We’ve all seen them. I’m talking about those runners who do the same routine every day without question. Call them healthy. Call them motivated. Call them obsessive-compulsive. Call them crazy. Whatever we call them, our goal should be to avoid becoming one of them.
I know this because I’ve been there. I was a college swimmer for six months of the year, and in the off-season, I would hit the roads with a vengeance. Every afternoon I would run three miles to the one hill in town and back. I ran the same speed, same route, at the same time of day. Then one day my hip started to hurt, but being a creature of habit who took pride in her self-discipline, I pushed through it. The next day it was still there. Over time it got worse as I limped through the beginning of my runs. Finally I was limping all the time, so I gave in and shuffled over to the university medical center. One xray later and I was at bed rest with a stress fracture in the neck of my femur. Upon further bone scans, I had two additional stress fractures in my other femur. I had to take my finals from a hospital bed since I was not allowed to walk for two weeks. Somehow my most vivid memory of that hospital stay was trying to go the bathroom in a bedpan!
I learned a lesson at 21 years old. Doing the same thing every day can actually be detrimental to your health and your fitness. Athletes are especially at risk of “Workout OCD” because we tend to be both driven and methodical, often relying heavily on numbers and technology. Think about how crazy it would be to stop your 4 mile run at the 3.9 mile mark? Oh the terror! This is something I’ve actually forced myself to do, just to prove that I can!
After my college swimming (and ill-fated off-season running) career ended, I gravitated to the sport of triathlon which in itself is the definition of cross-training. While triathlon has its own pitfalls (that’s an entirely separate series!), the cross-training benefits are incredible, especially when you look at the 60-64 age group on the podium. They all look 40 as they leap up on the stage as if they didn’t just finish an Ironman.
The benefits of cross-training are endless. Switching it up helps prevent overuse injuries, builds new muscles (especially important as we get older), helps break through weight-loss plateaus, and improves your social life among other awesome things!
I am writing an upcoming 3-part series about cross-training focused on three fairly accessible activities – hiking / walking, cycling, and metabolic training (aka high intensity interval training). Stay tuned!