On the days that we recommend cross training we recommend that you choose some form of exercise other than running. There are a number of reasons for this:
#1: To give your body & mind a break for the runs that you will be doing week in & week out. Mental freshness is a key element in your training that will help to keep you excited about the upcoming workouts & not dreading them.
#2: To minimize the overuse of specific muscles you use in running. One of the recommended cross training activities is weight training which will help to strengthen your muscles in preparation for subsequent workout.
#3: to limit the pounding on the body specifically associated with running. Frequently triathletes will chose to just go out for a 20-30 minute run when they are running low on time or inspiration for their cross training day. We would rather you take the entire day off than for you to add a third running workout to the week. In this way we are keeping you from injury & overtraining.
Some suggested cross training activities: cycling, swimming, run in the water (aqua jog), pilates & or yoga, use of exercise machines such as elliptical, rowing, cross-country skiing,lifting weights, easy walking,or hiking. If you miss a XT day do not worry, just take the day off.
In cross-training, two or more types of exercise are performed in one workout or used alternately in successive workouts. A distance runner in training, for example, may also lift weights twice a week, perform daily stretching exercises, and cycle. Athletes turn to cross-training to fight boredom, but also because no single exercise can yield all the potential benefits of exercise outlined above.
Jogging, for example, enhances aerobic fitness (which improves cardiovascular health and requires sustained use of large-muscle groups like those in the legs). But jogging contributes little to developing muscle mass, especially in the upper body. Weight training increases muscle mass, but it does not promote flexibility. Although cross-training seems to make perfect sense, not all experts agree on its benefits.
Cross-training contradicts the time-honored principle that training should be limited in scope and closely aligned to the performance you want to improve. This is known as task specificity, and it means that if you want to be a good distance runner, you need to run mainly long distances. According to this principle, nonspecific activities for runners, like weight training or swimming laps, are a waste of effort because they do not make one a better runner.
Many sports scientists, however, believe that cross-training may lead to optimal effort, because peak performance in any physical activity usually involves more than one physical attribute. A marathoner, for example, may need a strong sprint to the finish line, and hence high levels of aerobic and anaerobic fitness (the ability to perform intense bursts of activity). Also, weight training can help reduce upper-body muscle fatigue while running. Because little overlap exists among attributes like aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, and strength, cross-training is required.
The Cross-Training Edge
Cross-training offers advantages for both competitive athletes and those who train simply to keep in shape and manage their weight.
Cross-training helps you:
• Add variety to your workouts to keep you interested. You can use traditional training methods like running and swimming as well as exercise on various machines or on in-line skates.
• Develop your entire body, rather than specific parts or energy systems (aerobic vs. anaerobic).
• Distribute the load of training among various body parts, thus reducing the risk of injury.
• Keep training while you are injured. When one body part is injured, you can train using different muscles and joints.