CROSS TRAINING: A MUST AT ANY AGE
AGE………… it eventually catches up to all of us, but that doesn’t mean we have to slow down. It just means we have to be smarter and train accordingly.
In 1986 I had to undergo knee surgery to repair what was thought to be calcium deposits around the tendon on the knee. Once inside the doctor discovered that the tendon was partially degenerative. After being laid up for a month or so and going totally bonkers because I could not run, I read about how the theory of training in deep water was very successful. I knew that they trained horses that way at times so why not try it? I “ran” in deep water for four months for one hour a day six days a week. After awhile I was so sick of water that I dreaded even drinking it!
To make a long story short, once I returned to running I set a personal record for five miles at the Run for Your Church race. Since water training had been so successful for me during recuperating from the knee surgery I decided to add it to my weekly routine. Not only did it make me stronger and faster, but it kept me injury free by getting me off the hard pavement for one day a week. I instituted it in to my training for the Boston Marathon. I was somewhat certain my knee could handle the distance but was not sure if it could take the vigorous training needed to get to the starting line. I didn’t want to find out the hard way so I “pool ran” for two hours on Saturdays. I got by running a marathon on only fifty miles a week on the road and saved my knees the trauma in the process.
The nice thing about cross training is the variety. Although my cross training was mostly done in the pool it doesn’t have to be. I also did some days on the stair master when the weather got too bad. Even though the stair master didn’t take my heart rate as high as running did, it still was a great supplement to running. I still believe that to be a good runner you have to run, but I also believe that a runner is of no good to himself if he is injured.
Other types of cross training exercises that can benefit runners are cross country skiing, swimming, and cycling. Many young athletes can get by torturing their bodies for a long period of time (I used to be one of those) but eventually no matter how durable we may think we are, there is a breaking point. We can’t prevent all injuries; however, most running injuries are overuse injuries. Listen to what your body tells you. If you just don’t feel well that day but want to do something hop on a bike, head to the pool, or do some skiing. Your knees and other joints will thank you. I also believe that the pool extended my competitive career by 5-7 years.