Get stronger, prevent injuries and have more fun by mixing these classes into your running routine.
You love to run, but if you only run all the time, you can set yourself up for injury and burnout.
“Runners are notorious for having imbalances and weaknesses because running is a high-impact repetitive motion that occurs in only one plane of motion,” says personal trainer and running coach Kourtney Thomas, C.S.C.S. “Switching up your routine by adding group classes is a great way to address the holes in your fitness and mix things up in a social, fun environment.”
With all the class options available, picking the right one could be overwhelming. So we sorted through the offerings and rounded up classes that runners will get the most benefit from.
Because it focuses on total-body strength and power moves including squats, deadlifts and thrusters, CrossFit can be a difference-maker when it comes to optimizing your running efficiency, says personal trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S. “The more power you’re able to bring to each stride, the more you’ll accomplish and the less energy you’ll need to do it,” he says. “Plus with CrossFit, you get a huge upper-body component that many runners may overlook. The stronger your upper body, the more your body can stay in control and work as a single unit – versus having your upper body flail around like so many runners’ bodies do.”
Try It: CrossFit boxes (gyms) vary widely, especially in the qualification of their coaching staff, so check out the instructors online or try out a beginner class to evaluate the coaching skills in person, Donavanik says.
Taking their inspiration from ballet, Barre classes hone in on lower body muscular endurance as well as core stability through extremely focused strength movements with high repetitions, Donavanik says. Some classes stick to using one’s own bodyweight, but others involve the use apparatuses including balls, weights, and bands. Either way, the ability of these classes to train your body’s smaller, stabilizing muscles can reduce the risk of running injuries that are commonly because of weaknesses in the muscles that stabilize your hips and other lower-body joints, he says.
Try It: Many larger gyms offer Barre classes now, but your best bet for trying it out is boutique studios.
Arguably the perfect stepping-stone for runners who are new to group fitness, treadmill classes combine roughly 30 minutes of intense running intervals with another 30 minutes of strength training—all in a high-energy studio with blasting music. “It’s great motivation and definitely different than a quiet run down the path near your house,” Thomas says. “The classes encourage you to push yourself harder and introduce you to speed and tempo work.” What’s more, the strength work is aimed at improving your running: For example, mini resistance bands help runners train the small muscles of the glutes and hips, like the gluteus medius, which is key for injury prevention, she says.
Try It: Search for treadmill training classes in your area.
Indoor Cycling Classes
“I think the biggest benefit here is that cycling is low-impact,” Donavanik says. “As a runner, you’re going to be hitting the pavement or treadmill regularly, which can definitely take its toll on the joints. Getting in some cycling can enable you to take some stress off of your joints while getting a great cardiovascular workout.” Although both running and cycling are lower-body-dominant exercises, cycling emphasizes a slightly different blend of leg muscles than does running. That’s critical when it comes to reducing the muscular imbalances and preventing running injuries, says Lisa Niren, C.P.T., a Cyclestar Instructor with CYCLEBAR.
Try It: Most health clubs and gyms offer cycling classes. However, tons of cycling-only studios are popping up all over the place, each with a unique vibe for different workout personalities.
“I love TRX for runners,” Thomas says. “TRX by nature really challenges the core and the stability of the body, which is incredibly important in running, and again, in running efficiency. Learning how to fight instability when working with a TRX will transfer to those times when you’re out running are getting fatigued, and also to different types of running, like out on the trails when that be comes even more important.”
Try It: Many gyms offer TRX class offerings, or look into specialized TRX studios in your area.
“We runners really need to stop looking at yoga as a competing workout, or something for pure relaxation, and instead view it as a supplement to our running passion,” says runner and Yoga Six instructor Kim Kelly. “Yoga and running could not be more different, which is why they complement each other so well.” For instance, many runners suffer from tight glutes, hamstrings, and quads, she says. Yoga can help relieve tightness and improve range of motion to prevent poor running biomechanics and injury.
Try It: Search for studios that are more geared towards athletes. (Or try some yoga at home with the Runner’s World Yoga for Runner’s DVD.)
Indoor Rowing Classes
Rowing machines are no longer underused pieces of equipment collecting dust in the corner of gyms. Rowing-specific studios and classes are cropping up across the country with big benefits for runners. “When properly performed, rowing gives a runner solid cardiovascular benefits, works the abs, core and lower back, and even develops flexibility in the hamstrings and calves,” says Niren. Plus, contrary to those who think rowing is all about the back, every pull requires the lower body to produce a massive amount of power. Improving your ability develop power is critical to performing better starts, mastering short races, and enjoying a nice “kick” on the homestretch of any run, Donavanik says. Bonus: it’s low-impact, making it ideal for runners who want to give their joints a break.
“Runners can become very strong throughout anterior [front] of the body, and the muscles of the posterior chain [back] can become weak, underutilised and tight,” says runner and Pilates instructor Jacquelyn Brennan. That’s where Pilates can help. Pilates involves focused and controlled movement – performed either on a mat or Reformer machine – to strengthen glutes, external rotators, hamstrings, as well as upper and middle back. Pilates also increases mobility and flexibility, which ultimately creates a stronger, better runner, Brennan says.
Try It: Specialty companies and studios offer a variety of Pilates and Pilates-based classes that cater to a wide variety of experience levels. Many large gyms also offer their members Pilates classes and can be ideal for those trying it out for the first time.
Sort of like a Pilates Reformer on steroids, the Megaformer is a piece of fitness equipment that allows athletes to improve their cardiovascular capacity as well as their muscular strength and endurance. Every session is designed to work you hard through the use of slow, controlled movements that constantly challenge your entire body, especially your core musculature – with zero rest. “The biggest benefit here would be core work for sure,” Donavanik says. “The stronger your core, the more controlled you’ll be while running.”
From surfing and pole dancing to aerial yoga and Parkour, out-there fitness classes are just as much (if not more) about getting people having fun as they are about helping them get in a good sweat. And, sometimes, that’s just what runners need. “We can get so focused on our training routines and PBs that simply doing something active for the pure joy of it can be a welcome change of pace,” Thomas says. It can help you reset your running objectives and hit your next workout feeling refreshed.