Best Cross-Training Tips for Runners

Whether you’re training for a half-marathon or just trying to get in shape, running should only make up part of your regular workout routine. Although running is undoubtedly an excellent full-body exercise, it’s a high-impact, one-directional activity that’s primarily based on one plane of motion. By incorporating cross-training activities into your routine, you can target your muscles from several different angles to help you build endurance and reach other health goals you’ve set for yourself. 

Benefits of Regular Cross-Training

Cross-training can include any type of activity that helps supplement your primary sport or preferred form of exercise. For example, a dancer may choose to take regular yoga classes to help them stretch out their muscles, develop more flexibility, and help their bodies recover after difficult training sessions. Christine Luff, a personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist, explains that several studies have proven that cross-training can provide benefits for runners as well. When running is regularly supplemented with other exercises, it can help runners:

  • Balance their muscle groups. As a runner, you might develop strong legs but lack strength in your arms or back. Cross-training can help you evenly tone your entire body and focus on specific areas that running alone can’t target. 
  • Improve cardiovascular health. Several cross-training regimens include great cardio workouts, so you’ll be able to maintain or boost your overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Reduce their chance of injury. When people only exercise by running, they’re only focusing on specific muscle groups, and the high-impact nature of running can take a toll on a person’s joints and lower body. By swapping out running with low-impact activities once in a while, it can help you build strength in other parts of your body while reducing shock to your joints. 
  • Avoid boredom. Let’s face it: even if you love running, it can sometimes feel more like a chore than an enjoyable routine. Adding new exercise options will help you stay motivated and committed to your health goals.
  • Maintain fitness during recovery. If you experience an injury that affects your ability to run, it can be disheartening. Many people feel disappointed about the prospect of losing their progress, but they often overlook cross-training activities they can do during the recovery process. For instance, an athlete with a knee injury shouldn’t aggravate their pain with running, but pool jogging or doing an elliptical workout can help them retain strength in their muscles.

How to Choose the Right Cross-Training Exercises for You

Now that you know about the benefits of cross-training, it’s time to identify your goals and select the best type of exercise(s) to help you achieve these ideals. According to certified exercise physiologist and certified fitness nutrition specialist Laura Williams, runners should base their cross-training goals on the 5 core components of fitness, which include: 

  • Muscular strength. If you’re a dedicated runner, you can benefit from strength training exercises that focus on your arms and core to help you stay toned and balanced. You can improve upper body strength by doing weight training exercises, rock climbing, kayaking, or paddle boarding to give your arms a good workout.
  • Muscular endurance. If you want to be able to run for longer distances without getting tired, you need to slowly work on improving your endurance. One way to monitor your performance over time is to select exercises that you can do anywhere and count easily, such as lunges, push-ups, calf raises, and Russian twists. Once you become comfortable with a certain number of reps, you can increase the amount or begin incorporating resistance bands or weights to ramp up the intensity.
  • Cardiovascular endurance. Improving cardio health can include any exercise that gets your heart rate up. Swimming, cycling, rollerblading, and cross-country skiing are all great alternatives to running that offer the added benefit of being low-impact.
  • Flexibility. Stretching before working out can help prevent injury, but exercises specifically focused on improving your flexibility can help correct your posture, ease pain, and avoid injuries caused by tight muscles. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are some potential options to explore if your current workout routine has you feeling sore and tense.
  • Body composition. Whether you want to drop a few pounds or build more muscle mass, you should choose workouts that strengthen and tone your core while boosting your heart rate. Burpees, push-ups, lunge jumps, and interval training routines can help you reach your body composition goals when regularly incorporated into your exercise schedule.

If you have difficulty staying motivated, committing to a race is one way to keep you focused on your goals and give you accountability partners to cheer you on when you don’t feel like working out. Sign up for the virtual 5K Big Dam Run to take that first step towards reaching your New Year’s fitness goals!





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