Cross-Training for Fitness & Injury Prevention in Runners

By: Andrew Rathjen, PT

Many of us desire to only participate in the exercise we love. This may be to the exclusion of other beneficial options. The other options may actually be ones that we thought we hated. This can be limiting to our overall health and fitness if we don’t expand our possibilities. Our favorite exercise may be one that we excel at or have simply become accustomed to.

Runners primarily move in one plane of movement and use the same muscle groups repetitively. The lower body is typically more developed in runners. This can be at the expense of decreased upper extremity strength. Lifting a few times a week can help improve power, explosiveness, and performance. Our anatomy is truly connected and complex. Compensation can be our enemy and the more well-balanced our system is, the less likely we are to break down. Lack of flexibility is a common pitfall for runners and the addition of alternative movement patterns such as swimming can assist in decreasing the stiffness.

The weight-bearing stress of running on our joints can also be offset with biking or swimming. Another benefit of cross training is that it keeps our primary exercise from becoming stale. If we cross train on a regular basis, we can establish other interests before we are forced to find a new mode of exercise after an injury. The blow of an injury can be softened if we know there is a fall back option. Happy training!

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