Five Things I Enjoy Most About Winter Running
Did you know that one of the benefits of cross-training is the development of a variety of muscle fibre types and energy systems? This not only improves our aerobic and anaerobic systems but makes us stronger, fitter and faster as lifelong athletes.
Toronto’s Dr. Greg Wells, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Toronto, has worked with many elite athletes, and one consistent pattern these athletes share is using complementary cross-training activities. “You want to be able to move between different activities and energy systems that provide you with benefits that can improve your ability to do your primary sport,” says Wells.
For example, if you’re a 10k runner or half-marathoner, try a spin class, rowing or boxing.
“Rowing is extremely demanding, especially if you’re doing intervals on a rowing machine,” says Wells, “and since rowing requires some different muscle groups, your joints take a break from the pounding from running.”
Finding an activity that provides relief from the impact on your joints while allowing you to tap into your anaerobic and aerobic systems is a win-win. As a former national rower, now triathlete and trainer at Toronto’s Scullhouse Rowing, Emma Dolphin agrees that runners can benefit by incorporating interval rowing into their training. “The biggest misconception is people think you’re primarily working out your back and arms. Rowing actually uses those same big drivers as you use in running – glutes and quads, along with your core. You’re using the same muscles in the same function, but you’re seated, without the impact.”
Wells says another benefit of interval training on a rowing machine is breathing. “Since it develops your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, it teaches you to breathe in time with your movements, which is something runners need to work on.”
“If you don’t have a good breathing pattern when running,” says Dolphin, “it can affect your stride, your posture and how far you can run. Cadence is important when you run and row, and it’s easier to learn when you’re in a more controlled atmosphere like a rowing class when everyone is rowing together in the same rhythm. This learning transfers easily when running.”
And when it comes to the double whammy of an anaerobic and aerobic workout, look no further than boxing. “When you’re hitting the bag with various punches, you’re working on short bursts, which impact your anaerobic system,” says former Canadian national boxing champion Wayne Bourque of Toronto’s Centre Ring. Bourque has seen first-hand how runners have benefited from participating in his classes. Sixty-three-year-old Mark Nusca of Toronto has been a lifelong runner and says the workout he gets from boxing is vital to his aerobic training and cardiovascular conditioning.
Wells says boxing also helps runners with their foot work. “Runners get st uck in a linear pattern, always moving for ward, not side-to-side or backyards. The abilit y to move better, to move around someone going up a hill, develops bet ter at hlet ic sk ills a nd makes for a better runner.”
Whether it’s working on muscle imbalances or functional movement training, just knowing you’ve done everything possible to set yourself up for a strong race before you reach that start line is what cross-training is all about.
Cross-training offers that mental edge you can take with you on race day. Knowing you’re able to push to your max in a rowing class or dig deep for that last f lurry of punches at boxercise tells you that you still have more left in the tank. That’s the mental advantage that’s essential to running.