Mixing it up: Cross training adds spice and fitness

Focus is foremost, when it comes to fitness. Marathon training is a prime example. Long-distance runners aim to rack up multitudinous miles in the months leading up to big races. On the other hand (er, foot), cross training makes perfect sense for tons of reasons.

Sure, a day spent in a different sport may sound like a diversion. But that’s sort of the point. 

Having started a little late to the whole running thing (as in, within the past decade), I have to admit something here. I learned this the hard way. In fact, I am still learning it the hard way. It’s easy to get greedy with mileage, relishing the increasing total each long run brings. (This is especially true during year-long mileage challenges, when lots of us try to run the year’s worth of miles.) 

And the chasing-the-new-PR thing is a temptation beast all its own. 

So this post is sort of a preaching-to-the-mirror thing.  

Humor me, if you will.

What do you do for fun and fitness, besides running? And how does it help you?

Personally, I enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and a bit of biking on my non-running days. I’m even learning to enjoy a little weight training. Sometimes I pursue these activities on running days as well, if time and energy permit.

Cross training brings a welcome variety to the picture.

Let’s face it. Exercise can be downright boring. Runners get into a groove, especially when we take favorite soundtracks along with us. And that runner’s high is no joke. Still, any exercise can become drudgery, if we get into a rut with it. Cross training allows us to step back and change the channel for a bit.

Pursuing an assortment of high- and low-intensity physical activities is good for our mental health and overall fitness. We have to work our minds to master other sports. We have to build and flex and exert other muscles. We test our balance, cardio capacity, flexibility, and endurance in new ways.

Cross training offers runners an opportunity to continue exercising, while recovering from running-related injuries. We can find alternative ways to stay fit, even if we can’t pound out actual miles for a stretch.

Here’s the best part. Cross training is fun. A runner can try out all sorts of recreational activities without feeling the need to go whole hog with them.

If running is your thing, then you can give yourself permission to be a rank newbie at another sport or two. Go ahead and flub things. You can always go home and boost your own personal sports-confidence by rearranging your running medals. (See? You’re still an athlete, even if you couldn’t hit the ball or master the butterfly stroke.)

OK, that all sounds like basic common sense. But it’s true.

Maybe moderation is the key.

If I don’t run for a day or two, I totally crave it. But if I skip too many days in a row, I almost don’t want to return to running. It’s a quirky sort of balance.

Sports icons – public domain image
Horseback Riding – personal photo. All rights reserved.
Cross-training definition – Fair use screenshot

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