Best Cross-Training For Runners – All You Need To Know

Have you ever looked for any better kind of exercise for you as well as other runners? Do you believe that if you spend less time on running, you will potentially run faster and even minimize the risk of getting injured?

 That is true with cross-training. It is a combination of many types of exercises which includes aerobics, flexibility and strength training. Every workout will have its intensity which suits with its fitness level. By training your different parts of muscles with different level of stress, you can improve the performance and lower your risk of getting injured.

What are the benefits of cross-training?

It is injury prevention which is a popular answer if you ask any runners “what is the greatest benefit that you can gain from cross-training?” Even though, injury prevention is not the only one you can receive. It can bring about a wide range of benefits to runners.

#Benefit 1: Cross-training helps prevent injury

An excessive of injuries is a bad thing of running. However, it is avoidable if you know how to run in a right way. In fact, you can totally avoid most of the excessive injuries, or you can prevent them from returning. This is because conventionally you can get half of those injuries due to these 4 factors.

  1. Incomplete recovery (it is the case as your body is not totally recovered, you immediately take the next run).
  2. Biomechanical irregularities (typical are the differences in the length of the leg or over-pronation).
  3. Muscular imbalance (which is usually created by running itself such as week quadriceps and tight hamstrings).
  4. Worn-out or improper footwear. Although cross-training can not help you with the matter of footwear, it does a good job of dealing with above 3 factors.

If you are a new beginner without a good gound of flexibility imbalances and strength, cross-training will surely help you improve your endurance. Your knees, lower back, and ankles can’t bear with a repetitive impact of running; therefore, choosing elliptical, walking and other tools with low-impact will be best for you in enhancing your endurance without overusing of vulnerable joints, connective tissues and muscles.

 Gradually, when you’ve had a standard base of fitness, you can try to combine different of exercises. This will also help you lose weight if this is your matter.

#Benefit 2: Enjoy other sports

The thing that you surely gain from cross-training is an endured physical and a healthy lung. This is a great base for you to join other kinds of sports such as baseball or football without worry too much about your healthy state.

 If you have not tried any kind of sports for a long time because you have spent all your time on running, let try a sport. This will surprise you when you realize that you can play that game well because of your improved endurance and stamina. Consequently, you can choose other sports you like to play in your free time.

#Benefit 3: Active recovery

This is a kind of practice which you use an alternative type of training to recover from your primary training method. For example, for professional football players, they will take pool resistance exercises and swimming workouts to gain an active recovery from the on-field practices as well as conventional training of weight room.

Besides the benefits of injuring and conditioning prevention which active recovery brings about, it also helps to boost the recovery by enhancing blood flow and nutrients to damaged or stressed muscle tissue.

 Let try the workouts of this cross-training and create your new routine as well as break through your athletic plateau or fitness. (Let take the following exercise 3 times round and try to complete the workouts repetitively and continuously for a certain time):
  • 10 push-up
  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 8 pull-up
  • 30 seconds jump rope
  • 10 squats with 70% the weight of your body
  • 20 box jump on 25-inch platform
  • 60 seconds plank hold
  • 15 seconds of fast-paced running (or 100-meter sprint).

#Benefit 4: Break up the monotony

It is the fact that your passion and interest in running will gradually reduce when you run and pound day after day. As a result, the effect of your performance will also lower. Especially, it will be the problem if you want to gain the stress-reducing benefits. This is because the monotonous routine will bore and frustrate you and even make your stress state become worse.

 However, don’t worry! The cross-training can help you address this matter. There is a wide range of exercises and activities for you to choose which will keep your enthusiasm. Every day of workouts, you can mix different practices for your schedule. It will increase your interest as well as encourage you to do most of the exercises.

#Benefit 5: Rejuvenation

The fact that nothing can perform all of the time without breaking; therefore, the key to performing better next year compared to this there, you should have an appropriate time to break from training time. It is also called the transition period of the training cycle. If you want to become a professional runner, you should take this period seriously.

A great time for you to take the break period is usually in the winter and last for about two weeks. In this time, you just completely rest. Then your body can recover from a hard training period as well as restore your interest and enthusiasm to run.

 After a two-week break, you should allow your body to follow an informal training from two to eight weeks in which just do and take any exercise you like, such as hockey, basketball, yoga, swimming or weightlifting provided that these exercises can help to improve your cardiovascular, strength and your flexibility. Just enjoy yourself!

