Conventional wisdom says all training is specific -- you improve the skills you practice. If so, runners improve endurance with regular long, slow runs, and improve speed with periodic spells of faster running.
But new research has put more credence into the cross-training theory. Weight lifting and using resistance machines has become increasingly common for many athletes.
"Cross training is a nonimpact form of cardiovascular training," said Gini Frisby, exercise physiologist at Hillcrest Exercise & Lifestyle Programs. "Many exercisers never cross train because they don't know how to do it safely or productively."
More than injury prevention
Cross training improves muscle strength and allows athletes to develop more power, and there's evidence that it reduces injury risk, according to the American Running Association's Web site, www.americanrunning.org.
Although there are no studies comparing injuries between runners who don't cross train and those who do, it makes sense that exchanging some running time for a lower-impact sport may reduce running injuries.
"Although preventing injuries is the biggest benefit of cross training, it's not the only benefit," Frisby said. "Runners also can use cross training to rehabilitate injuries and it gives your body a chance to rest from pounding the pavement or treadmill."
If you want to achieve maximum payoff for your cross training, it's hard to beat lifting weights or working with resistance machines, Frisby said. Resistance training will increase your oxygen capacity, help reduce your body fat, strengthen your muscles and increase the density and strength of your bones.
"Overuse injuries are usually the result of too much stress on the bones, joints and muscles," Frisby said. "In cross training, your first step is to choose activities you enjoy and that will be most beneficial to your running schedule."
A reasonable, balanced program for runners would include half squats and lunges for combined leg muscles; heel raises for calves; toe raises for shins; leg extensions for quads; hamstring curls and bent-leg sit ups for abdominals; dead lift for thighs, buttocks and lower back; bench press for chest; bench pullover for upper back and chest; upright row for upper back, neck and shoulders; military press for shoulders; behind the head triceps curl, hammer bicep curl, and regular and inverted wrist curls for forearm muscles.
"Your key workouts should almost always be runs unless you're injured," Frisby said. "Remember that more isn't always better and the key is to exercise in moderation, using these activities to achieve your fitness goals."
You don't have to do every exercise at each workout, and alternating exercises helps prevent boredom with resistance work, she said. Good form is important for effective training, so it's a good idea to sign up with a certified trainer or instructor to get you started.
Tulsa Run training
Tulsa Run celebrity runners Felicia Collins Correia, executive director of Domestic Violence Intervention Services, and Casey Norton, "Six in the Morning" co-anchor for KOTV-channel 6, cross train on the elliptical, stationary bicycle, stair-climbing and the rowing machines.
Other practical activities to include in cross-training sessions are pool running, inline skating, swimming, Pilates, yoga and basketball, Frisby said. "All of these activities will reduce impact stress, allow for recovery and add variety to your weekly routine, and of course, improve your fitness by challenging your heart and muscles."
Correia is training six days a week, including five to six aerobics sessions, cross training on the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike twice a week, weight training twice a week, and has increased her jogging distance to two miles.
"I've been out of town a lot lately, so it's been a challenge to maintain my training," Correia said. "The good news is I have no lasting aches and pains."
Norton is jogging three to four miles three times a week and incorporating weight training twice a week, cross training on the stationary bike, tread climber and elliptical twice a week.
"My training is going well," Norton said. "I'm pleased with my progress."
"It's definitely not a problem motivating these two go-getters," Frisby said. "Although it's still early in their training, I'm overwhelmed by their dedication to the run and their efforts at staying true to the schedule and motivating others to get started as well."
Scheduled for Nov. 11, the Tulsa Run begins and ends in downtown Tulsa and features a 15k, 5k and fun run. Presenting sponsors are the Tulsa World, Bank of Oklahoma, Oneok and SemGroup. The Tulsa World will publish periodic updates on the training progress of the celebrity runners.
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Contact writer Lisa Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.