In her latest Fast10 blog Hannah Irwin talks about the important role of cross training in her regime, how running less can be more and that aqua jogging can be fun. 

As a runner, the last thing you want to do is run less. We are always gradually building up our mileage and looking at where else we can increase the amount we run to make us better. However, running more isn’t always the answer, or the best option. I for one, have definitely had to learn this. 

Since my return to running after my injury last year, I have had to be very conscious of the amount I run. This means being careful I don’t overdo it or go over the very fine line between enough and too much! As a result, I have had to turn to cross training to fill in the miles. If you had told me at the start of last year, cross training would be a vital part of my training, I would’ve laughed and said, ‘no chance’.

I wasn’t interested in doing anything other than running, even if it was for my own benefit. It wasn’t until my injury, when I was forced not to run, that I realised how important it is to take care of your body and not put it under too much pressure. This is how I came to incorporate cross training into my training, but it probably should’ve been done a lot sooner. 

‘Aqua jogging is queen’ 

One of the biggest parts of my training, and what some may say is the dullest, is aqua jogging. It is something I completely swear by now. Yes, when I first started I was very apprehensive about the extent of its benefit, and whether this outweighed the embarrassment I felt whilst doing it, but now I don’t care. Aqua jogging has been an amazing way of supplementing my training, without having to put extra, unnecessary strain through my legs.

Running is something I want to be able to do for a long time into the future, and if aqua jogging allows me to protect my bones from the extra stress additional running would cause, I am more than willing to do it. I for one, feel as though my body is nowhere near ready to be exposed to double run days, therefore aqua jogging allows me to supplement my training, without causing damage.  

Aqua jogging is a form of cross training I embrace and could not be without in my current training. I would even go as far as saying, some days it acts as a sort of mindfulness. There is nowhere for me to go, and little else you can do whilst in the pool. Initially it acted as time for my thoughts to wonder, and for me to worry unnecessarily about things I couldn’t control, but now I have learnt to control this.

Rather than worrying over what I have to do in the day, or all the work I have due, I erase it from my mind as there is nothing I can do about it in the pool! Much like running, you can clear your head and focus on what you are doing in the present moment. It might not be as enjoyable as running, but I have learnt to enjoy it as much as I can. (If you can find an aqua jogging buddy, the time does go a lot faster!). Call me mad, but I even did it in the freezing cold English sea on holiday when there wasn’t a pool to use. It was actually much more exciting than being in a pool! 

‘Playing it safe’ 

Aqua jogging isn’t the only form of cross training that enters into my training. I have also come to know the cross trainer, or elliptical as most people call it! The cross trainer is something I am quick to resort to when I feel a slight niggle emerging. It is also great to use as an alternative to an easy run. Once again, the cross trainer reduces the amount of stress going through my legs, therefore, instead of doing easy runs on some days of the week, I simply use the cross trainer. (I find it helps if I have a gripping series to watch!).

I have learnt how important it is to stay on the safe side when training. No single bit of training is worth risking an injury. Whilst so many other runners may be racking up the miles, this doesn’t work for everyone, and this doesn’t work for me, so I stay focused on what I am doing, and what works for me, instead of getting held up on other people’s training. 

‘Cross training is our friend, not foe’

Now, my outlook has changed. I have realised how vital it is to incorporate cross training into my plan, and to see it is a beneficial for me, rather than as something to me avoided and dismissed. It isn’t going to harm us, only protect our body. Since doing more cross training and less running, my performance has in fact improved, as my body is a lot stronger. 

If you find yourself being held back by the limited amount of running your body can take, look elsewhere! Look at incorporating cross training into your programme. Don’t be scared of it, it really can help you! 

Hannah’s top three tips for debut aqua joggers

One Start off with the belt on, once you have mastered the correct upright position, then think about taking the belt off for increasing periods of time.

Two – Do interval sessions to start with. This makes time go a lot quicker, and will give you a good workout if you aren’t able to do running sessions. 

Three – Finally, be prepared to answer lots of questions! People will think you are training for water polo, you can’t swim, or just want to be nosey and know what you are doing!  

Hannah Irwin features in the ‘Fast 10: class of 2019’ and over the course of the year will share her running journey. You can follow Hannah on Instagram, while further information about the ‘class of 2019’ can be found here.

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