Fitness Articles

9 Cross-Training Activities for Runners

Boost Performance, Reduce Injury Risk and Beat Boredom

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The only way to become a better runner is to run, but the more running replaces other exercises in your fitness program, the more likely you are to become injured, suffer from burnout or develop muscular imbalances. So what's a runner to do (besides run, of course)? Cross train.

Cross-training, or taking part in alternative forms of exercise, should be part of every fitness plan because it helps reduce the risk of overuse injuries, improves muscular balance, targets your muscles in different ways and aids in muscle recovery. In addition, cross-training can also prevent burnout and add a little fun and variety to your workout routine, while still helping you stay aerobically fit.

In this article, we'll outline two approaches to cross-training for runners: activities that complement running and those that enhance running. Depending on your training level and health situation, you can select the activities that will work best for you. Try to include some form of cross-training at least one to three times per week for optimal results.

Cross-Training Activities that Complement Running


Complementary cross-training activities use your main running muscles in different ways and engage additional muscles that you may never use while running. Performing these types of activities will allow you to build greater muscle strength and muscular balance, therefore reducing your risk for injury.

Swimming

Because swimming is a non-weightbearing activity, it gives the joints and connective tissues a break from the impact of running while allowing you to maintain aerobic fitness. Swimming can be a beneficial cross-training activity for all runners, especially those recovering from injury. By targeting all the major muscle groups (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back and upper body), swimming gives your legs a break while developing the upper body musculature that is often neglected in runners.

Cycling

Cycling indoors on a stationary bike, at the gym in a Spinning class or outdoors on the road or trail is another low-impact activity that can give your body a break from the high impact of running. Biking targets the quadriceps and shin muscles, which are slower to develop in runners, and helps strengthen the connective tissue of the knees, hips and ankles, which may reduce your risk for injury. However, some running experts advise against cycling on non-run days because it can still be strenuous and exhausting to your muscles. Instead, if you want to cross-train with biking, include it on your running days by running first and then cycling later in the day.

Indoor Rowing

The indoor rowing machine may not be the most popular item in the gym, but it provides an amazing workout. Rowing is great for runners who want to develop strength in their quadriceps and hips while also improving upper body strength. Good form is necessary when using the rower, so learn about proper rowing mechanics or ask a certified trainer for some pointers.

Stair Climbing

Whether it's in your office building or at the gym on the stair stepping machine, going up stairs provides an excellent workout for the quads and hip flexors. Because runners tend to have stronger hamstrings, cross-training activities that target the quadriceps can help you achieve better muscle balance, reducing the injury risk. Continued ›

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About The Author

Nancy Howard Nancy Howard
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.

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