It is early February and the snow and cold weather is expected to be with us for a little while. You have a spring event, such as the Bespoke Half-Marathon, coming upand running is feeling tedious. The treadmill sounds boring but what other activities can you do to maximize fitness while living in the Northwest for your upcoming Spring events? This is where cross-training comes into play and because we are in the Northwest, we have lots of options.
Sure, you can get on a bike trainer but isn’t that like being on the treadmill? It’s indoors and you cannot take advantage of the beauty that our area has to offer. Swimming? Perfect for recovery, and will improve your VO2 max, but unless it is in an outdoor setting, being inside doesn’t sound appealing.
4 Ways To Maximize Fitness in the Northwest Using Cross-Training
Ice skating offers athletes several health benefits, including: aerobic base-building, balance, strength building and improved cardiovascular health.
As we all know, running a half-marathon or marathon is about the athletes ability to build an aerobic engine that will take them from start to finish as fast as possible. Ice Skating provides an athlete an ability to develop that engine while providing a break from the constant pounding on the ground.
In addition to the mental break and cardiovascular benefits, you will benefit from the balance that ice skating develops. Running is a one-legged sport in that we only have one foot on the ground at a time. This means that you must develop strong tendons and muscles in your ankles and lower leg. The movement of ice skating mimics running and thus allows you to strengthen those areas which will allow you to become a better runner.
When you envision a cross-country skier you automatically see comparable movements to a runner. What you may not notice is how incorporating your arms will benefit you as a runner. After all, we run with our legs, right?
Not exactly. Try running with your arms down by your side. It’s going to be difficult. Your arms will help propel you forward during running and are a major component to the success of your race.
With cross-country skiing you are incorporating your arms, thus you are also building strength in them. And since you are using your arms and legs you are going to be using a lot of oxygen. This will benefit your running with an increased VO2.
Cross-Country skiing benefits don’t stop at the arms and legs. As a matter of fact you’ll be using everything in between as well. Your movement during cross-country skiing will work on your core muscles and glutes. All of which help you improve as a runner.
We’ve got plenty of mountains around us which means we have a lot of opportunities to get out and hike. The question you may ask yourself is that road running doesn’t incorporate going up and over a mountain. You’re correct, but the muscles you work while hiking will be a benefit to your running.
While Boise isn’t the Mile High City, we do sit at nearly 3,000 ft above sea level. This isn’t like being in Houston or Miami and is something we can take advantage of. At higher altitudes, hiking will cause the lungs to work harder but doesn’t tax the body in the same way. Once again, being able to improve VO2 capacity while giving certain running muscles a ‘rest’ is something to take advantage of.
You may be asking yourself about building strength? Hiking does just that. It helps you build strength and focus primarily on those climbing muscles. Got a hilly race coming up? Take to the mountain and hike. It will also change your training and keep it interesting.
At this point you know that the answer is going to be a benefit to your cardiovascular system as well as your leg strength. What else does it benefit? It will help you to understand how to run by feel.
Snowshoeing will elevate your heart rate quickly despite the slower paces. Knowing what your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is can help you when you are out on the road chasing PRs without having to look at your watch for heart rate data.
In addition to that, the soft snow is of benefit to your musculoskeletal system that has been taking a beating from the pavement for the past few weeks and months. It doesn’t end there. The uneven snowy surfaces will help you recruit muscles that aren’t engaged during running and your core will also know that it has been used.
Non-Running Exercises For Your Cross-Training Routine
As a seasoned runner, or a beginner, we know that cross-training is important. We have been told to get to the gym and incorporate strength training. There are articles about why you should swim and bike as well.
In the northwest, with mountains, trails and snow all around us we have a unique opportunity to cross-train. The 4 non-running exercises for your cross-training routine that we just discussed will help you maximize your fitness and become better runners. In addition to that, they will add variety to your training plan and help you avoid burnout.
The path to the starting line, and finish line, of any race can be long. These exercises, and others, can keep you mentally as well as physically strong for that journey.