As we enter the fall season of sports, cross country season is kicking into high gear. Middle and high schoolers across the country are starting to build up the mileage for when meets start in a few weeks. Many of these young athletes will be running six days a week at the peak of the season, giving them little rest and recovery time. A few weeks into this rigorous schedule, my office will be flooded with shin splints, foot pain, etc., from all the time they spend out on the roads. Adding some cross-training (e.g., elliptical, bike, swimming, weight lifting) into this rigorous running schedule is very beneficial and may cause fewer runners to be on the side watching rather than running in the race. The idea of cross-training is also important to year-round runners as well.
Benefits of Cross-Training
- Injury prevention: By adding cross-training, runners who are just getting started can avoid the excessive pounding that can occur, which may alleviate injury. Running a few days a week and then cross-training a few will allow the body to recover between workouts.
- Rehab after an injury: Most runners will experience an injury at some point in their career. Using cross-training is important as they head back to running once they are cleared to do so by a physician. They can build up cardiovascular endurance without relying solely on running as a means to rebuild.
- Improve aerobic fitness: Being able to add in extra workouts can help improve endurance. Your body may only be able to handle 3-4 days per week of running but you have the motivation to do more. Add in reduced impact cross training activities! Aerobic fitness will increase without the risk of injury.
- It mixes things up: If a runner is stuck doing the same runs week after week, running can become monotonous and motivation can decrease. By adding in some different workouts, runners can keep themselves excited about training.
If your child is a cross country or track athlete or is working towards the goal of running more, have them give some consideration to adding cross training to their weekly routine. It will help decrease injuries and will likely be beneficial to running performance.