Last year when I was training for that half marathon and got injured, I posted about how much I disliked cross training. Mostly this had to do with not feeling like I was getting as much of a workout from cycling/swimming as I do from running, but since my injury I’ve been forced to take on other forms of exercise (either that or gain twenty pounds). What I’ve found is that the more I do those other types of exercise, the more I like them.

I’ve been doing spin class at the gym, which finally taught me that I can sweat just as much (if not more!) by cycling as I can with running. I’ve also finally added in weight training three times a week and a swim or two here and there, along with rock climbing and tennis at least once a week. As I’ve said, my running has been toned down to about three short, easy runs per week because I’m so afraid of getting those shin splints back. So far, I’ve been in good shape on the shin splints. Luckily, I haven’t really had any reoccurences of shin splints and I think that’s due to having so many cross training activities mixed into my week.

But what really made me a believer was the 5K I did last week. My pace has really been increasing lately, despite my running less and less each week. I thought this was just because I was doing shorter runs (usually 2 miles), but when I ran that 5K on Thursday I beat my best 5K time by almost 2 full minutes – down to 30:20 from 32:01. My pace has never been consistently below 10:30, but lately I’m typically running at about 9:45. I truly believe this is because of the cross training. Last summer I couldn’t figure out why my times weren’t getting much better each run. Now, I think the reason was that I was running every day and not giving my legs a break in between. My legs were still doing the work, but I think they were too tired to try their hardest. When I get to run these days, my legs are pushing harder and harder each time because they’re rested and ready to work. It was seriously a great feeling to get so close to that 30-minute 5K time. It’s something I’ve been wanting for awhile but never thought I’d get. Now, I’m so close, and I definitely think it’s thanks to my cross training. I am seriously one of the biggest fans of cross training now that I’ve actually tried it.

What about you? Has cross training helped you in your running?