Introduction and Importance of Cross Training

“Cross training” is a very broad term and can encompass a number of methods including resistance training, a separate form of aerobic training, or any other method used to supplement the performance in your sport. This article and future posts will help to clarify what cross training is and how it fits into a training plan.

                                        Irondurance athletes taking part in a variety of resistance exercises

                                        Irondurance athletes taking part in a variety of resistance exercises

The first questions you must ask yourself are “why am I including cross training at all?” and “what am I trying to achieve through cross training?”. If you do not have definitive answers to those questions then your current program is not addressing all factors that are affecting your performance. Some sample answers are to increase functional range of motion, to increase the resiliency of muscles & tendons, and to decrease risk of injury.

When choosing a cross training program to incorporate there are many factors that must be considered. Cross training should blend seamlessly with your running schedule. Challenging you with the appropriate stimulus at the correct time allowing you to become stronger and more resilient.  Race performance ultimately comes down to three components 1.) efficiency of training, 2.) prioritization of recovery and 3.) how healthy you stayed throughout the training cycle. Using a complete approach is essential and can be accomplished through a strategically designed cross training program.

A typical program should include multiple facets: soft tissue & mobility work, plyometrics, strength training and conditioning. The order of these facets are typical of a training session.

As you can see, soft tissue and mobility are the first priority. Soft Tissue and mobility will be discussed in more detail in a later post, but when the two qualities are maximized, you have the opportunity to create optimal movement which has a large emphasis on how strong/efficient that you can be.

                                                              End of workout sled races getting competitive!

                                                              End of workout sled races getting competitive!

With this in mind, a program should optimize movement. A large emphasis is placed on running technique in training but without having movement fundamentals mastered (core alignment, flexibility, motor control) it is difficult to impact running technique by repetition. We need to have optimal movement patterns to learn new technique, skill or strengthen a pattern. A strong athlete is defined as an individual who can move well, be stable and is working towards increasing strength through a full range of motion.

An effective cross training plan should follow the same progression as the running schedule. Start with building a movement/strength base, followed by a period of more focused strength and power and capped off with a maintenance phase prior to race day. As was mentioned at the beginning of the post, the cross training program should supplement your running and make you better for it!

Additionally, when initiating resistance training (even when just using bodyweight) a movement assessment, injury history/pattern analysis and training history should be conducted. These methods will assist in setting an individual starting point and exercise selection for each athlete. Furthermore, each exercise series should have a logical progression sequence and each athlete should be progressed at his/her own pace.

If you would like to improve efficiency, decrease the stress levels of a long run and move better. A strategically designed strength and conditioning program can be the answer for you. It’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish!