Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Risk and reward of court sport cross training

Running is not the best sport for functional life.  It trains the muscles in one repetitive motion.  It coverts or at least enlists white muscle fibers to help with sustained running activity.  Runners typically look slow (Almost goofy) doing sports like tennis, racquetball, volleyball or basketball.

Until 10 years ago I was a court sport person.  I laughed at my runner friends in the racquetball court .. really could you 1st step be that slow.  Since then I have run @ 46,000 miles.  I have become what I mocked.  I have lost 8-10 inches of vertical jump, my 1st step is slow as molasses and it is hard for me to change directions quickly.

Other than impressing your friend with your aptitude at court sports, what other benefits do they hold for you?  Consistently playing court sports will lead to stronger support muscles around your ankles, knees and hips.  This is something you also get technical trail running.  Using your muscles in a different way will create a different stimulus than running, breaking up some of the running training monotony.  These sports tend to be very social sports, allowing people with different fitness levels to play together.

What are the dangers of court sports?  Since I have given them up for 5+ years, I have had significant atrophy of some of the support muscles in my hips, knees and ankles.  This leads to a higher level of risk of injury as I pick them back up.  I do not know how to play moderately.  If I have done a hard run in the same day before playing, it is very risky.  I have to treat playing basketball or volleyball as a hard workout day and run easy that day and know I will be a little sore the day afterward.

I know a lot of runners that get hurt playing court sports.

Is the risk worth it? 

For me the risk is not worth the physical reward.  I have started to play basketball, volleyball and racquetball again, not for the physical benefits, but because I love to play.

I am still uncoordinated, have no vertical and am slow as molasses ~ But with a smile on my face!

Good running to all!


  1. Great post. I have gone back and forth on this one forever. I have been told that I should just cross train in non-weight-bearing ways while training for trail races. I have even told myself, while chasing mileage totals, that playing basketball wouldn't help me at all in trail running, so why do it?
    Despite that, I've been playing hoops for about 75 minutes twice a week. I simply love to play, and the lack of flexibility I was finding in my hips with only running was starting to scare me a bit. I'm with you...maybe I'm losing some running speed (MAYBE)but I simply enjoy basketball!
    Plus, now, as my son gets older, I think I'll be able to beat him in 1 on 1 for a bit longer!

  2. Agree with your assessment. I've struggled with these issues. To be a really good runner you have to run alot, at the expense of anything that makes you more well-rounded. I've backed off the running a little. More biking and weight training. I've gained a few pounds but am enjoying being stronger and hanging out with some other people. A lot of runners are weirdos.

    Joe J

  3. I've crosstrained over the years (tennis, basketball, weight training, StairClimber7000, and indoor cycling) but I never stick with it.

    One thing I need to do more of is core work. I keep making excuses but really I could get 4 exercises done in around 20 minutes a day :).

    Maybe when I hit 50 that will all change :).