One of the great things about running is that it gives you the fitness and confidence to try other activities. You’re much more likely to say yes to a game of tennis, pick-up basketball, or a game of tag with your kids when you feel comfortable, strong, and energetic.
Plus, other sports can help your running, by strengthening muscles that don’t usually get worked when you’re simply logging miles.
“Many non-running sports and activities require lateral motion, frequent changes of direction, starting and stopping suddenly, and even sprinting,” says coach and exercise physiologist Adam St. Pierre, of Boulder-based ASTP Coaching.
“Some running injuries result from insufficient strength in the lateral direction,” says St. Pierre. “So, playing tennis regularly, for example, could help your running… assuming you don’t get hurt playing tennis!”
Here are the four steps St. Pierre recommends to safely try new sports while keeping your running training on track.
It’s never a good idea to jump into any workout from a standstill. Start with walking and easy jogging followed by a few leg swings. Then, move into side shuffles and karaoke grapevines, which prepare the body to move side-to-side.
Even more important than warming up is knowing your limitations. Ease into your new sport gradually, and increase your strength and activity level, just as you would with training for a running race.
Any time you try a new or different activity, you can expect to be sore. So avoid doing any new activity the day before a key workout, like a speed session or long run. You might be okay doing it after a hard workout, though, as long as you build in additional recovery time.
In general, incorporating a variety of activities into your routine on a regular basis will complement your running. Doing it one to three times per week can prevent excessive soreness. Be sure to incorporate some strength training, too. “Strength training prepares you to be a more adaptable, flexible athlete,” says St. Pierre. “Plus, it makes you less likely to get injured.”