You know what the investors say over and over – diversify!
This is especially true for those athletes that stick to only one or two sports. While they are well trained in their particular area, branching out into additional activities is beneficial for not only the body, but also the mind. Pursuing another activity even for a short while can provide a nice mental break too.
And while I write this, I’m reminded of the training rule of specificity, which states that in order to make gains in one sport, an athlete needs to focus primarily on that one sport. For example, to get better at running, you have to run, not do other sports.
However, there is a fine line here. Repetitive and redundant activities not only put you at risk of over use injuries, but they also numb your mind and might predispose one to burnout in their particular sport.
Diversifying your workouts is also important so that other areas of your body are developed, and stay healthy. Adding in other workouts during the off season is a great way to give that particular area the attention it needs, while giving the most used parts of your body a rest, and even stimulating new areas of your brain that aren’t used to that part of the body being worked either.
As a triathlete, I have a definite off-season during the winter here in Colorado. In the past few years I’ve found yoga and good old-fashioned strength training to be my favorite, and most beneficial off-season workouts.
Yoga is great for runners, and probably something everybody could benefit from. It’s a relatively low intensity workout (but certain classes can be very high intensity!), and you stretch and strengthen parts of your body you didn’t know you had! I’m always amazed after a summer of triathlon training how weak my core muscles feel when I start going back to yoga.
Yoga is a great way to reverse a lot of the compression and pounding that occurs from running and cycling. It’s easy and you don’t even have to join a studio to do it; you can always watch a video. However, I do encourage you to take yoga in a studio with a good instructor, plus the heat feels oh so nice during the winter.
Everybody’s least favorite workout seems to be strength training. I know every time I think of it I remember that saying “why lift weights? They’re so darn heavy!”
In all seriousness, strength training is super important. It’s the best way to build bone density in places other than the legs and hips (which runners don’t need) and has the added benefit of stimulating testosterone release. Testosterone is important for recovery and muscle mass in both sexes.
Strength training should be done with relative frequency in the off-season. It’s ok to do it during the active season too, but you need to take care not to interfere with sport-specific training either; i.e. don’t do a bunch of squats and then go do your track workout!
I do a lot more in the off-season (using a TRX trainer which I love!) and then just do some low weight squats, pushups and other lighter strength workouts during the race season.
Diversifying your workout is important, especially during the offseason. Right now, at the start of the New Year, but also the middle of winter, is the perfect time to start a new regimen.
Strength training and yoga are both really important for aging (30-something) athletes. They slow and can even reverse two very common factors of aging, decreased flexibility and loss of muscle mass. Give them a try this winter, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with how your body feels, looks and even performs this summer when you get back to your regular training regimen.