Top 5 Cross-Training Workouts For Runners

If you’re training for a race, your plan will most likely incorporate longer distance runs combined with HIIT-style sprint workouts throughout the week to build endurance and speed.

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However, throwing cross-training into the mix can really take your training to a whole new level, helping you gain more strength and prevent injuries. If you’re an avid runner, consider incorporating some of these cross-training workouts into your fitness regimen.

1. Strength Training

We know that strength training and running aren’t mutually exclusive, so why don’t more runners lift weights as part of their fitness routines? Many runners don’t know where to begin or don’t recognize the importance of strength training. Others want to maximize their training by focusing on cardio as much as possible, without realizing that strength training can improve their run times, too. By strengthening key muscles, you’ll be less prone to injuries, increasing your power and improving your running speed overall. Focus on exercises that emphasize balance and endurance, like planks, one-legged squats and walking lunges with dumbbells. And don’t forget your upper body either, including your arms and shoulders: Strong arms help to propel you forward, and a well-balanced body is less likely to result in strain and injury. For best results, runners should aim to strength train at least twice a week.

2. Cycling

Cycling is an extremely beneficial cross-training exercise for a runner, as it works key muscle groups with little impact on the knees. Cycling helps strengthen the quadriceps muscles that prevent the knees from buckling on landing too hard during a run. It also works the outer hips and gluteus medius muscles that are vital for any runner to help prevent iIliotibial band injuries. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is a very common running injury and can cause your training to come to a grinding halt if you’re not careful. Cycling allows you to increase your cardiovascular fitness, without the high impact on your joints. While cycling, aim for the same intensity that you would reach on a run to get the most benefit. You want to be breathing heavy, but you also want to be working those leg muscles.

3. Swimming

Swimming is a great exercise for runners, especially those recovering from an injury, since it’s a non-weight bearing activity. Swimming is a full-body exercise that targets all of the major muscle groups, building your strength while not comprisiming your joints. Swimming also helps prevent future injuries when you do go on your next run by increasing your flexibility and improving your muscular balance. Swimming offers resistance with every move you make, unlike any other exercise out of water. The water provides 12 to 14 percent more resistance than when you exercise on land, which is another bonus to this cross-training exercise. If you’re a runner who is prone to injury, swimming is your best bet.

4. Rowing

Rowing is an exercise runners will really benefit from, as it’s technically an upper-body workout that still works your legs, back, core and provides a boost of cardio to boot. Indoor rowing also allows you to gain flexibility in your hamstrings and calves. Rowing is a high-intensity cardiovascular workout, so make sure you follow the proper form to prevent any back injuries. You want to avoid hunching your shoulders and push through with your legs. This transfers the workload over to your core and back while using your arms to pull and finish each stroke. Start out with a lower intensity to get your muscles warmed up and gradually work up the intensity from there while keeping your core tight.

Even though it’s hard to take a break from running while training for a race, balancing it with cross-training workouts is a surefire way to hit a new personal record at your next race, and prevent injuries while you’re at it. While you might not have access to all of these cross-training options, choose one that you enjoy to incorporate into your training routine.

5. Yoga

Training for a race can be mentally and physically exhausting. Meanwhile, the benefits of yoga are pretty much universal and extremely well known, benefitting your mental and physical health, increase your strength, balance and, yes, improve your flexibility. Taking the time to regularly and thoroughly stretch your muscles could make all the difference between achieving an excellent race time and not even crossing the finish line. Because runners are so prone to injury, the loosening, 5 effects of yoga yield many benefits to the hardcore runner. Be sure to focus on your breathing and practice proper form before moving on to more challenging poses – like everything worth doing, yoga takes time to master. Try these easy moves for beginners to get started.