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Yoga / January 2016
Karla Bruning, Contributor

Why You Should Cross-Train by Running

OK, so you don't consider yourself a runner. But, even if you aren't planning to sign up for a marathon tomorrow, you can and should still throw running into the mix to improve your overall fitness. Whether your main workout crush is CrossFit, yoga, dancing, boxing, or spinning, you can up your fitness game by adding foot-focused sweat sessions.

CrossFit

Sure, some CrossFit athletes groan when a running WOD rolls around, but running is an essential part of CrossFit training. Time on the trail, track, or tarmac can improve your overall endurance, stamina, and speed to help you achieve AMRAP (As Many Reps/Rounds As Possible). Running teaches pacing, develops cardiovascular endurance, and can boost stamina, all keys to the CrossFit kingdom.

But don't hop on the dreadmill and plod along. Try interval training to improve your fitness. Running repeats at a high intensity—a 9 level of effort on a scale of 10— that last 3 to 5 minutes each, increase your body's VO2 max, or fuel economy. The result? You'll go faster for longer periods of time. Hello, beast mode. Plus, intervals are more fun than steady-state runs. You don't need a study to tell you that, but that didn't stop scientists from proving it anyway.

Yoga

Want to nail that Warrior III or King Dancer pose? Hit the road. Running actually improves balance, not only protecting joint flexion, but enhancing it. Runners young and old have better balance than their non-running counterparts. Plus, the stamina you'll build on the road will help you hold poses longer in the studio.

If your yoga practice is more about finding zen, you can still benefit from lacing up. That famous runner's high is essentially the same as yoga buzz. Much like meditation, running might actually stress-proof your brain by rewiring it.

Plus, yoga and running emphasize the relationship between movement and breath. Running increases lung capacity, which will help with that ujjayi breathing.

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Dance

Up to 95 percent of dancers get injured over the course of their careers. But they might not, researchers say, with extra training outside the studio including a better aerobic base. Running is one of the best ways to up endurance and delay the moment when your body fatigues, a contributing factor in 90 percent of dance injuries. Intense repeats—like 4 minutes at 90 percent of your max heart-rate—will crank up your lung power.

Plus, running actually strengthens your knees, joints, and bones, contrary to popular myth. Runners have a lower incidence of osteoarthritis than less active folks, and the sport can actually strengthen your cartilage, keeping your joints healthy for years to come.

Combat Training

Boxers routinely include roadwork as part of their training. Running is one of the best ways to improve stamina to help you fight round after round. Plus, running strengthens bones in a way strength training can't. But long, slow distance is a thing of the past. Boxers who include high-speed intervals and carefully paced “tempo runs" will reap the benefits in the ring.

Clocking sprints up to 800 meters will prepare you for the demands of individual boxing rounds. Longer runs—20 to 40 minutes at a pace you could hold for a 60-minute race—improve your stamina for the entire bout.

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Spinning

Yes, your quads are strong and you can spin for days. But all those hours in the saddle take your trunk through a limited range of motion. Running not only works those muscles more dynamically, but also engages your core and upper body better than biking.

From a performance perspective, swapping spin time for run time can actually make you a better cyclist. Running puts more muscles to use, demanding more from your heart—as much as six to 10 beats per minute. Want to capitalize on that difference? Running high-intensity intervals is the key to riding faster.

Plus, high-impact activities like running are better for building strong bones. Runners have higher bone density than cyclists. Only the repeated stress of impact on your skeleton can make it stronger. Simply, pounding the pavement keeps osteoporosis away, while simultaneously making you a fitter, faster athlete.

Yoga / January 2016
Karla Bruning, Contributor