Contributed by Jeff Henderson.
Cross training is extremely beneficial for anyone training for a half or full marathon.
One caveat to that is that if you are just beginning your new, active lifestyle we typically recommend getting started with one thing at a time. In other words, don't start a crossfit class and marathon training at the same time. However, if you have been training for half or full marathons for some time now is a great time to add some sort of cross training to your regimen.
Cross training, in our world of marathon training, is loosely defined as any aerobic activity that involves exercise other than running or walking. Cycling, swimming, crossfit, strength training are among some of the many forms available.
Why cross train? Very simply put marathon training is hard on your body. Any form of exercise that you can do to either supplement a run or walk, or to further strengthen your body with be of added benefit. The impact of running on our body is different that most other forms of exercises out there. Often times, after long runs or up-tempo workouts we feel sore as a result of the pounding our body takes. The impact force of most cross training options is far less than those absorbed in running, yet you still get the benefit of working out.
So, when/how should you add cross training? There is no one answer for everyone, however here are a few basic guidelines to follow:
- Strength training 1-2 times per week can be very beneficial. If adding to a solid base of marathon training you should not have to cut out a run or walk from your schedule. If you are just getting started I would add one day of strength training to replace a run or walk day.
- Cycling/Swimming/Cross Fit - Typically these workouts will be longer duration that strength training. For most folks I would suggest swapping out cycling/swimming/cross fit for your scheduled run. Try to maintain the same amount of duration for each. If your run is going to take an hour, try substituting with an hour of swimming, etc.
- You'll hear of a lot of folks doing multiple workouts in a day. Most of these people have been working out for years and have built up gradually to this sort of regimen. Do not add multiple workouts to your days until you have spent at least two years of training injury free.
No matter how you choose to workout remember that your body doesn't get stronger while you are working out. We get stronger while recovering. You should plan to have at least one full day of rest. Make sure that you follow the easy/hard/easy workout rotation.