SparkPeople Blogs  •  cardio  •  running

The Benefits of Cross-Training: Now I'm a Believer

By , SparkPeople Blogger
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my current running injury. I’ve got Achilies tendonitis, and have been doing weeks of physical therapy which will (hopefully) get me running again. When the therapist told me I wouldn’t be running for at least 6 to 8 weeks, I panicked for a few reasons.

First, I love to run and use it as a stress reliever. So I’d have to find a new hobby, at least temporarily. Second, I didn’t know what else I was going to do for exercise. Aside from a few days of strength training each week, running has been my only form of cardio for a very long time. I became a very fit runner and was proud of the fact that I could easily go out for a 6-8 mile run any day of the week. And because I liked it so much, I never saw much of a reason to try any other activities. That is, until I became injured.

Being forced to try other activities has shown me that I’m not really as fit as I thought I was. Although I became a good runner, I was pretty unfit in a lot of other ways. My flexibility was terrible, and because I never cross-trained, other cardio exercises were more difficult for me than they should be. I know the benefits of cross-training and when people ask for my advice, I encourage them to try a wide variety of activities- both for enjoyment and for overall fitness. But there are many times when I don’t take my own advice, and this was one of them.

Four weeks ago, the thought of incorporating other activities into my permanent routine would have sounded ridiculous. The idea that I might only run 3-4 days a week would have been absurd. But I’m learning that if I want to be a lifelong runner, and if I want to be fit in a wide variety of ways, I’m going to have to cross-train. They might be activities that I don’t enjoy quite as much as a good run. But my running days are numbered if I don’t start taking better care of my body.

Whether your primary form of cardio is running or some other activity, you can still benefit from trying different exercises. Cross-training is a great way to condition other muscle groups that you aren’t regularly working. It also gives a rest to those muscles you’re consistently stressing, which helps prevent injury. Cross-training also helps prevent boredom and can add a boost of motivation to your regular routine.

Do you cross-train? Do you like trying a variety of cardio activities, or do you tend to stay with just one?