Why You Need Cross Training (Even if You Are Not Injured!)

A few years ago, I was interviewed by Angie and Trevor Spencer about my story and life as an elite runner. One of the questions they had was what cross training I did to supplement my training. Now, you all know I do strength training, I have talked a lot about my work with Drew, but when they asked me this, I suddenly felt embarrassed……I don’t cross train…..at all.

For me, cross training was always associated with injury.

If I was in the pool, I was injured. If I was out biking , I was injured. As for pool running, as good as I knew it was for you, there was no way I would be doing that unless I was not able to run.

I had have even lost touch with yogaThe one form of cross training I had been consistent with the past, I just have not found the right setup yet here in Kentucky. It makes me mad and disappointed in myself, but no matter how many inspirational posts I see (especially you, Christine!), or how many experts talked about it on my podcast, I just couldn’t get myself to do it.

I told you that we figured out what was causing some injuries when we visited the UVA Speed Clinic years ago, which has finally allowed us to start correcting my movements to take the strain off the peroneal muscles and tendons.

I have been making the most of Team Ice Cream; talking to Pecan (Jeremy Stoker), who has been AMAZING helping all the way from Utah (check out my podcast episode with him), Graham Cracker (Dr Mike) has been working on it often (and it always feels so much better after), and the rest of the group has been talking to figure out the best plan moving forward. Now we have the answer from UVA, we have started to see big steps forward with it.

So what does this long winded story have to do with cross training?

Well, my injuries always go through a period where I was limited with the amount of running I could do.

For about 3 weeks, typically, we hovered around 40-45 miles, with 1-2 days off a week (when I should have been up to 65). I started doing exercises that Jeremy had prepared for me, and they made a big difference…….but

We did not want to lose my fitness, so we decided the best method was to add in swimming, pool running, and biking. During the last few weeks, I spent about an additional 5 hours a week doing these; usually in the afternoons if I ran in the morning, or 2 forms of cross training on a day off.

I thought this would be a chore, in fact, I was convinced it was going to be, but once the butt sores (yes, they are real!) went away, I actually found I started to enjoy it.

Tina Muir Biking

I could not believe it actually. I found myself looking forward to my afternoon swim or bike session!

All of these have been easy, and I think that is part of the reason as there is no pressure to keep the intensity up. The only thing that was hard during that time was a few pool running workouts while I let my injuries heal up. That gets my heart WAY up, and is good to keep the intensity there.

Tina Muir Pool Running

I have not been doing this long enough to see a difference in my training, but Nick Anderson (one of the best coaches in England) talked to me about cross training while I was home, and if he believes in it, then I do. I have my first rust-buster race this weekend, so this will be a good test!

I think I will be surprised when it does kick in. After all, running is mostly about consistency, and accumulated strength over time. Just take a listen to these many experts in my Marathon Podcast Series where they don’t just give you the main tips and tricks but go in depth on finding the joy in your training.

I am now back up to 70-80 miles a week, and about 3 hours of cross training a week, which helps to build a strong aerobic base. That means each day I do about 2 hours of exercise (if you include the 2 hours of strength training with Drew each week). Yes, that is a lot of time, and please do not think you have to do quite this much, but even an hour or two will give you a benefit, without the stress of running on your body.

I am sure many of you also saw that we now have an Elliptigo, I am also using this for cross training, but have a whole post dedicated to it next week, today is about swimming, biking and pool running 🙂

As for my leg, it still has ups and downs, but it is overall better than a month ago. I am back to 2 land workouts a week, including a speed workout, and a long run.

I am sure many of you will have that same mindset I had before this segment about cross training; “I am a runner, I like running, I don’t want to bike or swim”, but seriously, give it a go. I can admit I was wrong, and I intend to keep this up. You may be able to do the same, AND it will give you an extra confidence that you are doing what you can to be successful.

You will probably find that it does not take as much out of you than you think, other than obviously taking away a little time from your schedule. It will make you stronger, and increase your aerobic capacity, which will help your running too!