#Benefit 6: Decrease Tear and Wear

Ineffective running may lead to overuse injuries. Regardless of how you change your own exercises as for route, intervals, or even speed, there is certainly some levels of repetition in your running. Thanks to cross training, you can completely better your athleticism as well as get a proportional body easily.

 For instance, strength-training workouts can help your stride more powerful and increase your speed. While lower-body workouts will help to train your own body to push off with more power in every step. In fact, cross training will enable you to improve your endurance and strength of your muscles, which means that you will be able to incur fewer injuries when running on the road.

#Benefit 7: Improve skill and balance

You can improve your balance by participating in some activities, which help to stimulate your athletic performance in different kinds of sports. Balance can exist in two states: dynamic state and stationary one. This is because of the fact that it has an impact on your ability to move around a certain object, walk on bumpy surfaces, and reach for objects that out, low or high to the side. Having good balance helps you to get rid of a fall and minimize injuries.

 With cross training, your muscles have a great chance to experience various angles and forces from a great number of different activities. Therefore, it also helps better skills such as your power, speed, coordination, agility, and reaction time. Also, taking part in activities like Pilates can be very useful because it contains many versatility and balance exercises. It is also very beneficial for your cross-training program.

#Benefit 8: Burn fat more effectively

If your target is to lose weight as many as possible, it also means that you have to do exercises on every day a week. Meanwhile, it is also crucial for you to keep not only physical health but also mental health while trying to have hard workouts. That sounds not easy at all!

With the help of cross-training, it permits you to be always active by selecting workouts that aim unused parts of your body and take time for fatigued muscles to rest. If your cross-training can help you to avoid unwanted injuries, add enjoyment, help you stay motivated and better your levels of fitness, then you will see a remarkable improvement in your weight loss.

 However, to achieve a more effective result, make sure that your workout is long, continuous, rhythmic, and weight bearing, such as running and walking, in order to burn more fat.

#Benefit 9: Enhance strength

Strength plays a very important role for runners. In reality, it helps runners to drive up high hills. And when needed, it can also be able to help runners sprint to finish line quickly. By practicing a day or two-day lower-body strength training, you will completely realize how easily you can drive up those hills in a short time without wasting too many efforts.

#Benefit 10: Help with Heart Rate Recovery

Some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises will certainly enable you to control your recovery time and heart rate as well. These exercises help you to nearly reach for your max heart rate. After that, you will see a clear recovery for the next interval.

Your heart rate will barely go up too high when you have a long, and steady-state run. However, it is also vital for your heart rate up sometimes when you are exercising because your body can learn to recover more quickly which is necessary after inclines or any increase in your running pace.

 Moreover, these exercises often consist of the strength training element which is mentioned in #2.  Thus, you can definitely kill two birds thanks to this kind of workout.

#Benefit 11: Fit Pregnancy

Cross-training is able to help runners who are pregnant or postpartum in some ways. Running seems to be very hard for women during the last weeks of pregnancy period.

 Cross- training with slight exercises help pregnant women keep fit and also help giving birth processes much easier

#Benefit 12: Study new skills

Cross training enables you to experience new exercises as well as training methods except the normal routines commonly related to your dominant activities.

In fact, you can definitely learn a variety of skills, such as a perceptual-motor (movement, thought, and interpretation), cognitive (requiring a group of thought processes), motor (muscles and movement controlled by instinct), perceptual (interpreting presented information).

 By taking part in various kinds of sports, you will study a wide range of useful skills and your coordination between your hands and eyes are also improved. Furthermore, it can better your performance in many other types of activities and sports.

#Benefit 13: Build core muscle groups.

Apart from your workouts to support the cardiovascular system, you also should take into consideration the addition of strength training sessions which help build and improve your core muscle groups including shoulders, back, arms, legs, and core. It is important to have some strength training sessions because of some following reasons:

  • To enhance your running performance
  • To prevent the muscle loss caused by aging
  • To make contribution to establishing and developing muscles which are not relevant to running
  • To avoid injury at the knees and hips by increasing support for those parts

Based on the advice of the American College of Sports Medicine, it is necessary for adults to combine 2 – 3 strength training sessions every week. Besides, before applying a new workout process, you have to consult with your physician.

#Benefit 14: Adding “mileage”

For some runners who are prone to injury but not injured, then cross training will help them prevent injuries by adding “mileage.” Among speedy runners that I coach, there is one person that was made to perform this. Because of her previous injuries, she cannot complete the full distance we set for her.

