DECATUR — As the weight starts to drop from a regular routine of running, we start looking good.

Well, not always.

People my age (late 40s and older) can look saggy, sometimes sickly. Our skin starts to droop and we look tired.

So what is a body to do? Try doing something else.

For runners, cross-training is valuable for added strength and endurance. Cross-training combines other exercises, such as swimming, elliptical training, water-walking and stair-climbing, to use different parts of the body.

“It strengthens muscles you don’t always use,” said Heather Dodson, store manager at Fleet Feet.

Other healthy activities are helpful for running.

“Make sure you are doing movements that are beneficial to your activity,” said HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital athletic trainer Dustin Fink. “As a runner, the best movements are full squats, lunges or anything that would help hip movements.”

Accord to a 2015 study through the National Center for Biotechnology Information, those who add strength training, such as deadlifts, squats and calf raises, to their 5K preparation ran faster than those who only ran.

Athletic trainers also believe adding strength training two to three times a week can reduce the risk of injuries and prevent boredom. Running is a selective activity using larger muscles with a short range of motion.

“All the repetition can cause other injuries,” said Patrick Larry, a Decatur Memorial Hospital athletic trainer.

Adding resistance training can help the range of motion. The type of weights can vary, from dumbbells or resistance weights to your own body weight, such as those exercises used for yoga, push ups or pull ups.

According to Larry, running as an exercise doesn’t address the upper body or core strength, which is needed for proper and successful running. “The lower body has to compensate,” he said. “With a stronger upper body, the stability and control is going to help share the load.”

Although I have tried many of the aforementioned exercises, including yoga, weights and elliptical training, I am curious about another form of walking I learned from the Decatur Running Club -- rucking.

Brandon Simmons is a member of the running club and has competed in several 5K events and marathons.

"I can tell you that running in and of itself does not strengthen running muscles. It breaks then down,” he said. “That is why we get sore after a long, hard effort. If you combine that with the impact on the joints, a lot of running leads to injury for a lot of people.”

In 2016, Simmons began rucking to build endurance. Rucking is simply adding weight in a backpack and going for a walk. The term comes from the military, in which soldiers put the weights in their "rucksack" and move it from point A to point B. The movement in between is referred to as rucking. Simmons was exposed to the training technique in the Army. He found when you walk with the weight on your back, it forces you to engage your core and lean slightly forward. “The extra weight and slight forward lean also works and strengthens running muscles, glutes, quads, calves, hip flexors, hamstrings and core,” he said.

Rucking helped him prepare for the 2016 Chicago Marathon. He ran seven miles a week and rucked about 15 miles per week.

“I ran the best marathon of my life,” he said.

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Staff Writer

“Together Decatur” columnist, food and entertainment reporter for the Herald & Review.

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