Cross-training is a phrase that often strikes fear into the heart of the runner, mostly a sense of why bother? Can I not just fit in another run? After all that is what I am, I am a runner. But I am convinced that regular and consistent cross-training can benefit overall running fitness.
I shall start with the least favoured cross-training method, namely circuits. I have always found circuits to be best tolerated in a group setting. If you are a member of a gym a circuit session should be organised, if not ask why not? They are social and good exercise, just what a gym should be offering its members. Running Clubs often organise a circuit session and most would be happy to have the extra bodies making up the session. There are sometimes council run sessions in community halls. My outstanding memory of circuits was the session I attended organised by what is now Brunel University Athletics Club. We regularly had 100+ participants, a good mix of athletes and those just wanting to get fit. Music was provided by an Athlete/ wannabe DJ and run by a sprint coach, who was also a professor of Psychology and would countdown 5 to 1 sounding something like; ive, orr, eee, ouu, one, go!! (You will have to speak that out loud to understand.) I was also normal to have double figure numbers of international athletes, including Sonia O'Sullivan who was about as good at circuits as she was at running, Hint! I hold this up as the holy grail of circuit sessions and if I was ever asked to run a circuit session mine would be a clone of this one.
However if none of these avenues are fruitful then you can just do them at home. I have often dealt with clients who have little or no exercise background so I aim to build them up to a 9 exercise circuit. The important theme that runs through all circuit sessions is the rotation of body parts that you exercise, namely Arms, trunk, legs. If you have no knowledge of circuit exercise then press-ups, sit ups and lunges would suffice. With respect to timings I suggest 20 seconds of exercises and then 10 seconds of rest, aiming for 3 times thorough the 9 exercises with a minute or so in between the sets.
With respect to weight training most runners will stick to the multi-gyms and leave the free weights to the sprinters. The important theme for training here is the percentage of your maximum (your best one-off effort on any one exercise). As we are endurance athletes it is muscular endurance that we seek to improve, so sets should be high in number and low in weight. Something like 20 repetitions at 50-75% of maximum. I would suggest picking 10 exercises and going round them 3 times, maybe with a short break in between laps. Again a similar workout can be achieved at home with 2 dumbbells and a bar with inter-changeable weights; you would have a limited choice of exercise but still worth the investment in time and effort. One good tip is a Swiss Ball makes a great alternative to a weight bench, very good when doing bench presses.
Starter Circuit Session:
- PRESS UPS
- ANKLE TAPS - Lie on back, feet flat, knees bent, reach round and tap each ankle, shoulders just of ground
- LUNGES - With weights if possible
- RUNNING ARMS - with weights if possible
- SCISSORS - Lie on back, legs flat, hands under bum, legs 6 ins of ground then cross over legs under then over, keep legs straight
- SQUAT THRUSTS
- ALTERNATE ARM SHOULDER PRESS
- SIT UPS
- SQUATS - With a swiss ball if you have one
**20 seconds of exercises then 10 seconds of rest, 1 minute rest between sets , 3 sets ideal.