Incorporating cross-training into your weekly routine will help you to prevent injury, speed up recovery and boost performance all while turning you into a more well-rounded athlete. Before we take a look at the top 7 cross-training activities for runners, let’s quickly review how cross-training can help you up your running game, regardless of your experience level.
Benefits of Cross-Training for Runners
It might sound counterintuitive but not running every day actually has the potential to improve the quality and quantity of your runs. How? Effective cross-training allows runners to engage in “active recovery” -- easy to moderate level exercise that gets the blood flowing in order to repair the muscles so you can run better the next time you hit the road.
In addition, cross-training offers an excellent way for injured runners to maintain their fitness level during rehabilitation.
Related: Nine Ways to Recover After a Half Marathon
Cross-training is great for adding some variety to your training routine because even the most hardcore runners will eventually experience burnout if they run day after day without a break in between. In fact, incorporating a few low-impact workouts during the week will give you a nice opportunity to mentally recharge as you prepare to go the distance in your next big race or marathon.
Related: 10 Boredom busting tips for runners
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of cross-training for runners has to do with preventing overuse injuries -- which occur due to repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, joints and bones. For example, in order to prevent runner’s knee, you can focus on cross-training routines like circuit training that strengthen your quads, condition your core and stretch your hamstrings.
Related: 5 Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Top 7 Cross Training Ideas for Runners
Now that you’re aware of all the benefits cross training offers runners, here are some options to consider:
Indoor cycling AKA Spinning: Spinning offers a great way to strike a balance if you run most days of the week. It complements different aspects of running, focusing on strengthening the major muscles of the leg -- especially the quads and hamstrings -- without the impact that hitting the pavement has. In addition, because spinning usually incorporates interval training, you’ll keep burning calories even after spin class has ended.
Rowing: Yep, you read that correctly. Rowing pushes you to strengthen your upper body, core and even the legs, all in one range of motion. This intense, but low-impact workout also helps promote excellent posture, preventing injury and improving stamina. However, learning proper form is extremely important to avoid hurting your back while rowing.
Yoga: This is an excellent recovery activity for runners as it relieves achiness and tension in your tired muscles and promotes flexibility to get you primed for your next run. Many runners also enjoy practicing yoga as a way to relax and de-stress after a tough week of training.
Elliptical: Although using an elliptical is a weight bearing exercise, it’s still an effective cross-training option that does a great job mimicking the motion of running. The only drawback is that many runners find it to be boring compared to the other popular cross-training options mentioned in this article.
Swimming: This non-weight bearing activity will give your joints a much-needed break from the stresses of running. In addition, swimming gets your heart rate up while simultaneously offering a full-body workout.
Zumba: This high-tempo, aerobic activity that is not only fun but also helps with balance and strengthening some of the muscle groups that runners need the most -- hip stabilizers and calves. The best part? You don’t need any prior dancing experience in order to participate!
Plyometrics: Jump squats, frog jumps and quick high-knees are examples of plyometric moves. Overall, this type of strength training activity will help to improve your running economy. However, according to Active.com, since plyometrics are “explosive and require a quick and forceful recruitment of muscle fibers,” it is only recommended after you have completed at least two months of running-related strength training.
Getting Started Tips
Convinced that it’s time to integrate cross-training into your running routine? Here are a few tips to carefully consider before you begin:
Take it slow: Just like any other new activity, it’s always a good idea to pace yourself. As a best practice, do not increase the frequency, duration and intensity of your cross-training workout by more than 10 percent each week.
Optimize your week to include cross-training: As a rule of thumb, if you’re training for a race, try to aim for three quality runs per week, sandwiching active recovery days in between. Your first run of the week should be a speed run, followed by a mid-tempo run and then finally, your long run.
Invest in a heart rate monitor: As the saying goes, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.” This applies both on the trail and off. Wearing a heart rate monitor is a great way to see whether you are pushing your body too hard or not enough.
Don’t forget your compression gear. Remember that even on your non-running days you can benefit from compression. Not familiar with compression socks? As the name suggests, compression socks improve the circulation of blood within the legs based on their design. They provide graduated compression, which means that they are tightest around the feet and lower legs since these are usually the most affected areas when it comes to swelling.
While most compression socks on the market are dull and drab, Crazy Compression’s unique design and innovative knitting techniques ensure that you can be comfortable and trendy. We have many different styles to fit your personality. Why not be a superhero in our Captain America socks, feel groovy with our Tie Dye Collection or show us where you call home with our State Collection
Now we’d like to hear from you. What are your favorite cross-training activities? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Crazy Compression’s Facebook page!