Not everyone has $30,000 to $80,000 to drop on a state-of-the-art AlterG treadmill (anti-gravity treadmill); however, if you do—or should you be lucky enough to live near a gym or physical rehabilitation facility that possesses an AlterG—you may want to experiment with it. The AlterG allows users to run at full body weight, like a normal treadmill, or at a reduced body weight all the way down to 20 percent. Many of the top coaches and athletic programs across the globe are now using the AlterG, not only to recover from injury, but also to supplement healthy training and add critical volume in a reduced- risk-for-injury setting. Longtime Runner's World Editor Amby Burfoot called the AlterG, "The most significant advance in training equipment for distance runners in the last half century."
Cross-Country Skiing, Lap Swimming, Walking
There are a myriad of other non-running based exercises that can improve running. Cross-country skiers have some of the highest recorded VO2 max results ever tested, and it's not surprising why. Virtually every area of the musculature is used in cross-country skiing, and one needs to look no further than athletes such as Joan Samuelson, Ingrid Kristiansen and Lasse Viren to see that many of our sport's greatest have used skiing to supplement their training.
Lap swimming plays a role in many a top runner's training weeks. While not running-specific in its movement, the aerobic benefits and strength that can be gained from lap swimming are an excellent supplement to your normal training routine.
Purists may laugh at this last one, but even walking is a great way to supplement your training. While not particularly strenuous, walking can assist with recovery after tough workouts and is very effective for preparing the body for the next day's training regimen. At ZAP Fitness, we are very dedicated to our evening walks, particularly the evening of a hard interval session or long run.
When four-time NYC and Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers was asked by one of our ZAP fitness adult running campers if he thought non-running exercise (or cross-training) was a good idea, Bill responded as only Bill can. "I think doing some other types of exercise like swimming or biking is a great idea," he said. The follow-up question was if Rodgers ever cross-trained "No," he replied.
By nature I am old-school. The overwhelming volume of real-world, non-laboratory-based evidence points to three key factors for improved endurance and running performance: volume, frequency and intensity (mind you, all three stimuli should not be increased simultaneously). However, we are all mindful that many runners have limitations in terms of just how much they can run. Non-running exercise in a variety of forms, from swimming to pool running to cross-country skiing can and will improve your overall running performance.
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