mile per week can add up substantially over the course of a year.

Runners should also be aware that the number of consecutive days you run can be related to injury. Spacing out those running days allows time for restoration of the muscles. Those “off days” are great days for aerobic cross training, yoga, or strength training.

We runners can be a little compulsive, so don’t forget that our mind can be our most important tool in avoiding running injuries. In addition to strengthening and stretching, remember to enjoy the run, relax, don’t focus on time, and don’t get too caught up in racking up long miles or fast times.