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Why Does Cross-training Keep Runners Injury Free?

Pop Quiz: what IS cross training for runners?

(if you're a regular around there, then you already know ;) )

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Answer: any activity that’s not running that makes you move in a different way than running.

Dr. Whitt, what does that even mean?


Great question!

When you think about running, it stays in one plane of movement.

Just forwards.


That’s what we do. We run --typically straight ahead.


If we're getting into the weeds, that specific plane of motion is called the sagittal plane, meaning front and back, forwards and backwards.



The kicker is…we don't live that way in everyday life.

Sure, we're typically walking forward toward our destination or goal, but we don't walk or act like robots. In daily life, we bend down to pick something up; we squat to tie our shoes; we turn around when our running buddy yells our name.

Our bodies were designed to move. We're made to twist, turn around, move on diagonals. If you've ever played another sport or just played a game of tag, you find out quickly that we're made cut and juke!

If our sport does us ONE disservice, it's that fact that running only moves in this one plane of motion. To add insult to injury, it's a super repetitive motion, too. We only run forward.

Our sport of running doesn't require these everyday motions of twisting, squatting, reaching or throwing. But that doesn't mean we don't need them.

It means we need them even more! It means we have to supplement our movement.

Stick with me here, running fit fam.


Because supplementing your movement, by cross training, is the final step in staying injury free.


Exploring these other movements and mastering them is the secret sauce.

BUT WHY?? Why and how does this keep me injury free?

Let's go back to one my previous points.

Look at how your marvelous body was designed.

Your shoulders have this amazing capability to not only carry and lift heavy things, but also to throw. The design of your shoulders allows for maximum mobility and the muscles surrounding it help hold that shoulder joint together providing stability while creating the capability for strength and power.

Skipping a ton of other joints and jumping right to your hips…

Your hips are also designed for maximum mobility but in the "lower body" version. The muscles surrounding the hip joint also assist in holding that joint together providing stability while creating the capability for strength and power.

Sounding familiar yet? Sounding slightly redundant?

Then you're right on track.

Our bodies are made in a way that different body parts look and operate similarly to their upper vs. lower body counterpart. We were created for maximum movement in certain joints. We were made to couple that with strength.

Those super mobile body parts we just explored, have an interesting "opposite" body part in-between.

Your spine.

Your spine is the highway connecting your shoulders to your hips. Your spine holds you tall while you're running. It allows you to turn your head and scan your surroundings before you cross the street or ford a stream. Your spine keeps you running strong.

What does all this information tell us?

The design of our body gives us the answer as to what it needs and what it craves.

Our bodies thrive on new information.

Our bodies need to be stimulated in new ways to move.

And that…is cross training.

Moving in different ways that isn't running that also requires us to explore different planes of motions. We need to move in another way than forward and backwards.

We need to play that spontaneous game of pick-up basketball or football.

We need that Saturday morning yoga class.

We benefit from that kayaking day trip or that hiking weekend adventure.

And we're stronger runners for it.

We're stronger runners because we're allowing our bodies to explore different movements, different ways of living, and challenging it in those positions with lifting or carrying or pushing heavy things.

So never feel guilty about playing other sports.

About loving your strength training.

About exploring the great outdoors in a different and new way.

In fact, challenge yourself.

Join that rec softball league.

Take those ballroom dance classes.

Play hide and seek with your students or your own kids.

But move. Explore. Play.

You'll be a stronger runner for it.

You'll be an injury free runner for it.

Run Strong,

Dr. Marie Whitt //@dr.whitt.fit


P.S. Looking for that injury-proof road map after this 4 part series? Then check out my FREE running guide here! You won't regret it.

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