Cross Training by Season
Runners have evolved since I entered the sport. Twenty years ago, if my running friends or I were injured we spent the next six to eight weeks complaining about not being able to run. Meanwhile we sat on our butts, gained weight and lost most of the conditioning we had worked so hard to gain.
These days we are smarter. Most of my friends incorporate cross training into their routine year round. Those who don’t use it as a way to maintain both their fitness and sanity while injured.
It took me a long time to admit that there were other sports I might enjoy. It took even longer to admit that there might be real benefits to cross training. While I would like to say I wised up, the truth is cross training was forced on my after I fractured my tibia and found out I couldn’t run for at least six months.
What started as a way to stay in shape and avoid homicidal thoughts while not running has developed into a true love of mixing it up. Cross training not only helps me to avoid many of the overuse injuries I experienced early in my running life, it makes my workouts less monotonous year round.
When I first started, I rotated running, swimming and biking. I enjoy all three sports but routine is routine and will inevitably lose its original luster. In the past couple of years I have ventured beyond my three comfort sports and to mix things up even more I have started cross training based on the season.
In the winter, when the weather more often than not prevents running or biking outside, I take classes that I would normally avoid at my gym or I head into the pool. I use some of the machines I don’t use the rest of the year. I am more likely to be found in a yoga or pilates class in the winter as well.
In the spring, when I like to add to my daily routine, often doing a cross training version of two-a-days, I add hiking through the trails near my children’s soccer practices or an easy ride with some of the other moms while the kids practice.
In the summer, when my kids are home from school, I continue my two-a-days by involving my children in my cross training activities. As often as possible we head out for kayaking or canoeing. We do family bike rides through DC or on Rails-to-Trails bike paths throughout the region. I also take advantage of my lovely teenagers who will stay with my youngest son while I try new sports. This year I am hoping to add paddle boarding and open water swims to the mix.
The only time of the year when my cross training falls by the side is during the fall as I buckle down and focus on the races or rides I have scheduled. Even then, during my taper, I will go back to hiking with the dogs just to avoid going stir crazy.
Running will always be my first love but I have learned to appreciate the benefits of cross training. It is a great way to bring new muscles into play. It helps me avoid the overuse injuries that once plagued me. And it has helped me to include my family and friends in my workouts. But I think the best part of changing my routine with the seasons is that I avoid burnout. I seldom lose my motivation to get out there and even when I do, knowing there is something new on the horizon helps me to get over those humps quickly. Cross training helps me keep the fires burning.
Written by Ann Brennan