Many of you that know me personally know that my love for cross-training (mainly with weights) is almost as strong as my love for running. The good news for me is that the former can benefit the latter if done properly. For years now I have spent at least 5-6 days in the gym (3-4 during training season). I have a pretty good idea of what works and doesn’t work now when incorporating it into a specific race training plan. I have come up with some rules through research and good ol’ trial and error. Although there is no one universally superior way to cross train, there are a few rules that should be adhered to in general for overall success in incorporating some cross training into an endurance training plan. Keep in mind that this post is meant mainly for the running audience. So to the rules:
1) The amount of days spent per week cross training is going to change depending on the amount of miles you are running per week and your overall goals for the training season. For the most part I would recommend 2-3.
2) You can overdo it. There is a delicate balance between cross training that will enhance your race performance and that which will be a detriment. Let’s stay away from the latter please.
2) Each workout needs to have a specific purpose other than making you ludicrously sore.
3) Things that mimic the movements of running are the most common forms of cross training for runners (ie:// swimming, biking, eliptical) and although all great workouts, I feel that targeting specific areas of the body in more direct ways can be just as, if not more beneficial to your performance.
4) Utilizing the “rest” periods between specific movements to work on an area that wasn’t just being worked can both give you the most bang for your time and allow you to keep your heart rate up (which has it’s own benefits that I will talk about in another post). For example, instead of simply performing 5 sets of 20 pushups, then 5 sets of 20 squats, etc – superset those and add a cardio set in between supersets to allow your energy systems to recharge before the next superset. It would look more like this: 20 pushups, 20 squats, 400 meter sprint x 5. Yes, that means I just called a 400 meter sprint your rest. 🙂
5) Stay away from very heavy lifting. I struggle with this one myself because I like it. There can be a place for that in the off season if you’d like but generally it is not recommended for endurance athletes during training season. Note that this didn’t say stay away from lifting. Just heavy lifting. This is subjective, but usually things that only ask for 3-8 reps per set at that weight are because they are heavy. Don’t do it. The more reps in the set, the less weight asked for. Think lighter and more reps.
5) If you are only going to spend 2 days/week in the gym, make sure each of those workouts is well rounded or that between the two workouts, you are getting a full body experience. If you spend each time just targeting your legs and core (as most runners tend to do), you will miss out on vital upper body strength needed to carry you across the finish line. Plus, what if you come across your friend who just hit a wall at mile 22 – who’s going to be able to hoist them on their backs and carry them across the finish line? That’s going to be you with your newfound well-rounded fitness.
Now then, to the fun part of the post: “But what would one of these cross training workouts look like?”. Awe, way ahead of you. Here is one example. It contains all 4 elements of what I believe are a well rounded workout, along with some nice VO2max training along with it to boot. I will be posting workouts like this under the training tab along the top of my page so check back periodically for ideas if you get in a funk. I am also happy to offer cross training incorporation into the training plans I write and as part of my monthly E coaching package.
15 Robuster Complexes (10# dumbells in each hand for women, 15# for men)
800 meter run
15 Robuster Complexes
500 meter row on the rowing machine (can sub 400 meter sprint if no access to rowing machine)
Click here for a video demo of a Robuster Complex
*I am working on a YouTube page to upload all of my demos to. Won’t that be nice? If you can’t view the video demo, check my Instagram feed, I posted the demo today.