How Cross Training Makes You A Better Runner

One beautiful thing about being a runner is that there is always a higher goal to reach for. You can start with a 3-kilometer race, then move on to a 5K, then 10K, then a half-marathon at 21K, and then after running a marathon, you may even want to dream of belonging to the elite group of runners called ultra-marathoners, running distances of 102 kilometers and even more.

So one question is, how do we get better at it? How do we improve our technique of running without stopping, getting stronger and growing in endurance—no matter what our next distance goal is?

Why Is Cross Training?

1.       Is Running all the time the best?

One of the most effective ways to improve one’s running skills is through cross training.

This may seem counterintuitive, as you might think that the best way to run is just to run more. Train harder.

Log in the 10,000 hours doing the same thing experts say is needed for excellence. But recent studies have shown otherwise—that cross training improves a runner’s overall strength and endurancein key areas vital to a runner’s performance.

2.      What is Cross Training?

Cross training means adding the exercises from other sports or disciplines, apart from the exercises associated with your chosen sport.

When it comes to running, cross training occurs when a runner adds different exercises to his training routine, such as swimming, cycling, yoga or Pilates, strength training or you can use leg weights to complement their training program.

3.      Why Cross Training Help To Improve Running?

The secret to adding cross training to a runner’s routine is to approach cross training as a runner.

Runners have endurance, bursts of energy, and the great determination needed to finish races, especially long ones.

However, running as a discipline has some weaknesses as wellproblems with flexibility, a lack of upper body and core strength.

Many times, a runner’s quads are much stronger than their hamstrings. All these could limit a runner’s potential and can get very frustrating when they get injured or don’t see improvements as quickly as they wish.

Therefore, cross training is so important:

  • It develops power and flexibility in the muscles that are underused in the running.
  • It safeguards against injury by keeping the growth of muscle groups in the whole body balanced.
  • It challenges different muscles as they are used in different ways in the various disciplines.

And cross training has a psychological boost as well—because you don’t do the same old things over and over again. You keep your commitment to fitness by not getting burned out or bored.

Other Benefits Of Cross Training

1.       Cross Training Helps You Avoid Injury

When you vary your workout and add or alternate other types of exercise to your regular running routine, you are strengthening different muscles, ligaments and joints from the ones you use in the running. This is good news for your body, as it prevents injury.

A study showed that runners who do weight training got injured less than those who don’t.

Running, being a high impact exercise causes certain parts of your body take a pounding—and this is all the truer with longer distances. Strengthening other areas help the parts of your body you use for your running.

2.      Cross Training Keeps You From Burning Out

One of the secrets to sticking to any exercise routine is variation, which keeps you from getting bored. True to our human nature, new and different things can motivate us, at times better than the tried and true.

If you insert doing strength training, swimming, biking or even dancing or doing Zumba or yoga, you have a better chance of sticking to your running routine in the long run when you don’t burn out in it.

3.      Cross Training Improves Your Overall Fitness

Runners are fit in the lower body area—in their quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes, but are often in less good shape in the chest and arm areas. This is where cross training comes in—by giving you the opportunity to strengthen different muscle groups, which develops better overall fitness as well.

For example—swimming on days when you don’t run guarantee that you get an upper and lower body workout each week.

Types Of Cross Training Activities For Runners

Equipment For Cross Training

1.       Strength Training

Research done at the University of New Hampshire showed that strength training improves how runners use oxygen.

Tests were done on runners who trained more than 20 miles weekly and included strength training three times a week for ten weeks showed they ran faster on the same oxygen uptake, while a control group of runners who did no strength training showed no improvement.

This could mean a lot in taking minutes off for runners who compete in races.

2.      Circuit Training

Focuses on developing the upper body muscles, but also includes legwork. There are 12 different lifts, mostly done in a weight room, ten for the chest, shoulders and back, only two for the legs, with a cardio portion before and after the lifts.

3.      Swimming or Pool Running

Swimming, a low-impact exercise, gives runners an opportunity to strengthen their upper body fitness, as mentioned earlier. And being low-impact, it’s easy on the joints. If you cannot swim, you can run in the shallow end of the pool.

4.      Bicycle Intervals

Another study, this time in the University of Utah, involving runners on stationary bicycles, first warming up on low tension and then having them pedal on bursts of high tension for 30, 45, 60-second intervals.

The runners who incorporated this cycling workout in their training twice a week improved their race times and even set new personal records (PRs). Cycling at high-powered intervals is an even more challenging workout for leg muscles than uphill running and does not have the hard impact of running.

5.      Core Strength

Next up is a core strength, necessary for every runner, and indeed, everybody can and should have strong abdominal and lower back muscles. There are many different exercises for this: sit-ups, crunches, planks; or you could use equipment like the medicine ball or stability ball. Even dancing or Zumba improves core strength.

6.      Yoga and Pilates

In general, runners do not have great flexibility. Sometimes runners feel their muscles going tight during a run. Yoga or Pilates is a good solution to this, as these activities build flexibility and strengthen your joints and tendons.

7.      Walking

Many runners now include walking as part of their marathon training. Jeff Galloway, whose marathon training program pioneered this, recommends that every 4-7 minutes of running without stopping should be interrupted by a minute of walking. According to Galloway, this builds endurance and pushes back the wall.

8.      Dancing/Zumba

These can offer a fun cross training alternative as well. These help with increasing heart rate and overall aerobic fitness.


Cross training can put you in peak running form. After all, you want to run without stopping for longer and longer periods, faster and farther—and what better way than through strengthening any areas of weakness you might have? This is what cross training will do for you. Aside from preventing injury and burnout—it completes the work running does on your body, by rounding out your fitness levels in every way.

About Author:

amber Irwin

Short Bio: I’m Amber a running and sports writer. I love to share my passion with fellow outdoor lovers and hope to establish a community here. I believe running is an amazingsport for everyone and hope to inspire others with my words.