Coach Mike Mead

Cross-Train out of Your Running Rut - September 2004

This month’s column is intended to spice up your running if you feel like you are in a rut regarding your training. Running is a great activity, but it can get pretty mundane at times. I’ve heard the novice or inexperienced runner declare that, “running is boring.” It’s boring for them because they don’t either physically or mentally challenge themselves.

When it comes to running, I’m pretty much old school – run fast, run hard, run long, run far. Just run!

But over the last decade or so, cross-training has become an important aspect in training to provide a method to physically and mentally challenge runners without beating up their bodies on the roads. Running is linear and one-dimensional. Cross-training is multi-dimensional. Cross-training can rejuvenate a runner’s training routine and provide that refreshed feeling one experiences running on a crisp day following weeks of heat and humidity.

Some great cross-training activities include aerobics, swimming, biking, skiing, walking, weight training, plyometrics and rowing, just to name a few. These types of activities work different muscle groups that running misses. By doing some of these activities a couple of times per week, you’ll not only improve your overall fitness, but also improve flexibility, your chances in staying injury-free and provide your body with active rest.

If you feel that your running is stale, perhaps substituting a swim or bike ride a couple of times per week will be the answer. If you’re like most runners, you’ll enjoy the break from pounding the pavement without the guilt and feel better about your next run.

Getting out of your running routine through cross-training will challenge you physically. It should also challenge you mentally since you’re doing an activity that is not as familiar as your daily run. This cross-training activity should help you improve your ability to mentally focus and concentrate on the task at hand. In time, you should experience improvement in your mental and physical capabilities when it comes to serious training and racing.

If you’re not sold on cross-training, then you need to re-exam your training program. See if you need to add more form work, hill work, tempo runs or speed training to your training regiment. Consider changing the terrain you run on. Less tar and more turf! Possibly it’s the intensity that you put forth into your training that needs adjusting. Don’t be a zombie jogger!

It’s been said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But new tricks may make that old dog not feel so old. Give cross-training a try and hopefully you’ll see the results.