Runners Cross Training Guide
Cross-training can be any exercise or sport that supplements your running and marathon training. Running athletes of any level can benefit form cross-training. We have some of the cross-training benefits summed up on this page.
Cross-training for balance
Cross-training is good for strengthening other muscle groups which do not get so much attention while running and for resting all of your running muscles. One can perform upper-body strengthening exercises on parts such as the chest and the shoulders, to balance upper and lower body strength.
Cross-training for cardiovascular fitness
Most cross-training exercises can be wonderful cardiovascular workouts without increasing stress on the running muscles. Keeping or building your cardiovascular fitness without straining your running-muscles can be established only with cross-training.
Cross-training to reduce your chance of injury
As mentioned before, cross-training helps to strengthen the weaker muscles for better balance. A well balanced body reduces the occurrence of injuries. Especially low-impact activities such as riding a bicycle, swimming, and water-running reduce stress on the joints while maintaining cardiovascular level.
Cross-training to avoid boredom
Doing to same thing every day will become boring for every runner no-matter how motivated you are. The psychological break that is provided by cross-training help to prevent a burn-out especially for endurance athletes such as marathon runners.
Continue training with certain injuries
Depending on the seriousness and type of injury it might be possible to perform some kind of cross-training. Carefully discuss this with your sports physician so that cross-training doesn't worsen the injury. In this case the cross-training could help to maintain a certain cardiovascular fitness level and to cope with the frustrations of not being able to run.
When should you Cross-Train?
There aren't any fixed rules or guidelines on how often and when to cross-train, mainly the amount depends on your level of fitness and your running goals; whether you run for fun or are a competitive runner. For those runners who want to improve their PB time but fear the increase in running might lead to unwanted injuries can opt for some more cross-training than a recreational runner. The best advice here would be to experiment with various activities until you find a balance which feels best.
Swimming is a perfect cross-training activity for endurance runners because the water creates weightlessness which provide a much needed break for the joints. Besides building well-balanced strength it also builds on the athletes' endurance and improves flexibility. Swimming as cross-training helps to improve balance by strengthening the upper body. Runners who are recovering from an injury and those who are more prone to injuries use swimming to build and keep their strength. Swimming has been found relaxing and even meditative.
Water running can help athletes of various sorts to gain benefits. It is a superior form of cross-training for (endurance) runners to recover, avoid, and reduce injuries. Water running can even improve running form without the usual stress the joints from running on hard surfaces. There are vests and belts which can make water running workouts easier as a floating aid. Also during extreme weather such as high humidity or extreme cold it can substitute any training run.
Cycling works on increasing strength of your quadriceps and gluteus muscles and prevents injury by increasing strength of the connective tissue in the ankle, hips, and knees. It has been shown to relax fatigued muscles after a stressful run. Cycling is a great cardiovascular booster.
Elliptical machines are known for their low-impact training form. They bring a combination of walking, stair climbing, cross-country, and skiing. As swimming and cycling the elliptical is a great low-impact machine for recovery from certain injuries.
Walking can substitute an easy running day, especially during recovery from a long run or speed workout. With some injuries, you may be able to walk pain-free. For safely increasing cardiovascular fitness speed-walking is also good.
Rowing is a low-impact activity. Rowing strengthens the upper body, hips, and buttocks.
Strength (weight) Training allows endurance runners to improve overall strength for their running muscles, create balance between upper-body and lower-body muscle groups. You can do resistance training, using your own body weight for resistance, or weight training, where you use weights for resistance. Strength training is an excellent way to strengthen your core, which helps any runner to avoid fatigue and maintain their running form.
Cautions for cross-training
Most of the cross-training suggestions on this page do not pose any danger for physical injury. However, when starting with a new cross-training activity then as with any other sport you should take it easy in the first stages and slowly increase intensity.