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Without a doubt, the number one concern of runners is getting injured. Injuries can easily destroy a carefully planned training program and leave runners back at square one for their fitness. Fortunately, runners can maintain their fitness if they take the time to cross train.
Cross training includes any low-impact exercise that does not exacerbate a running injury. Popular cross training options include swimming, pool running, and using an elliptical machine. Many runners are wary of investing the time into cross training because they do not believe that other forms of exercise will help with running.
The truth is that cross training is absolutely essential if a runner does not want to lose fitness. A recent study compared the VO2 Max (body’s ability to use oxygen) of runners who cross train. The study divided runners into three groups. One group ran for three weeks, another group used an elliptical for three weeks, and another group did no training for three weeks. The VO2 Max of runners who used an elliptical declined by 1.5% over the course of the three week test period.
This is impressive considering that the VO2 Max of runners who did not train during the three week period declined by 4.8%. Even more impressive, the group that ran for the three weeks had their VO2 Max decrease by .8%, which is only a .7% difference with the elliptical group.
The bottom line is that utilizing a cross training program when injured can help runners ensure that they do not lose valuable fitness built up in the weeks and months prior to the injury. Do not assume that other forms of exercise are useless in helping you stay fit.