If we ask you to name a benefit of cross-training, what would be your answer? Let us guess… injury prevention? Even though this is the most widely recognized benefit of cross-training among runners, it’s not the only one.
Cross-training should be part of every fitness plan because it helps to rehabilitate injuries, aids in muscle recovery, and improves fitness. In addition, cross-training can also prevent burnout and add a little fun and variety to your workout, helping you to stay motivated during the several weeks of training.
In this article, we chose a few cross-training activities that you can include one to three times per week in your fitness routine for optimal results. Depending on your training and health situation, you can select the activities that will work best for you.
Unlike running, walking is a low-impact activity that exercises many of the same muscles, which makes it a great cross-training activity.
If you’re a beginner and your body is not used to the repetitive impact of running, you can use walking to improve endurance without beating up your most vulnerable joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Doing a vigorous walk the day after an intense run is also a great way to recover.
To get all the cardio-respiratory benefits of this cross-training activity, walk at a brisk pace and pump your arms to burn more calories.
Pool running, also known as water running, is exactly as the name implies: running in a pool, in deep water.
Even though you always need a pool deep enough to perform this workout, it is worth the try, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. This activity mimics running movements on land without the impact on the joints. Plus the water’s resistance helps you strengthen your legs, back, shoulders, core and arms.
Just make sure you warm up and cool down for at least 5-10 minutes before and after your pool running.
Need a break from the impact of running? Swimming is a non-weightbearing activity that gives your legs a break while developing the upper body musculature that is often neglected by runners.
Swimming can benefit all runners, from beginners to veterans, especially those recovering from a long race or an injury. By targeting all the major muscle groups (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back and upper body), swimming is a great way to improve your efficiency, strengthen your muscles, and add more training sessions without additional breakdown.
If you’re a regular at the gym, you might have noticed the elliptical trainer. This is one of the most popular cardio machines and also an excellent cross-training activity for runners because it mimics running without the impact.
The elliptical trainer is a weight-bearing activity, but has a very low-impact in the joints. This is the reason why so many runners use this machine to prevent or recover from injuries, while developing the muscle of the core and legs. In addition, if you use an elliptical trainer with arm levers, the pushing and pulling motion allows you to develop a stronger arm swing, helping make you a more efficient runner.
What are your favorite cross-training activities? How do they help you to become a better runner?