If you ask any athlete where they learned the most about life, oftentimes you will hear that it didn’t come from the moments when all was going peachy. Hardships make you stronger, they make you wiser and they make you physically and mentally tougher. They allow you to realize your priorities in life, they ground you, and they test your perseverence. Every cloud has a silver lining and many pro athletes in the sport have achieved some amazing things through misfortunes. We are in a sport where losses make our runners return more resilient and achieve even greater success than they first set out to. It all just depends how much you want it!
So let’s face it, everyone’s initial reaction when you get injured is the fear of losing the fitness that you’ve worked your ass off to build, this can lead to various other fears but usually this is one of the first.
Injuries are tough, there is no doubt about it. However, you can maintain your fitness and actually build upon it if you cross-train effectively.
The key to cross-training is finding a method that mentally motivates you.
Staying mentally engaged throughout the workout is the key to being able to work hard, focus and get the most out of it. Injuries can draw out some epic lows in athletes, but if you’re feeding your ‘run void’ with other beneficial activities then you are going to feel a lot better.
There has been recent awareness about cross training related to injury prevention. Many smart and healthy athletes supplement the miles they run with pool work, ElliptiGOing, biking, yoga and some pretty hi-tech methods of low impact running like the Alter G and HydroWorx.
Adding in cross training to your regular routine allows a runner to add higher ‘mileage’ to their week, but in a low impact way. These cross-training methods can prevent injuries and increase the ability to train consistently.
Stringing together months of consistent training = PR’s
So what are the options…?
I was introduced to the ElliptiGO in the summer of 2012, and it has been a great training partner ever since.
The company categorizes the bike as ‘run specific’, and the brand’s team is made up of runners, many of whom were once very speedy, and many still are; this is a huge plus as they know exactly what runners need. ElliptiGO have created a cross-training method that allows you to experience many of the same benefits as your typical run would…
-You can be outside (it is also able to be used inside on a bike trainer in rough weather).
–ElliptiGo’s are designed to replicate the running stride.
–You can ride in groups, or with a friend who has a regular bicycle.
–They allow you to go FAST…I love that even if I am injured, I can rock it out there on the ‘GO’, without holding back.
–They’re efficient at getting your heart rate up. Go ahead, try for yourself. Head uphill on the ElliptiGO, and find out what happens!
–They’re a head-turner. People definitely double-take when you come flying around a bike path with a huge hard working smile on your face. The unique design definitely gets you loads of community support.
Training on a lower gear allows for a quicker cadence. This is the go-to method when riding as it provides the ultimate ‘run-feel.’
An added bonus about the ElliptiGO brand is that they help and support many athletes around the country. Check out some of these elites who mix the ElliptiGO in with their training schedule (via the ElliptiGO project.)
A well known form of cross-training is going to the pool and swimming.
Hoka One One sisters, Nicole Tully and Stephanie Schappert, use the pool multiple times a week to supplement miles. Nicole believes getting in the pool aided in a really consistent year of training, it definitely showed when she won the USA Outdoor 5,000m title, her second-ever race at that distance. It is important to determine how much your body can handle on land, and making the slightly extra effort to cross-train can pay dividends throughout the racing season.
Dame Kelly Holmes first taught me the importance of aqua jogging. She always stressed the importance of replicating sound running mechanics in the water. In doing so, it will translate back to land, and vice versa. Similar to the ElliptiGO, this what we are looking for.
Make sure the pool is deep enough, and try not to wear a belt (at least for the workout portion). Don’t worry, this is something you can build up to.
Keep your recovery brief. It shouldn’t be the same amount of recovery you would usually take during a land workout. Cut the rest by 50-75% so that you get your heart-rate up. Aqua jogging, when done correctly, can increase your ‘hip extension‘ which can be a huge added benefit to your running stride.
I would suggest getting some underwater headphones.
If you are a blondie, I swear by this shampoo to help with chlorine damage and green chlorine hair.
Some athletes Love to hot tub afterward the pool to get some heat therapy
Check out this advice from Dame Kelly, who won two Gold medals at the Athens Olympics in the 800 and 1500 meters and has been a mentor of mine for many years.
Yoga is an amazing way to refresh the mind, prevent injuries, strengthen the body and improve flexibility. Some studios do classes specifically for athletes like us!
Yoga is great if you ever get tight hamstrings, hips, lower back or want to strengthen your core (so every runner, everywhere!) Improved flexibility, strength and balance can really improve your athletic performance.
Belle Lap is very excited to have the University of Oregon track team yoga instructor Chelsea Knight & owner of Hard Core Yoga up on the blog soon. She will be sharing a great yoga routine for runners and explaining a little more about how yoga can help improve your athletic performance. Stay tuned!
The stationary bike can be made more exciting by taking a spin class at a studio. There are some awesome studios in the world like zyn22 and pūrvelo, usually locally owned and full of energy. They combine spinning with music and you feel like you’re in a night club, with the lights out, and music pumping. If you want this extra push to get the most out of your workout, then google your local spin studio, they’re in most cities now. We will have Baylor Grad, Erin Bedell explaining a little more about the benefits of spin up on the blog soon.
If you’re invited to a party and having major FOMO, but know it will consist of multiple bad decisions then head to a spin class with some friends to get your ‘night life’ fix.
I’ll keep this one a bit brief since everyone doesn’t have the luxury of easy access to this exercise technology. However, it is great to see Universities increasingly having them on campus.
The Alter G is where you put some funny shorts on and zip yourself into the treadmill. The treadmill measures your weight and then using this information, the machine calibrates what is 100% pressure for your body. In other words, normal running. The machine can make you feel up to 80 percent lighter so depending on the injury you may start at 70 % (30% body pressure reduction) work back up to 100 percent during your come back. When you can run on the Alter G at 100 percent comfortably it is an indicator that you’re ready to hit the trails again.
Make sure the funny shorts are tight so the machine can calibrate.
If you’re going to do a workout, then warm up and do drills to prepare, as you would a regular workout.
The Hyrdo Worx is an underwater treadmill. Personally, I use it once or twice a week to get off land. This year I have done everything on it, from regular runs to 1 minute repeats. It features what I call a “workout standard” setting, which blasts jets under the water directly at you for resistance.
Have a spare pair of shoes just for the HydroWorx and make sure you tie your laces really tight, they have a tendency to come untied mid run. It isn’t quite as easy to stop when the treadmill is going.
Using visualizion techniques can be really motivating (imagine yourself doing well or succeeding in a race) try not to let your mind wonder too much as it can affect your performance.
Underwater headphones and some pump up music are useful here also.
So there we have it, find which one you’re most motivated to do, or do a combination of them all and get the most out of all the technology we currently have available.