Running tips: Give your joints a break and freshen up your routine with cross-training

Steph Callen, from Diss and District Athletics Club. Picture: STEPH CALLEN

Steph Callen, from Diss and District Athletics Club. Picture: STEPH CALLEN - Credit: Archant

Did the 'Beast from the East' scupper your running plans? I'm usually one for embracing the elements but with thick snow drifts masking roads and ice making pavements treacherous, I decided to throw in the towel and resign myself to taking a break from the running schedule.

So, this seemed the perfect month to discuss the topic of cross-training.

Cross-training simply means supplementing your running schedule with other complementary sports, such as swimming, cycling, walking, yoga etc. While you would think that to be a better runner, you should just concentrate on running (surely!), you're actually more likely to improve your performance by incorporating different exercises into your regime.

Firstly, cross-training is a great way to help prevent injury. Running involves a lot of repetitive impact on your knees, ankles and lower back so it's no wonder that overuse injuries are a common curse amongst runners. By scheduling lower impact activities - like swimming - into your training plan, you'll still be improving your endurance but without beating up your joints all the time.

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If you're trying to recover from injury (or happen to be snowed in), jumping on an exercise bike or doing a spot of yoga can help you remain active and retain a level of fitness making it much easier to get back up and running… pun intended.

If you're new to running and feel like you want to improve your strength and stamina before strapping on your trainers, exercises - such as going for brisk walks - will give you a base of fitness and help build up your confidence.

For those who are already regular runners, varying your exercise regime will give you better overall fitness and develop your core strength, making you a faster and more efficient athlete so you can train for longer before collapsing in a heap – essential if you're aiming to complete long distance races.

And, let's face it, no matter how much you enjoy running, pounding the same stretch of pavement every week can be, frankly, a bit boring. Keeping your training fresh by trying other exercises will help you stay motivated and having fun.