The Spice of Life

When it comes to training for anything, adding some variety ie cross training has many benefits.

Hi Folks

What is the spice of life? Well, variety of course.

So how do we apply that to our training when most of us follow the principle of specificity? That is to say, if you are a runner you will mostly, if not exclusively engage in running. And a cyclist will mainly hop onto a bike and push round the pedals.

We can apply variety in two key ways:

Firstly you can vary the type of specific activity you are doing. So if we use the runner as an example we can run faster, slower, less distance, more distance, include intervals and or hills etc etc. The list isn’t exhaustive.

But you can also use cross training to complement your main activity but give you a welcome break from it. So as a runner you could, and arguably should engage in some of these other activities periodically to help reduce the likeliness of over training and/or injury:

  1. Strength training: a fantastic way to strengthen your muscles in general but also to improve the strength of individual muscles that are weak spots. This helps improve your running economy so that you need to work less at a given pace or you run quicker at a given effort. It is also thought to help reduce the risk of injury.


  1. Flexibility / mobility training: by stretching or practicing yoga/pilates you help improve the range of motion around the joints. This helps reduce the chance of injury from overstretching and also improve running economy.


  1. Plyometrics: a fantastic way to strengthen tendons which in turn become stronger and able to withstand more force during the stretch shortening cycle when the foot hits the ground (think of stronger elastic bands helping you bounce forward rather than relying of muscular contractions).


  1. Cycling: an alternative activity to either help the legs recover after a hard run or to help improve your anaerobic and/or aerobic thresholds.


  1. Circuit training: a multi joint, multi movement set of exercises to improve overall strength, fitness, flexibility and robustness.


So there are just some examples of ways to improve your activity as well as keeping things from getting stale. Now go and experiment and have fun!!