Today, instead of running 6 miles I did 5 miles on the eliptical. I must admit, while I hate most machines at the gym, the workout did the trick; I was able to accomplish three things –
1. cover long distance doing an activity that was lower impact than running.
2. maintain a high heartrate.
3. use a machine to accomplish both a high heart rate and use of my calfs, thights, butt, and hamstrings.
The reason why cross training is important is that you get an opportunity to strenghten other muscles you would not normally work while running. You may not be aware of this but doing the same work out over and over or even just running to achieve fitness is not ideal. Your body’s muscle memory can simply rewind and create your workouts and while you might get faster – you run the risk of injury from reusing the same muscles over and over. Hence my hamstring tear and now Plantar Fasciatis – both of which are painful and long-term issue s I have to deal with on a daily basis.
This is not to say that with these injuries I cannot train but I really cannot train week after week with fast-paced runs or long slow distances on weekends. The cross training enables me to work my body with out the same old pattern of exercise which is actually a break. New muscles get to work while ones that are used time and time again for running get to take a breather – at least they are not being used the same way they would if I were running.
It is OK to take a week to cross train and not even run at all. I say this because if you are getting fatigued in your training or if you feel burnt out on running, cross training is a reprieve. You get the benefits of burning calories and while you might come home from a bike ride, swim, or other activity and feel that you gyped yourself because you didn’t run, trust me when I say that if you are exercising because you know you are burnt out in your running you just did yourself a huge favor.
Let me tell you from experience that nothing will ruing a running season more than an injury. A poor race finish, bad performance or even embarrassing fall (that would be yours truly who tripped over someone’s shoe at the start of the Sarasota 1/2 marathon last year – I was amazed at how fast I bounced off the pavement and kept running) can all be put in the past. An injury is always in your present and your future and it makes planning for your next even tricky.
This year, my races won’t be until the fall. I am using this first part of the year to train and nurse my injuries. I am also using this time to remember that my ego is not what makes me a solid runner, but my desire to just get out there and do it. I am, like many of us, one of the unknown runners of the world, who run for the sheer thrill of it. No one’s gonna miss me at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and I am sure no one said, gee, where’s that crazy blonde from DC at the beginning of the Grouper run (Sarasota 1/2 marathon) – unless of course, someone wanted to see me bounce on the pavement again.
Strongly consider cross training. I don’t care how you do it, but that you do it – even if it is twice a month just to shake things up a bit. Your body will thank you for it.