Most runners are scared of cross training, or associate it with injury like elite runner Tina Muir did, but this explains why you should try it. Not only will you improve your running, but you may find you actually look forward to it!

I know a lot of you are in awe of the miles I run, and say your body could never handle that many miles. That may be the case, but I am sure your body could handle a few hours of non-impact cross training a week. You never know where it may lead….worth a try right? 🙂

It doesn’t have to be hard, but especially if you have some kind of niggling injury, backing off the running, and adding in cross training instead, you will let your body heal, without losing all hope of fitness 🙂

I know I made the right choice by doing this, and if I can do it, you can too!

[bctt tweet=”Elite runner @tinamuir explains why YOU need Cross Training (even if you are not injured!)” via=”no”]

Do you cross train? How much? What is your favorite form?

cross training, elliptigo, injured, pool running, swimming

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  • I actually found my pace increased and my best half marathon was run with more spinning and less running! I need to get back to spin but in the meantime, I cross train with the elliptical. Even if I want to run every day, I try to remember the need to do something else too 🙂

  • David Lloyd
    July 3, 2015 5:29 am

    I am totally with you Tina, although I wouldn’t have been a month ago. I have been marathon training, my first in 5 years with two others aborted due to injury or travel, when my Achilles blew up with Tendinopothy. Medical advice is that I’ll be ok for 10k races and poss a half m in time but am off running for a few months. PANIC!
    But, I have borrowed a road bike off a friend, bought all the gear and am loving biking around (English but live in Sydney) and will return to running in duel capacity, a runner and a cyclist.
    So, to all those out there who don’t cross train, do, you never know when you’ll need it.

  • This makes me smile so BIG! I love that you started looking forward to your cross-training 🙂 I know that feeling all too well.

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    July 3, 2015 6:38 am

    I haven’t been consistent with cross-training, and now that I don’t have a gym membership it really won’t be happening. Although I do still take a yoga class about once per week. I figure for this summer I will keep my mileage low and opt for rest when I can’t cross train, and then come the fall I’ll look into joining another gym. Glad you are enjoying the other activities so much:)

  • I’m always the healthiest when I integrate cross training too. That’s so awesome about the eliptigo Tina! I’m excited to see what you can do adding more cross training with it! I’ve found the more things I do outside of running, the more physical strength I build. It’s a great way to add some intense new activity to build different muscles.

  • I 100% agree. Thou shalt not live by running alone! I got back to cross training when i had a peroneal tendon issue myself years ago and my only option was spinning (that was what started it). Now, spinning is a standard of my week–I run less in frequency than ever, but I’m able to run marathons. You have to give your body a break, plus you have to strengthen all of the secondary systems!

  • Last year I did so much cycling because I was struggling with injuries…but now, not so much! But saying that I do do other stuff at the gym like rowing, the stepper and lots of strength training. At the moment that’s more than enough for me!
    I did pool running as well last year but it was SO dull, I’d never do that unless I absolutely had to! It’s worse than the treadmill and for me that’s saying something 😉

  • jillconyers
    July 3, 2015 8:29 am

    Tina this goes perfectly with my post today! Great minds 🙂

  • I enjoy reading your posts and found this one especially interesting. I do some spin cross training and do find that helpful. But I have also been dealing with a left peroneal tendon issue off and on since I was training for the Boston Marathon. Some days are better then others but it continues to just hang in there. I have done lots of reading and research on exercises/stretches, but I am curious if you would be willing to share what you found out works best to help heal this based on your visit with the UVA speed clinic. Any input would be appreciated! Thank you, Patty Johnson email: pattyjohnsonrun@gmail.com

  • you and I talked about this a little when you were here. I am glad that you’ve come around. I love my cross training and I’d love to try one of those elliptigo

  • Oh, I’m the same as you (were). Cycling and swimming are for injuries, but yeah yeah, I know, I know, I need to do them more so that I can be a runner forever, to preserve this rapidly aging body of mine. Sigh… I swam when I was pregnant with Callum and that’s the one thing that I do miss, although it’s just too time-consuming for me at this point in my life. But I’ll do it again when I can, I’m sure.

