Run­ners cross-train to avoid or re­cover from in­jury – but it’s not with­out its risks

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

What to watch for when you’re cross-train­ing

IN 1980, WITH THE US Olympic tri­als loom­ing, marathoner Al­berto Salazar had a sore knee. So he hit the pool… and got hurt. ‘I swam so much I gave my­self ten­dini­tis in my shoul­der – so se­verely that I could barely man­age to brush my teeth,’ he re­called in Al­berto Salazar’s Guide to Run­ning. The les­son? When it comes to any cross-train­ing, build your vol­ume and in­ten­sity grad­u­ally, and know the risks.


For­mer US Olympic swim­mer Tom Mal­chow is not sur­prised by Salazar’s ac­count. ‘You’re ask­ing your shoul­ders to do things that are a lit­tle un­nat­u­ral,’ he says. The pri­mary risk is to the ro­ta­tor cuffs, whose de­vel­op­ment can eas­ily be­come un­bal­anced. The so­lu­tion, he says, is to sup­ple­ment your swim­ming with strength work us­ing re­sis­tance bands or weights to make sure all parts of the cuff de­velop evenly. It also helps to learn proper swim­ming tech­nique.


Cy­cling has its share of repet­i­tive-stress in­juries. The most ef­fec­tive way to avoid such is­sues is to have your bike prop­erly fit­ted. When sit­ting nor­mally on the sad­dle, your leg should be straight when you’re at the bot­tom of the pedal stroke. Your po­si­tion should al­low you to ride with el­bows bent, so the arms serve as a shock ab­sorber and keep road jolts from trav­el­ling up to your shoul­ders, neck and back. An­other fac­tor is the tilt of the sad­dle, which, if wrong, can put too much weight onto your hands.

A com­mon cy­cling in­jury is il­i­otib­ial band syn­drome, which may be pro­duced by cleated shoes that lock your feet into the pedal at the same an­gle for miles. You can avoid this by dis­pens­ing with cleats, or by ad­just­ing them. Most cleats al­low a few de­grees of play to each side, says Kevin Des­sart, direc­tor of coach­ing ed­u­ca­tion for USA Cy­cling. Grind­ing out work­outs in too high a gear can cause stress, usu­ally in the knees. In­stead, spin at a higher ca­dence in a lower gear. If you’re new to cy­cling, find the gear that gives you a ca­dence of at least 85RPM, says Des­sart. (That means 85 full cir­cles, or 170 pedal strokes.) This will re­duce knee stress while you strengthen your legs. Fi­nally, be aware that cy­cling’s limited range of mo­tion can pro­duce tight hip flex­ors. ‘I en­cour­age all cyclists, es­pe­cially run­ners us­ing cy­cling as cross-train­ing, to stretch their hip flex­ors as soon as they get off the bike,’ says David Mchenry, lead ther­a­pist and strength coach for Nike’s Ore­gon Project.


Rower: The big­gest con­cern is your back. To pro­tect it, pull with the mus­cle groups in de­scend­ing or­der of power – first the legs, then the back, then the arms, says for­mer elite rower Kelly Barten. Re­turn to your start­ing po­si­tion in re­verse or­der – first ex­tend the arms, then lean for­ward, then fi­nally pull for­ward with your legs. ‘Legs,

back, arms…arms, back, legs,’ says Barten. Also cru­cial, he says, is to keep your back straight: pivot it from the hips, rather than arch­ing it from the waist.

El­lip­ti­cal trainer: Not all el­lip­ti­cal machines are alike; some can pro­duce un­nat­u­ralfeel­ing mo­tions or force your feet into awk­ward po­si­tions. Also, the ma­chine’s con­trols need to be set at the lev­els that work for you. ‘Be at­ten­tive to your body,’ says Mchenry. ‘If you start to feel sore­ness or tight­ness, you might need to

ad­just the re­sis­tance or ca­dence. If you still get symp­toms, you might need to find an­other mode of cross-train­ing.’ Ex­er­cise bike and spin

classes: Just as road bikes need to be ad­justed, so do ex­er­cise bikes. If you’re hav­ing trou­ble, try switch­ing to a re­cum­bent bike, where you can fine-tune your reach to the pedal by stuff­ing a towel be­hind your back. ‘I think [re­cum­bents] are bet­ter,’ says Matthew Matava, pro­fes­sor of or­thopaedic surgery at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity School of Medicine, US. The same warn­ings ap­ply to spin classes. ‘The quick­est way to hurt your­self is to be fit im­prop­erly on your bike and then try to ham­mer the work­out for 60 min­utes,’ says Mchenry.


In strength train­ing, says Matava, the main con­cern is to en­sure you work both sides of op­pos­ing mus­cle groups to avoid de­vel­op­ing im­bal­ance. ‘Sup­ple­ment pull with push,’ he says, such as do­ing both leg curls and leg presses. Also, he says, don’t work the same mus­cle group two days in a row. Be care­ful with ply­o­met­rics – these ex­er­cises in­volve high-im­pact land­ings fol­lowed by ex­plo­sive re­bounds, so they’re more stress­ful on the mus­cles, says Matava. Mchenry adds that ply­o­met­rics must be built on top of a good base of strength and power, not just car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness.

One of the eas­i­est ways to avoid be­com­ing in­jured from swim­ming is to learn proper tech­nique.

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