So whether you give your running a boost with strength training, or decide to lengthen out those limbs with yoga, including other forms of exercise in your routine is a must. You’ll notice the impact on your running game in no time.
When walking or hiking, your leg movement mimics running, but only add gentle stress to your bones, muscles, and connective tissues. At the same time you are building strength and increasing your heart rate. If you choose a hike for active recovery between workouts, try different terrains and inclines to change up the difficulty and resistance.
A plunge into the pool is a great active recovery exercise for runners, providing a reliable cardiovascular workout that’s super light on the muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Since your body’s completely weightless, you get all the benefits of cardio, minus the stress of the impact.
Aqua jogging is the lovechild of running and swimming. Get yourself a flotation belt so you can focus on the quality of movement (rather than just staying afloat), and move your legs like you’re running while treading water. This is an especially valuable form of cross-training as rehabilitation for injured runners. To increase difficulty, raise your arms above your head and rely solely on your leg movement.
You might think yoga is not for you, but you don’t have to contort yourself into a pretzel to do it right. Check if there’s a yoga studio in your area for a social weekend cross training workout, or get started with our list of easy yoga moves for runners. From the basic stretches to the advanced poses, it will do wonders for your mobility, improve your running form, address imbalances, and greatly reduce your risk of injury. The breathwork component of yoga is also a great tool to help you breathe more comfortably and perform better when you run.
Benefits of Cross Training
The different sports and activities associated with cross training should enhance your running strength, endurance, mobility, and breathing. The variations in movement will also help address imbalances in your body and prevent injuries. The most common running injury is overuse, so change it up and give your body a break.
Improves Running Economy and Endurance
Running economy refers to how far you run for the amount of oxygen you consume. Strength training your legs can lead to significant gains in this arena. The stronger your legs are, the better your endurance, and the more efficient you’ll be as a runner.
Targets Specific Deficiencies
Cross training allows you to pinpoint and target areas of improvement without adding unnecessary miles to your training. Let’s say you’re a fast runner but you tire out quickly. Instead of running further, which could lead to fatigue and injuries, you can work on your endurance with strength training.
Encourages Rest and Prevents Overuse
When running is your thing, it’s tempting to believe the best way to improve is to run more miles. The problem is that this only works the same specific running muscles, which can lead to not only overuse injuries, but also mental burnout. Cross training gives your muscles – and your mind – a break from running, so you can come back renewed and refreshed.
Cross Training Tips for Runners
Cross-training gives your muscles a switch-up to prevent overuse, so make sure you don’t counteract that by going too hard! Take a balanced approach, making sure you include both strength sessions and active recovery.
Cross-training is a chance to target parts of your body that are neglected by running. Focus on antagonist muscles, aka muscle groups that oppose each other, to address imbalances, improve running performance and reduce the risk of injury. For example, you rely heavily upon your quads, calves, and Achilles when you run, so make sure to train your inner thighs and hamstrings.
Planning your training will help you stay consistent in the long run, and also give you the peace of mind that you’re doing enough. It makes it easier for you to take your rest days without feeling guilty. In general, two high-intensity strength sessions a week is a good starting point, with one cross-training session of active recovery, like swimming or yoga. If you’re on a high mileage training program, go for one or two cross training sessions a week to stay balanced.
At the end of the day, exercise should feel like a joy, not a chore. Pick activities that you’re excited by–which also makes you more likely to stick to your schedule– and enjoy the endorphin rush!