Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Sweet Two Cents On Cross Training For Runners

There is no doubt that running has so many benefits, but I must admit that running alone cannot make you stronger and fitter in a short span of time and by continuously doing running alone as a sport, you are most prone to injuries on the knees, legs and lower extremities.

In running, No Pain No Gain is not applicable...

I have experienced that when I had this condition on my legs, forcing me to stop running for a month and I also noticed that no matter how much I run, I still have this flabs on my upper body that is so hard to get off.

When I was luckily included in a triathlon group, Philippine Diabetic Athletes, that's the time when my eyes are opened to two new sports, cycling and swimming. Not to mention, I have the biggest professional coaches in town! Coach Patrick Joson for my cycling and running and Coach Anthony Lozada for my swimming.

I love swimming with my family and friends but I really don't know how to swim. I just play with the kids on the poolside. I am so afraid to go to the waters alone since I have a trauma, once in my life I almost died by drowning and I never forgot it since. But Coach Anthony was so patient with me. He is very encouraging and patient with me. Until such time that I feel comfortable with the water, and then I started swimming. He is impressed by how strong my legs are while I swim. It's the one that propels my body to move faster in the water.

"It's good for crosstraining", a fellow PDA member told me. And from then I started getting curious about this "Cross Training" thing.

Swim. Bike, Run... or everything! ^_^

What is Cross Training?

According to, "Cross training is typically defined as an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to develop a specific component of fitness."

What are the benefits of Cross Training?

Here are few of the numerous documented benefits cross training has to offer:

  • Reduced risk of injury. By spreading the cumulative level of orthopedic stress over additional muscles and joints, individuals are able to exercise more frequently and for longer durations without excessively overloading particularly vulnerable areas of the body (e.g., knees, hips, back, shoulders, elbows and feet). People who are particularly prone to lower-leg problems from running long distances should consider incorporating low-impact activities such as elliptical training, cycling and swimming into their regimens. It should be noted, however, that competitive cross-trainers can experience certain overuse injuries due to inadequate muscle rest, an unbalanced workout schedule, or both.
  • Enhanced weight loss. Individuals who want to lose weight and body fat should engage in an exercise program that enables them to safely burn a significant number of calories. Research has shown that such a goal, in most instances, is best accomplished when individuals exercise for relatively long durations (i.e., more than 30 minutes) at a moderate level of intensity (i.e., 60 percent to 85 percent of maximal heart rate). Overweight individuals can effectively achieve a reduction in body weight and fat stores by combining two or more physical activities in a cross-training regimen. They can, for example, exercise on an elliptical trainer for 20 to 30 minutes and then cycle for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Improved total fitness. Cross training can include activities that develop muscular fitness, as well as aerobic conditioning. While an individual's muscular fitness gains will typically be less than if he or she participated only in strength training, the added benefits of improving muscular strength and endurance can pay substantial dividends. For example, research has shown that resistance training can help individuals prevent injury, control body weight and improve functional capacity.
  • Enhanced exercise adherence. Research on exercise adherence indicates that many individuals drop out of exercise programs because they become bored or injured. Cross training is a safe and relatively easy way to add variety to an exercise program. In the process, it can play a positive role in promoting long-term exercise adherence by reducing the incidence of injury and eliminating or diminishing the potential for boredom.
To add to this, one benefit of Cross Training is that you can explore different kinds of sports. I was only into running before but now I learned to love swimming and cycling and, maybe you can also discover that you are also good in those sports too!

What are the sports/activities that you can do for Cross Training?

1. Cycling - According to scientific researches, runners benefit the most from cycling. Studies have shown that cycling can improve a 10K PR by 9%, a quicker 5K performance by 3% and a 2-Miler by 1%! Cycling allows runners to attain all three goals of cross training heightened workout intensities, improved leanness, and greater strength. Road cycling or Indoor Spin Sessions in the gym are the best ways to do it. Cycling can make you sweat like a wet sponge so it's also good for flushing away toxins in the body and a great way also to lose excess weight.
One hour on this baby will burn you 400-600 calories at least!

2. Resistance Training - Popularly known as Weight Lifting. A recent study has linked resistance training with a 4% improvement in running, reducing heart rates while doing so, and improving race times at distances from shorter runs to marathons. Older research linked it with a 20% upscale in endurance (at intensities which could be sustained for a little over an hour) and a 13% spike in endurance when running at about 2K race pace. Resistance training also protects runners against lower body injuries, and who cannot attest to the fact that circuit training provides a great cardiovascular workout, and a hiking muscle power. It can mold your muscles and give you a strong figure that will make you fitter and strong looking. The gym is the best place to do this, with the help of Personal Trainers. But if you can't maintain it, you can invest in bars and weight and just follow a youtube video to target a certain muscle part.

