cross training for runners

Cross-Training for Runners

Sometimes you gotta mix it up and try new workouts to keep things exciting and fresh. Cross-training for runners is just what you need.

What is cross-training for runners?

Instead of focusing only on one area of the body, a well-rounded fitness routine can be more effective in reaching your goals of training for and running a marathon.

So what is cross-training? On the most basic level, it is the inclusion of many different types of exercise into your regular training routine, so you work all areas of your body to improve your overall fitness.

Cross-training for runners basics

Cross-training gives you a lot of flexibility in the kinds of exercises you do. Sometimes the variety may be overwhelming. When you examine the different kinds of cross-training, they typically fit into 3 distinct types of exercise: aerobic exercise, strength training workouts, and flexibility.

Cross-training for runners aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardiovascular or cardio, is performed at a steady, low to moderate pace. This type of exercise, which utilizes slow-twitch muscle fibers, is great for cardiovascular conditioning and improving muscular endurance. Aerobic activities are the basis for your whole training plan. When training for a marathon, building and then maintaining your aerobic fitness level is key. But there are other aerobic exercises you can do to break up the monotony. Here are a few ideas.

Swimming

Cycling

Skating

Dancing

Walking

The most fundamental component of training is walking. It gets you from where you are to where you want to be. Walking is something we all do, so beginning your base fitness training with walking is designed to be comfortable and familiar. As you complete each walking session, celebrate that win.

Walking breaks down walking into even smaller pieces:

Walk. This is the entry-level speed. It’s how you walk every day.

Brisk walk. Push yourself and get your arms moving and your heart pumping.

Speed walk. This should be a difficult (but not impossible) speed to push you further and faster.


run walk method
For some more ideas about incorporating walking into your training read the article,
What is the Run Walk Method All About?

Jogging

The perfect middle ground between walking and running is jogging. As the training progresses, your confidence will grow, so that you feel comfortable mentally and physically to move to the next level.

strength training

Strength training ideas

Strength training helps to improve muscle strength and build anaerobic activity. Where aerobic training is focused on endurance, getting your heart rate up for long periods of time, strength training is short bursts with short periods of rest. 

The program includes strength training or gym workouts to build muscle. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Squat. This is one of the best lower body exercises because it works all lower-body muscle groups. Try bodyweight squat, barbell squat, leg press, dumbbell squat

Hinge. These exercises create a backward shift in weight through the hips with minimal knee movement while bending at the waist. Try deadlifts, lying hip extensions.

Push. These exercises push away from the body and work the upper body. Try chest press, push-ups, military shoulder press.

Pull. Exercises that pull the weight toward the body. Think dumbbell rows, pull-ups, cable pull-downs, rowing machines.

Core. Many of the exercises will use core muscles, but a focus just on the core will help with overall flexibility, stability, and endurance. Try plank, leg raises, crunch, sit-ups.

Since you are training to boost your fitness level, use lighter weights at high repetitions. Find exercises that work best for you and mix them up with new exercises to keep them interesting.

Weightlifting

Circuit training

Bodyweight exercises

Flexibility exercise ideas

Yoga

Stretching

Pilates

Personalize your cross-training for runner workouts

The number of different exercises you do for cross-training is endless. There are so many varieties of workouts, exercises, classes, groups, and videos that you can get creative and personalize to maintain a high level of fitness.

When you create your own unique cross-training fitness plan, try to do the following:

  1. Mix up these 3 components (aerobic, strength, and flexibility) throughout the week to maximize the benefits
  2. Aim to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week

The benefits of cross-training for runners

Cross-training not only mixes up your workouts while you’re training for a marathon. There are other great benefits that come from implementing cross-training into your life. Here are just a few.

Injury prevention

Varying the types of workouts you do reduces the strain of high-impact running on your body. If you’re running a few days per week, which is high impact, then you should also work on your flexibility, which is low impact. This variety allows you to avoid overworking any area of your body and can therefore help to prevent injuries to your muscles, bones, or joints.

Improved overall fitness

When you alternate between strength, flexibility, and aerobic exercises, you target different muscle groups with each workout. Over the course of a week, you’re getting a full-body workout, which can boost your overall fitness level.

Weight loss

Cross-training can also be an effective way to exercise if you’re looking to lose weight. Research has found that combining 2 or more types of exercise at a moderate rate for 30 minutes or more may help to reduce body weight and fat stores.

Use Cross-Training to Add Variety

Building a base level of fitness requires a multi-pronged approach. Cardio and aerobic workouts, like brisk walks or slow jogs, expand your lungs and your heart pumping. The reason the duration of each workout increases is to help you build endurance, which is a measure of how long you can keep it up. Cross-training (XT) helps increase your aerobic activity while changing things up with other exercises. Cross-training sessions allow you to be creative and do things that you like or try things for the first time. Here’s a list of great cross-training workouts to boost your cardio and aerobic activity:

  • Cycling
  • Spinning Class
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical Trainer
  • Rope Jumping
  • HIIT Workout
  • Stair Climb
  • Aerobics Class (Zumba, Step, Kickboxing, Dance)
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Hiking 
  • Climbing
cross-training and rest

Rest is important

As you’re getting started on this fitness journey, understand that rest is important. Rest helps you to recover after the Saturday longer duration walk or jog, and to give your body a break when the training plan calls for an increased duration of exercise.

Many scientific studies suggest that the rest period is when muscles get stronger. And many prominent running coaches say that you shouldn’t run hard unless your body is well-rested. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you remain consistent through the full 10 weeks, you can benefit from sufficient rest periods.

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