This first became evident at the ripe old age of two. After developing a habit of climbing into the cupboard and eating entire containers of sprinkles, my parents hid the delicious goodies on top of a shelving unit against the stairs in the basement. Even at that age, I was pretty sly, so I found them rather quickly. I climbed down the first step of the stairs, reached over the railing for the rainbow-colored toppings and promptly fell over the railing onto the unfinished basement floor.
It's only gotten better from there, from falling out of a non-moving van and cracking my head open (I actually have a "dent" in my skull from this), to falling down a flight of stairs head first and putting my head through the wall, to developing a stress fracture on my pelvis, injuries just seems to follow me.
Now, throw running into the mix. It doesn't bode well, as more than half of normal runners (I've read everywhere from 60 to 80 percent) become injured EACH YEAR.
So, needless to say, when I first started training for the Steamtown Marathon, I was terrified I would somehow injure myself and be unable to run.
By some miracle, this didn't happen and I attribute most of that to my emphasis on cross training.
While training for Steamtown, I only ran three days a week – a long run on Saturdays, and then a five to eight mile run twice a week. I spent the rest of my time cross training. I've learned the importance of cross training to give your body a break from running, but to also challenge yourself in new ways.
Here are my favorite ways to cross train:
In my opinion, swimming is the toughest sport mentally. Typically, there is nothing to look at, you don't have Hanson blaring on your iPod as motivation, and you are just going up and down the same length. However, swimming is one of the best exercises you can do as a runner. It's low impact and strengthens your core and breathing. While there is no denying the boredom, I've come to appreciate the time to myself. There are also tons of great websites that offer workouts for both beginners and pros, which is good for motivation.
After I naively competed in my first triathlon with a friend's old mountain bike, I realized that if I wanted to be a more serious triathlete, I needed to invest in a road bike. Once purchased, I began to respect cycling as a sport and started to enjoy it as more of a workout than a lesuirely activity. I take my bike all over the place, sometimes the Greenbelt and sometimes mapping a few of my own routes. Once winter inevitably arrives, I take it indoors with spinning classes. I love the loud music and intensity of a good spinning class. Biking and spinning are great alternatives to running, because they keep your legs strong, but use different muscles.
I was strongly against yoga until earlier this year. I had gone to one class and embarassed myself greatly. I have no flexibility and I have trouble mimicing movements. However, I recently have renounced my stance on yoga. I began following along with yoga DVDs in the comfort of my own home, and I have to say, I sort of enjoy it. It's great for loosening up my muscles and it's a much different type of workout than running. Do I lose my balance and end up in a giggling heap on my floor more than once a lesson? Absolutely. But, I'm getting there.
There's nothing that will completely prevent you from getting injured, but cross training helps lower the risk, and overall, makes you a better runner. Just be extra careful when reaching for the hidden candy.