One of the claims of CrossFit Endurance is that runners can improve their long-distance race times while reducing their weekly mileage. The theory, according to CrossFit, is that by increasing muscle mass through powerful, explosive movement, you’ll have the strength for the long haul.
Right or wrong, CrossFit is onto one thing. By working some of the muscle groups you might not otherwise in running alone, you stand to make improvements.
Runners, while incredibly fit from a cardiovascular standpoint, tend to have several common weak spots: hip and glute strength, balance and upper body strength. One reason is that running only works one plane of movement. Lateral movement—which comes more from sports like tennis, soccer, lacrosse and even football—is missing in running. And so too is the ability to activate some of these related muscles.
It pays for runners to engage in other sports that do work these movement patterns and muscles. Aiming for better all-around fitness can help a runner perform better and avoid injury.
How does running translate to other sports?
It depends. Running is one of the best activities for overall cardiovascular fitness and raising an athlete’s VO2 max. Running is an ideal exercise to mix with sports like basketball, tennis and even cycling, where a big cardiovascular machine means that athletes can hang longer and often faster.
Interestingly, sports that also involve upright, weight-bearing movement are your best bets for enhancing running, and vice versa. So while swimming is one heck of a great cardiovascular workout , it won’t help you much as a runner. Rowing and cycling also won’t provide much benefit. Running, however, can help those sports, which is one reason you’ll often see these athletes using running for training.
The bottom line: Runners can become fitter and a better all-around athlete with a variety of sports and activities. Athletes from other sports can also improve their game by making running a part of the regimen.