Special to the Tribune-Star
Have you ever been forced to change your fitness routine due to an overuse injury? The moment your doctor released you back to full activity and you resumed your normal routine, did you find that the nagging injury resurfaced?
It’s likely that the injury repaired itself due to less stress from your normal routine (i.e. few miles, less impact, etc.) Runners, as a class, tend to be the most hard-headed individuals I have known. In the past, runners scoffed at the mere mention of adding cycling, swimming, God-forbid strength training or any other type of workout that interfered with running. What many have learned is you can reduce your risk of overuse injuries through cross-training.
Cross-training is simply varying your training by adding a different activity. You can add cycling, strength training, stair climbing, elliptical or something else that reduces the constant stress your body takes during normal activity. Your body, bones and joints need rest, too. Runners can continue a normal training schedule, and just add a few workouts that compliment training. However, cross-training can have you running fewer miles without losing any fitness.
Actually you may find that cross-training a few days each week will make you a better runner. As you age, you may find that adding intense cycling a few days each week will greatly reduce your day-to-day fatigue that years of running have produced. Your runs will feel stronger, and you’ll feel less fatigue and may recover faster.
One rule when beginning cross-training is to start slowly and progress gradually. As a runner, you did not begin with big mileage. Cross-training is no different. Though you probably have a decent aerobic fitness base, trying something new requires different muscles and technique.
I like quality over quantity. After a few weeks when you can comfortably spin for 20-30 minutes at a reasonable intensity, you can add intervals. A Spinning class is a great way to compliment any fitness program. If you can’t make a class, create your own workout. Be sure to warm-up for five to ten minutes before progressing to intervals. Begin with five 30 second intervals with a higher cadence (rpm’s) increasing the resistance just a notch or two. Use equal rest bouts between intervals. Spin for a few minutes and add three to five 1-3 minute intervals of medium to hard efforts. Spin easy for a minute between reps. As you progress, you can lengthen your intervals and mix it up between seated and standing positions. Try to maintain a spinning cadence of 90-120 during easy to medium spinning. As you increase intensity your cadence will slow down. Try not to let your cadence drop below 60 during heavy intensity. Be sure you adjust you seat height correctly. Cool down with five minutes of easy spinning and stretching.
Again, quality over quantity is the key to short, yet effective strength workouts. A couple friends recently schooled me in Cross Fit. Cross Fit compresses a workout into a relatively small time window, say 20 minutes. You will rotate through a handful of exercises utilizing largely your body weight. For example you can set the clock for 20 minutes a rotate through 20 push-ups, 20 body weight squats, 5 pull-ups, and 20 crunches. Perform each exercise perfectly and repeat through the series until the time expires. If you find it too easy or too challenging, adjust the numbers of repetitions or time accordingly.
That’s it, folks. To make your chosen sport more pleasurable, add cross-training a few days each week and watch as you race faster with less fatigue.
Chris Davies, MS, owns Fitness Solutions, Inc. He can be reached at