Marathon Running
Cross Train Junkie
By Blue Benadum
Aug 22, 2009 - 3:06:54 PM

MALIBU—The importance of cross training should never be underestimated for serious and leisure athletes alike.  Every athlete will inevitably hit walls in their training, both mental and physical, and the continued success of any program requires adaptation and perseverance. This is where the importance of cross training, any training different from the main sport of focus, becomes an integral tool of success.  So you may ask, will tennis make you a better marathoner?


As a curious and lifelong "active junkie," I've always been quick to throw myself into the latest, newest or most intense sport or training ritual.  This is likely what got me into the sport of marathon running in 2006.  A lifelong participation in extreme sports was, no doubt, a great help in preparing me for the grueling training that comes with the 26.2 mile racing.  I ran my first race in three hours and 14 minutes and after taking six months off from running, I qualified for the Boston Marathon in 3:06.  A few months later I broke the three-hour mark and decided to train more consistently for speed.  The program I began to follow had no rest days, lots of speed work, and hills and tempo runs mixed in with the long distance runs.  In the next months I broke a mountain trail course record in Colorado, finished second in the Tahoe Triple Marathon and got a personal record of 2:42 in Long Beach.

High mileage had been a way of life for me and the more I ran the better my body seemed to adapt and perform, though I had never run over a hundred miles per week in training.  Over the next months I got a number of top-three finishes including second place in the Santa Clarita and Pasadena marathons and first in the Lost Dutchman Marathon in Arizona.  After a calf cramp in the Boston Marathon at mile 16, I hopped on one leg for the last 10 miles to finish; I had some time off for the first time in a year. 

With an injury from running I began cross training more to stay in shape while my calf healed.  I ran the San Francisco marathon with no running in my training in the two weeks leading up to the race.  I was only seven minutes off my PR on a hilly course and my legs never felt more fresh at the end of a race.  I realized the power of cross training at that moment.  A mixture of Crossfit, an intense weight and sprint-based workout, surfing and a bit of tennis brought me across the line, but not with a PR.

So in the end it looks like tennis may make you a better marathoner, but you must still do the sport you are training for.  As I train for my next race I hope to return the mileage of my previous training while adding the cross training I depended on during my injury.  The vote is still out on this combination, cross training and mileage, but I intend to throw myself into the experiment full throttle so I can report back to you, hopefully with results of a new PR! 

Come join us at the Pepperdine track every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. for a Cross Fit workout.  

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