Prepping for a Race? Why Cross-Training and Form are as Important as Running

You might not want to run every day if you’re training for a race.

That’s the advice Mike Wojciakowski, cross country coach and assistant track coach at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, gives the runners of RunGR.

For the everyday runner who might not be aiming to win races, but rather runs for the health of it, mixing up your workouts is probably better for you than running every single day.

Aiming for three to four running workouts per week and cross-training sessions of your choice on off days is ideal, Wojciakowski said. He emphasized strength training, specifically moves that strengthen your hips like squats and single-leg lunges.

Mike Wojciakowski

“Strength training can help you be more efficient and faster,” he explained. “Being stronger will help prevent injury.”

Yoga and stretching are also great ways to work other areas of your body and ensure you don’t get injured, Wojciakowski said. He advised trying new classes, workouts or sports until you find the cross-training fit that’s right for you.

Another way to prevent injuries is to make sure you’re paying attention to your form when you run. Wojciakowski said he sees a lot of common mistakes. Runners should focus on dropping their arms as they run, and avoid swinging them across their body as much as possible. Avoiding heel strikes is also important. Your foot should land under your hip and your body should have a slight forward lean as you propel yourself.

“If you’re leaning forward, your legs have to keep up with your upper body,” he said.

Leaning back can lead to painful issues such as plantar fasciitis and IT band discomfort.

Wojciakowski said not to overthink it. Running is a natural motion, but if you find you’re getting injured every three months, it might be time to get an opinion on your form and work out any issues.

Runners, what do you do on your cross-training days? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s note: The author of this blog post is a member of RunGR.

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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