  • As always great advise! So nice to talk to you this am- I’m finally waking up. Muah! love you Ms. Tina!

  • Oh yeah! I have had a huge dose of pool running and biking this year and I have loved it! The most cross training I have consistently ever done and I will definitely add this into my regular training cycles. I learned that we need to strengthen all parts of our bodies. Oh, and yoga too! I have a great teacher and can’t wait to get back to her classes. Vinyasa flow is a great workout and wonderful stretch. So glad you are loving cross training!!

  • I just listened to your interview with Angie and Spencer this morning (I’m so behind on podcasts). You did such a great job interviewing with them! I am not much on cross-training besides strength, Pilates, and yoga, and I could stand to be more consistent in those. An EllipitGo sounds so fun – glad you are enjoying your cross-training!

  • I love to cross train…My go to’s are yoga, cycling, and sometimes even the elliptical. I can surprisingly get a really good sweat session on that machine. To me it breaks up the monotony or running and I know it is good for my body to switch things up. Glad you are enjoying the cross training! 🙂

  • happyfitmama
    July 3, 2015 8:30 pm

    I’m usually pretty good about cross training. I’m one of those people who can’t run 7 days a week so I need a lower impact but endurance building workout. I can’t wait to hear what you think about the Elliptigo. It looks so fun!

  • I was at the doctor last week. He thinks I have a stress fracture beginning in my good foot now. This will be #3. I’m so frustrated as you can imagine. Interesting about what you wrote in this. I had the exact thought this week that I probably need to be cycling in swimming and biking into my routine when I’m not injured to not only help my body get used to the impact again but also keep the strain off it. It’s apparently not in a happy place. I just want to run away from everything in the world right now because it’s been 18 months of this and I can’t take it anymore. The doctor is giving me a bone stimulator, but who knows if it will help. I hope yours heals soon!

  • I recently tried the arc trainer at the gym (ok, last week! so very recently!) and think I’m going to add that to my routine. It seems like it gets my glutes and hamstrings an excellent workout and they don’t get that as much in running. Plus I like that I can change the resistance. I was injured last summer and could not run for 7 weeks, and spin and Bodypump kept my fitness pretty high! It took time to get back in the groove of running once I could, but my pace came back within a few weeks.

  • Julie Wunder
    July 4, 2015 10:05 am

    Mixing it up is the way to go! Glad you are starting to enjoy it!

  • I’m constantly getting injured when I train for longer races, but the one training session I stayed perfectly healthy during was when I was training for a triathlon. All the cross training keep me from getting injured and I was probably in the best shape of my life! Keep it up girl!

  • Amber Finlay
    July 4, 2015 2:38 pm

    I heard your podcast on MTA recently and loved it. It was fun to hear you being interviewed instead of doing the interviewing for once 🙂
    I’m glad you found cross training that’s working for you since you’ve moved to KY! I haven’t had a bike since high school, but imagine if I did, I’d get a good amount of aerobic training.
    I’ve fallen of the cross train wagon a bit during the past year. I used to do about 2 hours a week (which was great for me!), but now it’s an hour if I’m lucky. I’m trying to be more consistent about it, but I will say, on the plus side – I’m doing much better about “the little things” after each run (push ups, planks, mountain climbers, etc). So at least there’s some improvement 😉

  • Great discussion here, Tina! I think everyone can benefit from cross training, no matter what sport or fitness activity you do. Overuse leads to injury, so it’s a smart idea to mix things up.

  • I think I cross train more than I run these days and it seems to make me faster. I’m crushing my 5k goals by lifting, swimming and spinning more.

  • I was cross training with spinning and yoga, but I can’t afford the spinning anymore. I don’t know how to swim either and the thought of pool running makes me cringe. If I had a partner I’d probably be more likely. I do love yoga and spinning though!

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