8 Effective Cross Training Workouts for Runners

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8 Effective Cross Training Workouts for Runners | What is cross training? In this post, we talk about the best at home workouts to mix and match with your running routine, the benefits, and which cross training essentials to invest in. Learn how yoga, swimming, strength training, cycling, pilates, and more can help you prevent overuse injury, strengthen muscles you don't use while running, and provide a mental break from running which you increase your endurance and strength!

Nothing gets your blood pumping like a good, long run, but running can be tough both mentally and physically. That’s where cross training comes in. Cross training is essential for runners to prevent injury and strengthen any weaknesses they have that will make them better runners. It prevents running burn out and is beneficial whether you’re a beginner runner or an expert marathoner. It helps strengthen muscles that are used less during running and helps you focus on important factors like breath work, that help with endurance. If you’re a runner, you’re going to want to check out these effective cross training workouts for runners to do on your active recovery workout days.

What is Cross Training?

Cross training is when you mix up your training program with other activities. For instance, if you’re a runner, you may mix things up with exercises like strength training, yoga or swimming. These activities are complementary to your running training and make you a better runner. They can reduce your risk of injury, improve your cardiovascular endurance, strengthen your body and offer a mental and physical break from running by switching up your training. Cross training is essential for runners to prevent overuse injuries associated with repetitive impact, like shin splints and lower back pain. Adding non-running workouts to your weekly routine can significantly improve your running technique overall.

What Are the Benefits of Cross Training for Runners?

  1. Decreases bone stress and helps prevent overuse injuries
  2. Improves cardiovascular and muscular endurance
  3. Strengthens your muscles that are used less during running
  4. Builds flexibility and mobility
  5. Provides a mental break from running
  6. Helps you beat running boredom and get excited to return to running
  7. Allows injured runners to maintain fitness while off their feet

5 Cross Training Essentials to Invest In

1. Yoga mat for yoga and Pilates workouts.
2. Dumbbells for strength training workouts.
3. Kettlebells to switch up your strength training workouts.
4. Flotation belt for aqua jogging.
5. Ankle weights to add a challenge to your walks.

8 Cross Training Workouts for Runners

1. Swimming

Swimming is one of the best cross training workouts for runners. It’s not weight-bearing, so it gives your joints a break and also allows you to build strength and endurance and improve flexibility. Swimming works your upper body and challenges you to control your core, plus it’s a solid cardiovascular workout. It’s often recommended if you’re prone to running injuries or are healing from an injury.

2. Strength Training

Strength training, specifically those workouts that utilize body weight, help boost endurance and reduce your risk of injury. It’s an excellent way to strengthen your core, helping you avoid running fatigue and maintain good form. Focus on strengthening your obliques to steady your core and keep you more upright during running. When you do strength training with weights, work on compound exercises that work several big muscle groups at once, such as weighted squats, deadlifts and kettlebell exercises.

3. Yoga

Yoga is another wonderful cross training workout for runners. Similar to strength training, you’ll use your body weight as resistance to strengthen your muscles, and you’ll also improve flexibility since yoga involves lots of stretching. This is super important for runners since running can leave you tight, especially around your hip flexors. Yoga is also beneficial for regaining your focus and learning to move and connect with your breath, which is essential for running.

4. Cycling

If you have weak hamstrings and glutes, cycling would be an amazing cross training workout for you. These are the exact areas cycling targets, especially when you’re pedalling up a hill or cycling with lots of resistance. It’s also a great form of cardio that improves your endurance without putting much stress on your joints. It also fires up your legs, hips and core, which is similar to running, but it works them in different ways.

5. Pilates

Pilates emphasizes core strength and flexibility, which are both extremely important for runners, but often ignored. Pilates helps increase flexibility and reduces tight muscles, making it a great form of active recovery. It provides a great deal of mobility work, which can reduce your risk of injury and help correct bad running form. Like yoga, Pilates highlights the importance of breath work, which can help with endurance and recovery after running.

6. Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is essentially running while treading water and using a flotation belt. This workout offers extra conditioning and gives your joints a break, and the resistance of the water helps you to build strength. Aqua jogging is particularly popular with injured runners as a form of rehabilitation as it works the neuromuscular system the same way as running and is an excellent aerobic workout.

7. Walking or Hiking

Walking and hiking are great low impact cardio workouts that are an awesome form of active recovery. Walking mimics running and gently adds some stress to bones, muscles and connective tissues to further strengthen these systems. Hiking challenges you even more, incorporating hills, trails and uneven terrain into your walk. Both are very beneficial, especially if you can get outside, giving your brain a dopamine boost.

8. Cross Country Skiing

You get an awesome cardiovascular workout with cross country skiing, plus it focuses on many of the same muscle groups as running. It’s a great activity for runners with injuries as it doesn’t entail pounding on the road. It also helps increase flexibility as the gliding motion stretches your hamstrings, calves and lower back muscles.

Cross training is essential for runners. Incorporate these workouts into your weekly routine to get a much needed mental and physical break from running and strengthen your weaknesses!

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