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John's Running Tips

Cross Training

What Is It and Why Do It?

Simply put, cross training is using one or more sports to enhance your overall fitness. So by adding sports like swimming or cross country skiing to your running schedule, you'll be building overall strength that can't help but improve your performance.

Does cross training work? It sure does! Cross training strengthens your whole body, not just your legs. And it lets you maintain a high level of fitness without straining - or injuring sport specific muscles and joints. Besides that, cross training adds welcome variety to your workouts - a variety that keeps you going month after month.

What Can Cross Training Do For You?

  • Enhance the quality of your training so you get maximum results in minimum time.
  • Reduce your risk of injury.
  • Add mental variety to your workout schedule.
  • Help you stay fit even if you do injure a muscle or joint.
  • Strengthen individual muscles as well as your overall body strength.
  • Promote smooth action between muscle groups.
  • Improve endurance levels.

Three Great Aerobic Sports

1. Cycling

    Whether you opt for a sleek 10 speed racer or a sturdy 15 speed all terrain model, bicycling can...
  • Increase muscle balance between quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Increase flexibility in hips and knees.
  • Increase ability to run up hills.
  • Increase leg speed.
  • Increase cardiovascular endurance.
  • Lower racing time in events lasting more than two hours.

But if you haven't ridden a bike since grade school, you may find your first outing fairly taxing - especially on your hands, buttocks, and shoulder, neck and leg muscles. Thus, the most sensible and enjoyable start to a bicycling program is a slow one.

For the most comfort on a long ride, get a bike that fits you. Your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system will thank you.

If you run five or six days a week, begin by substituting bike rides on one or tow of those days. At first, you should ride only five to 10 miles. Soon, you'll find yourself able to ride 20 miles in a little over an hour on a flat course.

For fitness purposes, four miles cycling is roughly equivalent to one mile of running.

2. Swimming

Swimming is the sport that cushions your muscles and gives you a great workout too. By adding a swim to your weekly workout schedule, you can boost your aerobic fitness, upper body strength, muscular endurance, and breath control.

If you're not already an expert swimmer, you first strokes in the pool may be a little difficult. Your best approach, then, is to wet your feet gradually.

A good first goal might be just to swim one lap of a 25 meter pool. Eventually, you'll want to swim one mile (72 laps in a 25 meter pool) without stopping. Time isn't a factor in the beginning, but you should work steadily to increase your speed. Use the freestyle stoke since it will give you the best overall workout.

One mile of swimming gives you about the same workout as five miles of running.

3. Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing does more than just replace the pounding and jarring of running with a kick and glide that's gentle on your legs. It provides an unparalleled cardiovascular workout. That's because it works the large muscles of your arms, torso, and back as well as your leg muscles.

But, as with any other new activity, it's best to start cross country skiing slowly, then build your mileage as you become more accomplished.

For the easiest start, head to a Nordic centre that sets tracks on its trails. The tracks will keep you moving along in a straight line so you can concentrate on your form without worrying about the terrain.

Even for the beginner, cross country skiing does require special equipment - skis, boots, bindings, poles, and light but warm clothing. You'd be wise, though, to rent it a time or two just to make certain you like the sport. Once you're sure, consult a seasoned skier and inquire at several Nordic shops to get skis, poles, and bindings that match your size and ability.

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