However, compared to what we expect her to run, there is a lack of 15 to 20 miles, in fact. And that is the reason why we use the cross training to get in the mileage. 

 Because the goal in such situations is nearly matched with running but slightly reduce the stress on the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, it is wise for runners to make choice of activities such as elliptical-like machines and the Alter-G. And this is what I give advice of for runners. Most of the “mileage” are added on the Alter-G, and some workouts are also provided by the elliptical machine.

Best cross training for runners & How It Helps Your Running

With the cross training, you may feel faster and fresher on your runs. Make sure that you need to change your cross training in case you are injured so that the feeling of apathy about your routine can be prevented. And below are some of the best cross-training activities that runners can follow:

>> Cycling


Like running, cycling largely relies on some major muscles of the legs. In addition, cycling is also considered a great workout to improve the cardiovascular system.

>> Hiking

To be honest, I am possibly biased here because hiking is my favorite activity. However, as a matter of fact, my endurance as well as ability to run hills have been improved significantly since I started hiking. And hiking here, of course, means walking steadily on a rough surface to climb up a steep incline, then back down.   

 Like muscles which work as you run, hiking requires all muscles in your butt, core, feet, and leg to work. By climbing up the steep hills, your glutes will be strengthened considerably, and you also have a chance to know how to do this easily, which is necessary for both uphill running and flat running.

>> Nordic Skiing

One of the features of elite Nordic skiers is owning some of the highest VO2 max capacity among runners. You should give priority to this activity if you are in striking distance of a cross-country ski hill. For runners who live under the cold weather, it offers an opportunity to have outdoor training in the winter.

>> Soccer

For this activity, you have to run from 3 – 5 miles, and you will certainly get an aerobic activity in this workout program. It is something like an interval – type workout as you will slow down and then speed up. Besides, you will have many sides – to – side activities that are designed to help strengthen a lot of muscle groups, especially the hip muscles.

>> Pool Running

Known as aqua jogging, the movements of pool running are nearly the same as those of trail running or road. Nevertheless, there is an enormous difference that pool running is not weight – bearing. Always keep in mind that if you are suffering from a running injury, you have to ask for an advice from a physical therapist because pool running means deep water running at a pool. In other words, your feet won’t touch the bottom.

>> Elliptical/Ellipti-Go

A few years ago, I suffered from an ankle injury, and that was the reason why I made a decision to choose the elliptical for cross training. It really satisfied me when it not only made running easier but also created low – impact movements which are biomechanically similar to those of running.

 The only complaint about this equipment that makes me uncomfortable is that the elliptical is gym equipment, so making me bored. However, there are still outdoor alternative options like the Ellipti-Go that is an elliptical bike. Although they are quite expensive, they are gradually popular.

>> Ski touring

To be able to make ski touring, you really need to practice your upper body and legs a lot. In addition, your coordination can be improved significantly through the technical challenges of this sport. Besides, you will have a chance to enjoy a lot of fun from the combination of downhill skiing and mountain climbing.

>> Cross-country skiing

The cross-country skiing is considered a complex exercise which requires your entire bodywork. This kind of exercise focuses more on muscle groups in comparison with running. It helps build your upper body and strengthen your core. In addition, with the cross-country skiing workout, you can do for more than 2 hours.

>> Plyometrics

Hartmann says that plyometric exercises are high – velocity and dynamic moves which can help build dynamic control as well as explosive power. Those exercises make you work at a more rapid pace than normal, so you have to move all planes of motion.

Plyo moves can teach the legs to function as a more efficient spring system, allowing you to absorb the force of each step and use it to push off powerfully.

 With plyo moves, your legs will be trained to operate as a more effective spring system, so you can receive the force of every step and make use of it to push off powerfully.

>> CrossFit

It can be said that CrossFit is an excellent way for runners to make their body adapted because its target is muscles which won’t work while you run. Because the ever-changing WODs (or workouts of the day) and CrossFit’s signature force you to work out at a high intensity, they also make your heart increase, which helps improve the endurance training.

In addition, power – based and explosive moves such as snatches are good for short – distance runners as well as sprinters.    


 A good news for you is that you do not have to worry about how to make all different types of cross training to be able to receive all distinct benefits mentioned above. Just by providing your running with endurance cross – training (swimming or bicycling for example), flexibility training, and strength training, you can receive them all. Although each form of cross training is relevant to the abovementioned benefits, there is still a lot of overlap.
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