The 3-S’s of Cross Training: Smart, Supplemental, and Substitution

The 3-S’s of Cross Training: Smart, Supplemental, and Substitution

I have had lots of time to ponder and explore cross training more since recent injury and subsequent surgery. I think everyone would agree some cross training is better than no cross training. Cross training is great for injury prevention, recovery, rehabilitation, improve fitness, and provide variety.  With that in mind, I have divided cross training into three categories: 

1-Smart. Smart cross-training is what you SHOULD DO when you are running healthily and happily and want to stay that way. I would wager that 99% of all runners have muscle/strength discrepancies right vs left or imbalances such as tight hamstrings/weak quadriceps. Eventually, these imbalances and discrepancies will come to a head. So, what can you do about it? BE SMART! My recommendation is to go to a Physical Therapist (or someone who is adept at specific muscle testing) once or twice a year and evaluate you with manual muscle testing of all of your muscles. Once they find out your problem areas or discrepancies, they can give you some exercises to do. Do those exercises 4-5x/week. They will likely only add 10-20 minutes each time and make you much more injury resistant. Core exercises are always good to add in any routine (hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower back and obliques). My favorite core exercise is called Dead Bug. Most of us don’t do something unless there is a problem. This is a way to be proactive! 

Dead Bug: my favorite core exercise-I push against my knee and count to 5 to make it harder. There are lots of ways to advance this exercise.

2-Supplemental. Supplemental Cross Training is something you can do in place of or in addition to running. Supplemental Cross Training is often done 1-2 times per week. It is an excellent option for active muscle recovery after a hard workout  or race. Supplemental cross training (like biking, swimming, Elliptigo) works different muscles and can still provide you with a good cardio workout. Another activity can eliminate joint impact and decrease the stress and strain on your muscles. If supplementing by adding, it can allow you to add more total work to your body.

Swimming with a pool buoy is a great way to work your arms, back, and trunk. Often times, we don’t work our extensors. It’s a good non-impact, cardio workout as well.

3-Substitution. Substitution Cross Training is basically used for rehabilitation when injured. It allows you to mentally survive not running, be able to eat without gaining weight, and get back to running more easily (staving off fitness loss). Is it fun? No. Is it necessary? Yes. I have been asked a lot lately how I am surviving without running. It has been almost a year since I have really “run/trained”.  It hasn’t been easy, but what is the other option? I can whine and complain or I can embrace other things I can do even though I don’t like them as well or at all.  

After surgery, the first activity I was allowed to do was the recumbent bike. It’s not uber exciting, but it’s better than nothing. Build back with patience and within the scope you are allowed for best results.

Here are some techniques to keep sanity, burn calories, and try to cling to some fitness that make NOT running better. 

Friends: Find other friends who are injured, non-running friends, or friends who you normally don’t run with and workout together. Running is often social for me. Not running can be depressing due to the social loss aspect. So, make sure you build in social time while cross training. One of my friends, Suzy, isn’t someone I usually run with, but we have been able to cross train together. Cross training has enabled us to have more time together. 

Pool running with my friend, Suzy. It’s a great way to get low impact cardio workout while getting to chat with friends.

Be Creative with your Running Partner: So my running partner was going to run 15 miles and I wanted to walk 9 miles. I started 3 miles ahead of him on an overlapping portion of the same course at the same time. It was like one of those middle school math problems…if Jeff runs 8 min pace and Traci walks 15 minute pace, at what mile will they meet? It was fun. I walked 12:30’s and he ran a “pick up” run in the low 7’s. We met around my mile 5, and his mile 8 (I don’t remember exactly). Then, we walked a mile together and we chatted. He finished up his run and I finished my walk. It was fun to walk trying to hold him off for as long as possible, while he pushed to catch me. It was good for both of us. 

Variety: I walk, pool run, elliptical/Elliptigo, bike, and ride a stationary bike. I am doing my PT/rehab exercises each day. There are other things like lifting weights, hiking, skiing, etc. The greater the variety incorporated, the better it is.

Break down the activity into smaller chunks: Some days, I do 2-4 different things. Yesterday, I walked 3 miles, rode a stationary bike for 15 minutes, pool ran with my friend for 20 minutes. She had to leave, so I swam 1/2 mile. I got almost 2 hours of working out at the YMCA and actually enjoyed it. 

Music: Music makes everything better. I swim laps with my waterproof iPod, and often listen to music when walking alone. 

Get outside: Sunshine makes us feel better. Numerous studies have shown getting outside is good. I escape the gym and ride my bike. I am looking forward to using the Elliptigo outside in the next month!

Ultimately, there are enumerable benefits to cross training in whatever capacity. Do what you can and appreciate running and your amazing body! We never know how many miles we have left on our tires! Keep your body maintained and in balance and be thankful for every mile!