Get Crossed

September 8th, 2010 | Posted by john in Training Tips

If you’re like me, you have looked at the recommended 3-Day for the Cure training schedule and seen the “Cross Training” days and said to yourself, “I don’t need to cross train!  Those can just be rest days!”  Really, until recently I didn’t understand the importance and value of cross training, especially when it comes to an event like the 3-Day.  All it took was a question about shin splints.

Last week I visited my doctor and had the full intention of asking her about shin splints and then writing a post on here about that conversation.  There was a series of tweets on Twitter recently and it made me think about that.  Well, the conversation about shin splints didn’t turn up a whole lot more information than what I had already found online, but the conversation naturally turned to something else.

I also asked her about knee health.  When I had my shin splints, I overcompensated for the pain and as a result, my knee in the other leg started hurting.  It took quite awhile for that to go away, I would think it was gone but then go out on a training walk and then come back.  In fact, this past Monday was the first time I had walked since the Boston 3-Day that I didn’t have knee pain.  At any rate, that got me to thinking about overall knee health and what I could do to make sure that I didn’t have chronic knee pain that would potentially cause me to not be able to complete a 3-Day.  It would take a lot to do that, but I still wanted to look out to the future and be doing the things now that would be a benefit in the long run.

She told me that there are a number of things that can cause knee problems that you have under control.  The first thing that she mentioned was weight.  This made sense to me, the more weight that those joints have to support, the more likely it is that they will wear out.  So, in my mind there was nothing earth shattering there.

Second was flip flops.  “Flip flops?” I asked.  Apparently because of their lack of cushion and support for the feet, wearing flip flops can have a long term effect on your knees.  She even told me that she had teen athletes that she had treated that had knee and back problems that she felt could be at least partially attributed to them wearing flip flops.  So that did take me a bit by surprise.  After all, our kids wear flip flops.  It’s the easiest shoe to get them on their feet and out the door quickly during the summer.

The last thing she mentioned was cross training.  At first I didn’t understand.  After all, cross training could potentially put more strain on the knees depending on what you were doing.  Riding a bike I would think would cause a lot of wear down from repetitive motion problems.  Apparently though, it’s not the joint itself that necessarily benefits from cross training.

She told me that what cross training does is strengthens a broader diversity of muscles.  Look at it this way:  If you are a 3-Day walker and all you do to train is walk, then the only real muscle development will be in the muscles that are required to walk.  A lot of injuries can apparently happen by having one group of muscles overdeveloped and another group of muscles not so.  In fact, I’ll tie this back into shin splints and say that one of the causes I found mentioned when I did my online research into them said that a potential cause of them can be an imbalance in the strength of the shin muscle with the calf muscle.  There were several other potential causes listed, but I think this one illustrates the point and benefits of cross training quite well.

So even if it seems unnecessary to do the cross training, there are benefits of doing it.  Yes, like a lot of other things regarding training, you CAN get through the 3-Day without doing them.  I’ve walked in four events without cross training and for the most part did pretty well.  However, after thinking about the long term benefits of doing it, I will definitely start doing cross training.  I don’t want to just walk this year.  I want to continue walking until the threat of breast cancer is eliminated.  And to do that, I need to keep in mind my long term health.  I hope that you’ll do the same.


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