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Why Cross Training Is Worth Your Time

Professional trail runner and Hive Gold athlete Andy Wacker shares the importance of cross training, and how it can help us take our goals to the next level: As a DI athlete at the University of Colorado, cross training was frowned upon. When running 100 miles a week and training to run on the track, you don't have time for the elliptical. But, after 20 years of running, coaching and dealing with injuries, I’ve found cross training can be extremely useful if implemented correctly; specifically to prevent problems, to keep fit while injured, and to make you a more versatile athlete.
1. Injury Prevention
As a fellow athlete, the number one reason I would advise you to cross train would be to prevent injuries. Strength training and gym sessions are one example of how to build muscle to prepare for your event. Working on our weaknesses can also lead to better form, and body balance. Runners often have weak hips, glutes and hamstrings. So posterior chain exercises can help improve your stride. For example, single leg squats can help prepare for fast downhill running and trail races.  In running, more is more. More miles makes you faster, more repeats make you better. But, staying healthy and consistent has to be balanced with the “more is more” attitude. When you can’t run seven days a week, cross training and working different areas of the body can help you much need increased blood flow and recovery for overworked muscles.  Tabor Scholl, an All-American at University of Colorado, explains “cross training allows your body to recover from the stress of your specific training (i.e. running, cycling, etc.) and  presents a platform to utilize other muscle groups that otherwise might get neglected.”  According to Scholl, this can “decrease the risk of an overuse injury by giving those harder working muscles a much needed break”
2. Enjoy the Outdoors
Sick of the gym? A more fun way to work on hip and glute weakness is skiing. Runners and bikers constantly and repetitively work in the same plane of motion. Cross Country skiing is a great way to work on lateral motion and increase hip strength.  US Marathon Olympic Trials runner and Honey Stinger Hive Elite athlete, Ashley Brasovan, explains, “replacing one of my aerobic running days each week with swimming or skiing has helped to keep me healthy and injury free the last few build ups.” She continues, “Nordic skiing really helps to build aerobic fitness without the impact that running typically has on the body and has translated really well into summer mountain fitness.”
3. Improve Injury Recovery
If you are like me, you feel much better after exercise. So when I can’t run because of injury or recovery, biking, swimming, and cross country skiing (in the winter) keep me stay sane. Cross training is also a great way to keep cardiovascular fitness, improve sleep, and more. The idea is that you can come back not only healthy, but stronger than before. 
4. Versatility in Sport 
Running is specific and training should mimic what you are doing. If you are training for a road marathon, a 20 mile long run on roads at a faster pace is one of your most important workouts. On the other hand trail running, and obstacle racing require a level of athleticism that can only come from cross training.  Spartan World Champion and Honey Stinger Hive Platinum athlete, Nicole Mericle uses rock climbing, ski mountaineering, and strength training to stay at the top of her game. Nicole, who started rock climbing four years before she started obstacle racing, admits, “I rock climb because I enjoy it.” Beyond that, Nicole prepares for obstacle course racing with challenging climbing routes. She explains, “rock climbing requires more body awareness, and grip strength, which prepares you above and beyond for obstacles.”  Is cross training worth your time? If you are prone to injury, want to break the monotony of everyday training and add an x-factor of versatility to your daily activity, the answer is: absolutely.