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Cross-Training Can Reduce Your Risk of Overuse Injuries

Man riding bike on trail

Endurance runners can reduce your risk of overuse injuries by cross-training.

Studies have estimated that up to 70% of runners suffer from overuse injuries each year. Running works certain muscles in your legs. Exercising the same muscle group without enough rest may result in an excessive training load, which Garmin refers to this as overreaching.

Training too often can lead to overtraining. Let’s explore cross-training for endurance runners.

Cross-Training and Overuse Injury FAQs

What is cross-training?

Cross-training incorporates different exercises that use different muscle groups. For example, triathletes who swim, bike, and run.

What is an overuse injury?

An overuse injury is a physical trauma to a specific group of muscles and tendons. Typically, overuse occurs with repeated exercise of a muscle group.

#1 Progressive Training Plan

You can follow a progressive training plan to avoid overuse injuries. Runners can gradually increase the distance from week to week to build aerobic endurance. Sprinters can increase the number of sprint repetitions and distance from week to week to build speed endurance.

Cross-training can increase your training volume while reducing your risk of runner-related overuse injuries. Instead of running higher mileage, you can cross-train and choose different aerobic exercises. For example, cycling and swimming are aerobic exercises. Performing lower-impact cross-training can help you avoid overuse injuries.

#2 Consistent Training Schedule

Consistently training on a regular schedule can help reduce overuse injuries. Keeping a consistent workout schedule can give you the required recovery time before your next training session.

My running endurance training usually requires a 24-hour recovery period. My 80/20 running plan has me training six days a week. So, I need to decide what time I will run and keep this schedule consistent every training day.

If I run in the evening and decide to run again the next morning, I feel exhausted. For example, hitting my planned heart rate targets is very difficult and feels impossible when I’m not recovered. Forcing yourself to perform when your body is weak can lead to injury.

Instead of running the next morning, it’s better for your health to cross-train and avoid overuse injury. For example, I swim for 20 minutes, then cycle for an hour.

#3 Running Terrain

Runners can decrease the stress on their joints, tendons, and muscles by running on softer terrain. Another way runners cross-train to avoid overuse injuries is by trail running. Grass, dirt, and sand terrains are usually softer than pavement. However, you need to watch your step to avoid hard rocks, roots, and other trail obstacles.

To protect your feet from trail hazards, you can run in trail shoes with stiffer midsoles for uneven terrain. If you are new to trail running, I recommend you progressively build up mileage.

Cross-Training and Overuse Injuries

In conclusion, endurance runners can prevent overuse injuries by cross-training in other aerobic sports like swimming and biking. Three ways to reduce your risk include:

  1. Progressively increase your training.
  2. Keep a consistent training schedule.
  3. Run on different terrains – trail running.

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