Dr. Darryl Tannenbaum is a board certified orthopedic surgeon with Columbus Regional Health’s Joint and Spine Center and Southern Indiana Orthopedics. Tannenbaum has run in more than 20 races, completing the six World Major Marathons in places that include Boston, Berlin, London and Tokyo. He hopes to complete a marathon on every continent and plans to run one in Antarctica in March. Got a question for the doctor? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I spend a lot of time running to train for the upcoming half-marathon. Is cross training important, and how often should I do it?
A: Yes, cross training is important and here are a few reasons why.
Runners often have poor upper body musculoskeletal conditioning and could use supplemental workouts for better overall fitness. Running less and spending time on other sports with low impact reduces the risk of injuries associated with running. Weight lifting and resistance training have become universal for athletes in all sports and benefits runners as well, allowing them the ability to reduce injury risk.
A familiar runner’s physique is slim with solid, strong legs and less muscular arms and chest. Exercises to compliment a running regime should promote overall muscle strength and flexibility, improve posture and decrease upper and lower body muscle imbalance.
So what’s a runner to do? I would first recommend weight or resistance training focusing on the upper body once a week for 30 minutes as it has tangible benefits. Higher repetitions with less weight can produce stronger muscle and bones in the upper body.
Cycling, whether on a stationary bike or on the road, requires your leg muscles to work similarly to uphill running without the impact of running. Swimming is another option for cross training after hard running workouts and offers variety and low impact to strengthen your back, chest, shoulders and arms.
There are no national studies comparing injuries that occur between runners who do not cross train and runners who do cross train. In my experience, passionate runners with little variability in their exercise routine for years end up in my office seeking advice more than runners who cross train.
Supplement your running once or twice a week to contribute to better overall physical and mental fitness while reducing the risk of injuries.