The cross country season wrapped up this last weekend in California with the state championship race at Woodward Park, Fresno, where I finished 16th in the D5 schools race. For many runners, the last race of the season means only a brief break before they lace up their shoes and start putting on the miles to prepare for the spring track season. A small group of athletes, however, takes to a completely different sport and jumps onto their bikes. I am privileged enough to be one of those people who runs cross country in the fall and races mountain bikes in the spring. People have lots of different perspectives about this but my experience has been nothing but a positive one.
To start, there is definitely an advantage to cross training. Cross country puts one at the pinnacle of his/her athletic ability by the end of the season and to have that base going into the bike season is extremely helpful. I really notice how well my cardio performs on long rides well after my legs are fatigued. Running also helps with the mental aspect of riding as well. Just like mountain biking, running is an extremely mental sport where you can’t lose focus for one second during the race and have to trick your brain into breaking through the barriers of pain. Every season of racing compounds to toughen one’s mind tremendously. The skill is definitely transferable. Switching up sports also helps to prevent injuries from overuse. Many year-round runners end up developing serious injuries due to the fact that they are constantly pushing the same muscles non-stop. Biking allows the body to work different muscle groups, giving the others time to recoup for the next season. Finally, participating in the two sports help to avoid burn out. By the end of one season, I am always ready to start the next sport with fresh enthusiasm.
I know I am not the only athlete who opts for running in the fall, biking in the spring. It is really neat to see, talk to and cheer on SoCal racers that I know at cross country meets.
So, in other words, I am home from Fresno and this week I can’t wait to go ride my bike.