Cross Training While Marathon Training: What You Should Know
So, you’ve decided to take on the incredible challenge of marathon training, but you’re wondering whether it’s a good idea to incorporate cross training into your routine. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll dive into the topic of cross training while marathon training and explore whether it’s a beneficial addition to your regimen or a potential pitfall.
Is It Good Or Bad To Cross Train During Marathon Training?
The big question on many runners’ minds is whether cross training is a good or bad idea during marathon training. The short answer? It’s mostly good, but with some caveats. Cross training can be an excellent way to complement your running routine and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. By engaging in different activities, you give your running muscles a break while still maintaining your overall fitness level.
However, there’s a fine balance to be struck. Overdoing cross training can lead to fatigue and negatively impact your running performance. Remember, the primary goal of marathon training is to build endurance and stamina in running, so while cross training can be beneficial, it should never overshadow your running workouts.
Benefits Of Cross Training
1. Reduced Risk of Overuse Injuries
One of the most significant benefits of cross training during marathon training is its ability to reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Running is a high-impact activity that puts a lot of stress on the same muscles and joints repeatedly. By incorporating cross training activities, such as swimming, cycling, or even rowing, you give your running muscles a much-needed break while still engaging in a challenging workout. This helps to prevent overuse injuries, such as shin splints or stress fractures, which can derail your marathon goals.
2. Enhanced Cardiovascular Fitness
Cross training offers a fantastic way to improve your cardiovascular fitness without putting additional strain on your running muscles. Engaging in activities like swimming or using an elliptical machine can elevate your heart rate and boost your aerobic capacity. This increased cardiovascular fitness will directly translate to improved endurance during your marathon, allowing you to go the distance with greater ease.
3. Muscle Strength and Balance
Incorporating different types of cross training, such as strength training and yoga, can work wonders for your muscle strength and balance. Strengthening your muscles through resistance training helps to support your running form, reducing the risk of injuries caused by muscle imbalances. Additionally, activities like yoga and Pilates can enhance your core strength and stability, leading to better overall body control while running.
4. Mental Refreshment
Marathon training can be physically and mentally demanding, and sometimes, it’s essential to give your mind a break from the relentless pounding of the pavement. Cross training provides an opportunity for mental refreshment by introducing variety into your routine. Instead of another long run, you can look forward to a refreshing swim or an invigorating cycling session. This mental break can rejuvenate your passion for running and prevent burnout during your marathon preparation.
5. Faster Recovery and Active Rest
Rest days are vital during marathon training to allow your body to recover and adapt to the training load. Cross training can offer a form of active rest, where you engage in a different activity that promotes blood flow to your muscles without causing additional stress. This active recovery helps in reducing muscle soreness and enhances the recovery process, so you’re ready to tackle your next run with renewed energy.
Risks of Cross Training During Marathon Training
1. Overtraining and Fatigue
One of the main risks of cross training during marathon training is the potential for overtraining and fatigue. Running is already a physically demanding activity, and adding cross training sessions on top of your running schedule can lead to excessive strain on your body. Overtraining can result in exhaustion, decreased performance, and an increased risk of injuries. It’s crucial to find a balance between running and cross training and avoid pushing yourself too hard.
2. Imbalanced Training Load
Cross training can be an excellent way to work different muscle groups and provide variety in your training routine. However, if not carefully planned, it can lead to an imbalanced training load. For instance, if you focus too much on cross training and neglect your running workouts, you might not build the necessary running-specific endurance and stamina required for a marathon. It’s essential to prioritize your running workouts while using cross training as a supplementary activity.
3. Risk of Overuse Injuries
While cross training can reduce the risk of overuse injuries caused by repetitive running motions, it’s essential to be cautious about the potential for overuse injuries from certain cross training activities. For example, high-intensity activities like high-impact aerobics or intense weightlifting can put stress on your joints and muscles, increasing the risk of injury, especially if you’re not accustomed to these activities. Always ensure proper form and gradually increase the intensity of cross training activities to minimize the risk of overuse injuries.
4. Time and Energy Management
Incorporating cross training into your marathon training schedule requires careful time and energy management. You need to allocate enough time for both running and cross training sessions while still allowing for adequate rest and recovery. Trying to fit in too many activities can lead to a packed schedule and leave you feeling overwhelmed. Plan your training weeks in advance, and don’t hesitate to make adjustments as needed to ensure you have enough time to rest and recharge.
How Often Should You Cross Train?
The frequency of cross training during marathon training can vary based on individual factors such as your fitness level, running experience, overall training volume, and how well your body responds to the additional workouts. However, as a general guideline, aiming for two to three cross-training sessions per week is a good starting point.
It’s important to strike a balance between your running workouts and cross training sessions. While cross training can provide valuable benefits, running remains the primary focus during marathon preparation. The majority of your training time and effort should be dedicated to running, with cross training serving as a supportive and complementary activity.
Here are some considerations to help you determine how often you should cross train:
1. Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to how your body responds to the combined workload of running and cross training. If you feel fatigued, overly sore, or notice a decline in performance, it may be a sign that you need to adjust the frequency or intensity of your cross training sessions.
