I remember I was working at a gym. A lanky couple came in inquiring about membership. I was going to give them a tour when they said, “We just want to know how many treadmills you have.” So I told them and proceeded to tell them about some other features of the gym. “That’s OK,” they said, “we‘re only interested in using the treadmills.” Of course I couldn’t help myself from asking why? “We’re marathon runners.” My heart began to race, pumping with adrenaline. Was I about to get into an argument with these potential members? Did they not know the benefits of doing other activities besides running? I let it go and needless to say they did become members. There they were day after day running on the treadmill. I went away for three months and when I returned there they were still running on the treadmill… same physique, seemingly same pace, and the same dull expression.
It may seem counterintuitive, but running more isn’t always the key to successful long runs. Sure you need to adapt your ligaments, tendons, and muscles, but there are some other cross-training techniques that may actually improve your PB without constantly pounding the pavement (or treadmill). Within just a few weeks, you’ll be feeling stronger, performing better, and recovering faster!
- Add yoga and Pilates into the mix. Of course Yoga is great for stretching, especially those of us who are really bad about stretching on our own, but Yoga will also wake up those smaller intricate muscles of the feet, ankles, and intercostal muscles between the ribs. It can increase lung capacity as well as teach breathing techniques to use during runs, and meditation techniques to calm your body and mind. Yin Yoga can especially provide serious relief in those tight hips and hammies as well as bring more awareness to your holding patterns. I often describe Yin Yoga as a secret weapon! Pilates will help develop deep core strength to support your lower back. Your posture and alignment will improve significantly. Hey guys – Contrary to popular belief, Pilates is not just for the ladies. It was actually developed by a man named Joseph Pilates who was ripped even at age 80!
- Take a true rest day. I know, I know… easier said than done, but the gains actually come during recovery, not necessarily by working harder or more often. Sometimes letting go, relaxing, and backing off is the hardest part of a work out, especially for endurance athletes… and no, rest day does not mean going for a short run! Although, a good Restorative Yoga session would be allowed, especially Legs-up-the-Wall.
- Get a massage at least once a month. Your muscles need some deep love. Schedule a massage at least once a month to bring more oxygen and blood flow to them. If your budget allows, even go for one bi-weekly!
- Foam Roll regularly. Using a foam roller after runs and workouts will also bring more oxygen and blood flow to your muscles. This self-massage tool is a must have at home for any athlete! I suggest a few times a week.
- Cross Train. Hopefully you are not on machines. If so, get off them and use your bodyweight. Besides, chances are you sit all day at work. You certainly don’t need to be sitting while working out! Throw in some classic sports conditioning exercises like burpees, mountain climbers, lunges, and planks. By the way, did you know the world record for holding forearm plank is 80 minutes?
- Check in with your nutrition and hydrate! Some athletes work their butts off, but ignore their nutrition, which is only sabotaging the overall big picture. Consult a nutritionist. There are many health coaches who provide at least one free consultation and can send you on your way to better nutrition specifically for sports and athletes. In the meantime, take your omega (to reduce inflammation), tart cherry juice (great for the joints), and check out products like Vega, which was formulated by a Pro Ironman Triathlete.