Strengthen your body for cross coun­try

JOHN SHEP­HERD LOOKS AT SOME EX­ER­CISES WHICH CAN HELP YOUR CROSS-COUN­TRY RUN­NING AND TURN YOU INTO AN ALL-TER­RAIN VE­HI­CLE

Athletics Weekly - - News -

RUN­NING over var­ied un­der-foot con­di­tions can lead to stresses, strains and in­jury. The great news, how­ever, is that spe­cific ex­er­cises and con­di­tion­ing can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce this po­ten­tial.

Mus­cu­lar ac­tions – time to get more ec­cen­tric?

There are three types of mus­cu­lar ac­tion which, when im­proved through spe­cific ex­er­cises, can be of ben­e­fit to an ath­lete.

Iso­met­ric: This is a “non­move­ment” ac­tion, where mus­cles work against each other or a re­sis­tance, but no ac­tual move­ment takes place.

An ev­ery­day ex­am­ple would be push­ing against a door­frame with your arms but more spe­cific ath­letic ap­pli­ca­tions – and ones which would strengthen the knee mus­cles – for ex­am­ple, would in­clude:

1) Us­ing a leg press ma­chine to press the weight away and then bring­ing it back so that the knee an­gle is around 90 de­grees, while then hold­ing the weight in that po­si­tion for a given time.

2) A wall squat, held per­haps for 20 sec­onds.

Con­cen­tric: Most of the ac­tiv­ity we do on – and off – the coun­try, on the track and in the gym is con­cen­tric. This ac­tion oc­curs when a mus­cle short­ens to cre­ate move­ment – the most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple be­ing that which hap­pens to the bi­ceps dur­ing a bi­ceps curl.

Con­sid­er­able re­search in­di­cates that al­though pri­mar­ily con­cen­tric strength de­vel­op­ing squats and lunges can re­duce the in­ci­dence of in­jury as well as po­ten­tially power up per­for­mance, there may be more ben­e­fits to be gained from ec­cen­tric mus­cu­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ec­cen­tric: this ac­tion oc­curs when a mus­cle length­ens un­der load, as oc­curs in the bi­ceps dur­ing the low­er­ing part of the move­ment.

Ec­cen­tric ex­er­cise has in par­tic­u­lar been iden­ti­fied as hav­ing a big role to play in cre­at­ing greater soft tis­sue re­silience, mak­ing in­jury to mus­cles, lig­a­ments and ten­dons less likely. Thus, to keep strong through­out the cross-coun­try sea­son it’s a good idea to in­clude spe­cific ec­cen­tric (as well as con­cen­tric and iso­met­ric) ex­er­cises in your train­ing pro­gramme.

Rolling with the ter­rain

You need be sure-footed over the ter­rain and run­ning on un­even con­di­tions in train­ing will help pre­pare you, of course.

Your body, in par­tic­u­lar your an­kles and knees, have to de­velop the “pro­pri­o­cep­tive” abil­ity to adapt rather like a three-di­men­sional hu­man shock ab­sorber to the con­di­tions.

Pro­pri­o­cep­tion – or the aware­ness of your body in space – is a largely au­to­mat­i­cally con­trolled ac­tion­re­sponse sys­tem but it can be de­vel­oped via var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Great ki­naes­thetic abil­ity (learn­ing through phys­i­cal move­ment) will help, how­ever, hit­ting the trails isn’t the only way you can im­prove this (and there­fore pro­pri­o­cep­tion).

Here’s an ex­am­ple of an ex­er­cise: Stand on one leg and have a part­ner throw a ten­nis ball to you at var­i­ous heights and an­gles.

You catch the ball and throw it back to your part­ner, whist try­ing to re­main stand­ing on the one leg. Be sure to al­ter­nate legs. The idea is to test and im­prove your sta­bil­ity. For an ad­vanced op­tion, you can per­form the ex­er­cise on a BOSU bal­ance trainer.

Don’t ne­glect your core

Your core acts as the trans­mis­sion be­tween your legs and arms. It needs to be strong, yet flex­i­ble and adap­tive to con­trol de­scents and strong to let the power of your arms, for ex­am­ple, trans­fer to your legs when surg­ing to the line or up­hill.

You should there­fore in­clude a va­ri­ety of ex­er­cises for your abs, back and sides in your cross-coun­try prepa­ra­tion.

Us­ing a Swiss ball is a good op­tion as it in­tro­duces greater bal­ance el­e­ments, too.

Cross-coun­try run­ning pro­vides a stern test for the body

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