2. Recovery Days
Include rest days in your training schedule to allow your body to recover and adapt to the training load. On these days, you can opt for complete rest or engage in light activities like walking or gentle stretching. Cross training activities on recovery days should be low-impact and not too strenuous.
3. Quality Over Quantity
Focus on the quality of your cross training sessions rather than just the quantity. Short, targeted, and effective cross training workouts can provide significant benefits without taking up too much time. Consider the intensity and duration of each session and ensure they align with your running goals.
4. Trial and Adjustment
Experiment with different cross training frequencies and types of activities to find what works best for you. Everyone’s body responds differently to various forms of exercise, so it’s essential to find a balance that fits your individual needs and preferences.
5. Marathon Training Phase
Consider the phase of your marathon training. As you approach race day and the training intensity increases, you may want to reduce the frequency of cross training to prioritize running workouts and ensure adequate recovery.
What Types Of Cross Training Should You Do?
When it comes to cross training during marathon preparation, the key is to choose activities that complement and enhance your running performance while offering a break from the repetitive impact of running. Here are some types of cross training you can consider incorporating into your training routine:
Swimming is an excellent low-impact activity that provides a full-body workout. It helps improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthens muscles, and enhances lung capacity. Swimming also offers a great opportunity to work on breathing techniques, which can be beneficial for maintaining control during long-distance running.
Cycling, whether on a stationary bike or outdoors, is another low-impact exercise that targets the legs’ muscle groups while being gentle on the joints. It’s an effective way to build endurance and improve cardiovascular fitness. Cycling also allows you to cover longer distances than running, which can help with mental conditioning for marathon training.
3. Elliptical Training
Using an elliptical machine is a popular cross training choice because it mimics the running motion without the impact. It engages the legs and arms and can be adjusted to different resistance levels, providing a challenging workout while reducing stress on your joints.
4. Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are fantastic choices for improving flexibility, balance, and core strength. These activities can be especially beneficial for runners as they help prevent injuries, improve posture, and promote relaxation. Enhanced flexibility can also contribute to better running form and efficiency.
5. Strength Training
Incorporating strength training exercises into your cross training routine can help build muscle and improve overall body stability. Focus on exercises that target your legs, core, and upper body. Strong muscles can support your running form, reduce the risk of imbalances, and enhance your running economy.
Rowing is an excellent full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups, including the legs, back, and core. It provides a unique way to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance while giving your legs a break from the impact of running.
Studies Around Cross Training While Marathon Training
Numerous studies have been conducted to explore the impact of cross training on marathon training and its effects on runners’ performance and injury risk. Let’s take a look at some key findings from these studies:
Study: “The Effects of Cross-Training on Running Performance and Running Economy” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)
This study investigated the effects of incorporating cross-training sessions (such as cycling and swimming) into the training routines of distance runners. The results showed that runners who engaged in regular cross-training experienced significant improvements in running performance and running economy. Running economy refers to the energy expenditure during running at a given pace, and better running economy means greater efficiency in using oxygen during running, ultimately leading to enhanced endurance.
Study: “Effects of Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training on Running Performance and Running Economy in Recreational Marathon Runners” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)
In this study, recreational marathon runners were divided into three groups: a running-only group, a strength training-only group, and a group that combined strength and endurance training. The group that performed concurrent strength and endurance training experienced the most significant improvements in running economy and running performance compared to the other groups. This suggests that incorporating strength training as part of cross training can be beneficial for marathon runners.
Study: “Effects of Swimming and Cycling Exercise on Running Performance and Running Economy in Triathletes” (International Journal of Sports Medicine)
Triathletes often engage in cross training with swimming and cycling alongside running. This study focused on the effects of swimming and cycling exercises on running performance and economy. The results demonstrated that triathletes who included swimming and cycling as part of their training showed improved running economy, leading to better running performance during triathlons.
Study: “The Influence of Cross-Training on Muscular Strength and Aerobic Capacity Adaptations in Long-Distance Runners” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)
This study examined the effects of cross-training on long-distance runners’ muscular strength and aerobic capacity. The researchers found that runners who incorporated cross-training activities, such as strength training and cycling, into their training regimen, experienced greater gains in muscular strength and aerobic capacity compared to those who only engaged in running workouts.
The findings from these studies suggest that incorporating cross training, such as swimming, cycling, and strength training, into marathon training can have positive effects on running performance, running economy, muscular strength, and aerobic capacity. Cross training provides a way to enhance overall fitness, reduce the risk of overuse injuries, and complement the demands of marathon running.
In conclusion, cross training can be a fantastic complement to your marathon training program, enhancing your overall fitness and reducing the risk of injuries. Remember, moderation is key – don’t overdo it with cross training to the point where it hinders your running progress.
Listen to your body and find a balance between running and cross training that works best for you. Explore various cross-training activities to keep things fun and exciting while reaping the benefits of a well-rounded fitness routine.
Happy training, and may your marathon journey be filled with success and personal achievements! See you at the finish line!