Crossing Over

How do you become a faster runner without running?

I didn’t really think it was possible until this summer, when I proved myself wrong – rather comprehensively.

Running had never co9me easily for me and whilst there had been some limited improvement over the years, being “fast” appeared to be an unrealistic goal at best, and persistent injury conspired to keep it that way.

When I started training for triathlon, part of my rationale had been the notion of cross training. Varied training makes a more rounded athlete; helps strengthen the body and prevent injury – it’s pretty much common knowledge, so of course I knew it, I just needed to see it.

I have already written about how general strength training began to improve my overall performance and endurance, and I was enjoying the results. They just didn’t seem to translate to faster times….


Last summer, in the absence of any other permissible lower body workout, cycling took a bigger role in my training. I joined a local ‘no-drop’ ride (so at least I wouldn’t be abandoned in the middle of nowhere) and started riding with them once a week.

I was last.

This is, even now, a pretty common place for me to be. In part because I’m still just not that fast, but also due to the fact that I have a sometimes demoralizing habit of spending time with people who are much faster than me – not really a bad thing, it makes me better in the end, but now and again I just wish I could be up front…

I would get faster, I was assured by the fast guys – clearly on some kind of rota system to babysit the slowpoke at the back, just keep doing it.

And it did!

The hills got easier, and sometimes, just sometimes, there was someone behind me (probably wishing, like me, that there was someone slower than them!).

When I started running again in September, I found myself posting times I have never seen before, and with more ease! My friends commented on how much my running had improved.

“I should take the summer off every year!?”

Presumably cycling offered a low impact way to increase my fitness and cardio and also perhaps strengthen some pertinent muscles in the process.

This is a very encouraging development. It seems that my body is not nearly so enamored with running as is my mind, so knowing that there is the possibility to train running fitness without subjecting my body to the impact associated with running (and without the excruciating boredom of pool running) is exciting.

I don’t doubt that there are many combined causes behind this recent improvement, the body is a complex machine, and certainly I have been working hard to strengthen many areas. Of course nothing trains better for running than running, specificity is important in any sport, but for the time being we are having to think a little outside the box in this area and make the most of it.

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