There is no other way to put it—endurance training is hard on the body. As athletes, we push through mental and physical pain, constantly pressing for one more mile and one more hour, molding our bodies into a machine of personal performance.
But sometimes the impact of this abuse is too much. Ligaments can tear, muscles can pull and joints can buckle, leaving us sidelined with a heartbreaking injury.
The causes of injury can vary from overly tight hamstrings, to spinal misalignment, and often the only thing you can do is rest. But with a few minor changes to your training schedule, you can keep it from happening again.
Take a Dance Class
Replace a day you would normally spend cross training with a Zumba, hip-hop or salsa class. Runners often focus so intensely on forward movement that their quadriceps can become over-developed and as a result, the gluteal and adductor muscles that provide for stability and lateral movement can atrophy.
These small and often forgotten muscles are necessary to keep the body balanced and to prevent injuries to the IT band, knee and ankle. You can hit the gym and build these muscles by lifting weights, but why not take a dance class that gives you a cardio benefit as well?
Zumba, hip-hop and salsa provide a balanced workout because they require dancers to move in 360 degrees around their bodies. They strengthen all major and minor muscle groups in the legs; provide a core and cardio workout, and the bonus? A dance class once a week helps break up the daunting mental block that training can inflict on the psyche.
Do Speed Work in Spin
Sprints in a high-intensity indoor cycling class have the same benefit on fast-twitch muscles as a track workout, but the impact on your joints is far less. Plus, if you aren't part of a running group, putting together a speed workout can be overwhelming.
If you take a cycling class, you get the social benefit of sweating amongst your peers and the added inspiration this brings.
Replace One Day of Strength Training With Pilates
Abdominal muscles are an integral part of running. Not only do they protect your back and keep you stable and upright, your pelvic floor helps lift the two tree trunks below your waste. So the stronger your abs, the easier each step, and the less likely you are to pull a hip flexor.
Another benefit to Pilates is that it lengthens muscles. Repetitive motion like running and standard weight lifting causes muscles to contract and tighten, which can lead to injury.
Pilates provides a balance to this shortening. It also helps bring the body into alignment by using small movements to reverse the bad habits we develop in our everyday lives. Since most injuries occur because one part of our body is compensating for another due to misalignment, Pilates is an important way we can protect ourselves.