Cross training for runners

Cross training is an excellent idea for most runners, and well worth incorporating into your running programme at any fitness level, no matter how long you have been running.

What is cross training?

Activities such as cycling, deep water running, swimming, kayaking and hiking are all great ways to get out in the sunshine and enjoy nature, and don't forget there are plenty of fitness classes and exercise machines in the gym that can give you a great workout, such as the elliptical, rowing machine, etc — perfect for days when you think it's too rainy or hot outside. These activities can provide a fun way of switching up your workouts and stimulating your motivation to get out and exercise if running is currently not doing it for you!

Just pick something you enjoy, or even another sport you haven't yet tried - you never know whether you'll enjoy an activity until you give it a go!

It is particularly useful to incorporate cross training as you return to running following an injury, or if you are feeling a bit burnt out from simply running all the time.

Some people consider strength training to be cross training — but actually, all runners should be doing short workouts for strength, balance and mobility on a regular basis, as an integral part of their running schedule. 

Why cross train?

As runners, particularly as we age, there are many reasons why cross training is great to incorporate into our running program:

  • It provides variety, and prevents the burnout sometimes experienced from doing just one sport.
  • It helps balance out our overall fitness, and can strengthen other muscles that we don't use so much in running, or muscles that we use in a different way.
  • It can prevent injuries associated with the repetitive high impact of running, while still giving our cardiovascular system a great workout.

How often should I do cross training?

This can depend upon where you are in your training cycle, or the goals you wish to achieve in running, as well as your current energy levels and the time and resources you have available to you.

Cross training sessions can replace some of your running sessions during the off-season, or when you are coming back to training after recovering from a marathon.

If you have a coach, they will usually be happy to advise on how you can incorporate some cross training into your programme in the lead-up to an event. But if not, just keep in mind these points as you consider how you can implement cross training into your schedule:

  • Try replacing one or two running sessions a week with cross training sessions of equal intensity.
  • Make sure running is still your main focus - particularly if you have an event or race on the horizon.
  • Don't overdo the high intensity workouts - it is ideal to replace your running workouts with other activities that can be carried out at a similar level of intensity, such as swimming on a day you would normally do an easy run, or doing a spin class indoors if you were going to do a tempo run outside and the weather is too hot. You can also think about doing a lighter activity such as yoga, golf or walking, if you are feeling low in energy or lacking in sleep and can't face tackling a harder running workout.
  • Make sure you alternate high-intensity days with easier sessions.
  • If you are an older runner, or have a history of bone injuries, but still want to train for endurance sports such as ultra running, consider cycling or other non-weight-bearing exercise as one of your sessions when you would normally have a double run day.

Whatever cross training you decide to do, be sure to keep hydrated and replenish your lost vitamins and minerals after each workout with a glass of Bix !

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