It seems funny. If you want to be good at something, you should practice that one thing, right? That’s what makes the most sense. However, in athletics, especially as a runner, it is important to not JUST run. Running develops specific muscles, and leaves others at a deficit. It works a good amount of your body – your arms, your abs, your legs (obviously). So, why is there a need to do supplemental training?
Well, for one, as a runner the quadricep muscle group gets heavily developed. This can in turn overpower the hamstrings, creating injury. Further, running in and of itself reduces flexibility. Reduced flexibility can also lead to injury. While running works abdominal muscles, it does not work them to a great enough extent to provide the use they are specified for.
Focusing on just those three areas show that adding in supplemental cross training activity of some sort can be beneficial. Some runners turn to yoga for flexibility, while some do stretches on their own. Some runners add in biking or swimming to their routine, which can develop different muscles. Others add in weight lifting. It is important to assess yourself, when choosing what activity you may want to add in. If you tend to be inflexible, yoga may be a good option. If you tend to have specific injuries, like plantar fasciitis, where weight bearing impact can really affect you, swimming may be beneficial.
For me, I am fortunate to have a background in gymnastics, so flexibility has never been an issue for me. I am also double jointed, which I am sure helps with my flexibility. When I was in high school, I had difficulty controlling my breathing when I would race. Looking back now, I believe that was due to the stress I put on myself. My breathing was always erratic. I began swimming as a means to help control this. When you swim freestyle, you are forced to take breaths at specific times. Swimming greatly helped me control my breathing, and it has now been my go-to sport whenever I am injured. I also sometimes add this in as a supplemental workout in addition to my running. My deficit, however, I believe benefits more from these workout videos. Lately, the injuries I have been getting always seem to fall back to a deficit in some specific area. The workout videos I use are great, because you can pick a video for a specific group of muscles. Some workouts are really short, and some are longer. The length of time you spend on the videos is entirely up to you. And they are HARD!
When adding cross training into your routine, make sure you are cognizant of your body. Sometimes a cross training workout can be detrimental, if you are already fatigued. Sometimes a rest day is what is necessary. There is a fine line between doing enough and doing too much. And if you are like me, you have no problem doing enough. It’s more difficult to hold back!