This setup will do! (
If you want an alternative, you can get TheraBands, these are the only resistive exercise bands endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). These 6" wide latex bands come in different, color-coded resistance levels, distinguished by the thickness of the band. What are the advantages? It's cheap, you can bring it anywhere and it is small to carry around.
RUNNR BGC is selling them for Php290.00. Check with them for stock availability before rushing to the store. It's a best-seller!...
3. Swimming - It is an activity that is easy on the joints, supports your weight, builds muscular strength and endurance, improves cardiovascular health and cools you off and refreshes you, and one that you can do safely even at an old age. It is also good for the lungs because of the breathing exercises you have to do while performing the activity. For runners who has sore legs this is most recommended since it's low impact, and it surprisingly burns a lot of calories more that you've ever imagined, without tiring you off so much. For more resistance, you can try aquarunning.

An Olympic Size Pool measures 50 meters, a good one is MASA located in West Rembo, Makati

4. Stair Climbing - For those who's knees and lower legs are already beaten up, it's time to work those quad muscles (upper leg). A recent study shows that individuals who participated only in stair-climbing workouts for 9 weeks improved their running performances as much as athletes who engaged in regular running sessions. If there's a negative thing to stair climbing, it's that the actual stride rates are seldom very high even during maximum exercise, so it's hard to learn to run fast on a stair-stepper but eventually, you'll get there. This will also prepare you if you want to do Trail Running or Mountain Climbing since this will make you legs into a climbing monster!

BodyStep is a great workout to torture the leg muscles, while playing cool music!

5. Aerobic Exercises - If you are fun loving and enjoys dancing then this one is definitely for you. Even if you do this alone at home or attend an Aerobic Class, it will help you a lot in burning calories. It also provides an outstanding cardiovascular workout, boosts quadriceps and hamstring strength, improves coordination, and can make runners quicker on their feet. In addition, the upper-body movements used in aerobic dance may even tone up runners' torsos a bit so those with upper body problems like me are to benefit on this.

Other sports like Tennis, Soccer, or even Golf can also be considered as Cross Training activities, as long as it will benefit you in burning calories, toning muscles, building stamina, endurance and you love to do it, it can be a good choice for you.

My Tips on How To Start Cross Training:

1. Choose what you like - Everything starts with experimentation. You can try all sorts of sports until you find what's beneficial and best for you. Also consider your resources like time, money and energy.

2. Start slow, start low - Even if you are an experienced runner it doesn't mean that you are already good at another activity or sport. Start at the beginner's level of any sport or activity that you will engage into. By doing this, you'll avert possible injuries and you will enjoy the leveling up once you get used to it.

3. Do not strain yourself - If you have a full running schedule and you will add a cross training activity, I suggest you don't do so. This will cause much fatigue and it will not be beneficial to you. Try to stick with your training days but use a cross training activity as an alternative of some days allotted for running.

4. Chose the ones that will not use the muscles that you sore during running - As for me, I don't do sports/activities that uses too much calf muscles like the stepper. I go more on resistance training to prepare my muscles and heart for hardcore running.

6. Hydrate, Eat Well and Take Supplements - Always make sure you hydrate yourself well especially if you sweat too much. Like what Gatorade says "An hour of exercise is equivalent to 1.5 Liters of sweat". Always eat healthy food. Avoid junk food and foods that are high in salt and fats. Don't starve yourself. Doing so will just make you eat more. Try to eat in small portions but in frequent manner. Try to eat more carbohydrates before exercise and protein after. Try to supplement with a good vitamin to help your body recuperate faster.

5. Have Fun! - Sports and activities should not feel like a punishment. You should always enjoy what you do because if not, you will eventually walk away from it. Always find pleasure in things that you do, it's much rewarding to finish a circuit with a smile though the muscles are aching!

For those aspiring triathletes, the routine of swim, bike and run is already considered as cross training so no need to add more activities, unless you really want more or enjoy another activity.

After a month of incorporating resistance training on my fitness routine, I noticed a significant increase in my strength. I can now run better, faster without tearing myself down easily. It really does help to do alternatives, and I realized I love to grow muscles! I want to try bodybuilding!

I want to achieve this buffed bod! ^_^
Running is my first love, and it always will be. Trying out different sorts of sports doesn't mean you have to leave your first love behind. It's just like trying out another thing and gaining benefits from it, but eventually it's gonna improve your running abilities. There's no harm it trying!

I would love to hear your cross training stories soon!

Good Vibes everyone and Sweet Running! ^_^


Carla @ I Run, You Run said...

Where do you swim? I've been wanting to find a pool here!

The Sweet Life Runner said...

I swim at MASA, it's just infront of University of Makati in West Rembo, Makati. The pool is good for training and it's cheap. Fairly clean and it's also near the UMak Oval where the Azkals practice football...