How Running Fitness Translates To Other Sports

by | Mar 19, 2024 | Running Training Insights, Featured, Run, Training

*Spoiler alert – Running Fitness doesn’t always translate but it helps. Read on for some scientific insights.

The Cape Town Cycle Tour took place recently and I was fortunate enough to watch the racing from the back of a moto as part of the broadcast team. On our second lap, we interviewed some mid-fielders and (as you do) I spoke to a few riders that looked pretty well spent at around the 80km mark of the iconic 109km route. The common theme among these ‘tired’ riders was running. “I’ve been focussing more on running this year and figured the ride would be easy.”

It got me thinking, as amateur athletes and fitness enthusiasts we often assume that one type of cardio fitness will immediately be good for another. Turns out it can’t, but then, on the other hand, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole and found a few scientific nuggets to prove that running ‘should’ positively influence your overall athletic abilities.

The Science Behind Running Fitness

Firstly, by way of defining and contextualising things, let’s start with broadly paraphrasing some science: Running activates body systems, including cardiovascular, muscular and respiratory. Dr. Michael Joyner, an exercise physiology expert at the Mayo Clinic states that running is an effective cardiovascular workout that improves heart health boosts lung capacity and enhances overall endurance.

Running Fitness
Running fitness will definitely improve your tennis game. (c) Isabella Mendes / Pexels

Advantages of Cross-Training

Now, we’ve mentioned cross-training before and are big advocates of it ourselves. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicates that adding running to a training routine can enhance agility, balance and muscle coordination—key components for success in sports, like soccer, basketball and tennis.

Endurance Improvement

Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka, a kinesiology professor and head of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Lab at the University of Texas emphasizes the importance of building endurance through running. He mentions that the endurance gained from running fitness can greatly enhance performance in sports that require effort over long durations. This enhanced endurance can lead to increased stamina and resilience not in running but also in activities like cycling, swimming and team sports such as rugby or football.

Running Fitness

Running Fitness Can Speed Up Injury Recovery

Running fitness also plays a role in strengthening muscles and joints lowering the risk of injuries seen in other sports. Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City points out that the repetitive motion involved in running helps build resilience in tissues, which can be beneficial for preventing injuries and aiding recovery for athletes engaged in high-impact sports.

Psychological Advantages

Apart from benefits running contributes to mental toughness and discipline—qualities crucial for sports that demand focus and persistence. Dr. Emily Saul, a sports psychologist suggests that the mental strength cultivated through running—enduring discomfort and surpassing perceived limits—can have an impact on performance, across various athletic pursuits.

In summary, there is evidence supporting the idea that improving running fitness can enhance performance in other sports significantly. Don’t expect to be able to ride a fast Cape Town Cycle Tour or think you’d suddenly be able to play a full game of waterpolo simply because ‘you have been running,’ but from the science, when you incorporate running into your training routine you’re not just improving your heart health, stamina and mental strength – you’re setting yourself up for success in sports and a healthier lifestyle overall.

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