A Runner’s Guide to Cross-Training

Pool workouts help you build fitness, strength, and flexibility—without risking injury.

Cross-training, sometimes referred to as circuit training, refers to combining exercises of other disciplines, different than that of the athlete in training. In reference to running, cross-training is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training, to supplement their running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilise. It prevents injury by correcting muscular imbalances. And the variety prevents boredom and burnout.

Benefits of Cross-Training
Alternative forms of exercise have definite benefits: improved your fitness, injury prevention and rehabilitation, quicker recovery, and boredom busters. The trick is to approach cross-training as a runner. Runners have their obvious strengths: power, endurance, tenacity. But within those strengths lies the potential for weakness: quads that overpower our hamstrings, neglected upper bodies, and poor flexibility—qualities that could lead to problems.

Cross-Training for Runners
4 keys to cross-training for runners

1. Choose workouts that are closest to running in terms of muscles used and aerobic systems taxed. Good options include elliptical trainers, cross-country ski machines, stationary bikes, and water running.

2. When cross-training, keep your heart rate at or above 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) most of the time. In other words, you should be working hard and sweating a lot.

3. Check your morning heart rate regularly. An elevated morning heart rate is a sign of overtraining, which can occur if you add too much cross-training too soon.

4. Combine cross-training with running to maximise running fitness with lower actual mileage. You can substitute 25 to 30 per cent of your weekly “mileage” with cross-training.

Just don’t let cross training take over your workouts. Old-school purists and new-school coaches on the cutting edge of training will both tell you there’s no replacement for running. You need to run a heavy dosage of kilometres to build your aerobic base and then fine-tune your training with fast running in the form of intervals, tempo runs and fartleks.

How to Incorporate Cross-Training into Your Fitness Plan

Jump in: Pool workouts help you build fitness, strength, and flexibility—without risking injury.

Be dynamic: Try a dynamic flexibility routine to help reduce the muscle friction in your stride.

Borrow something: Steal from the toolboxes of other sports that require some combo of endurance, speed, and strength.

Get healthy: As long as you do it right, cross-training can help you achieve overall health if you do it right.

Lose weight: Add cross-training to your weekly workouts to shed some extra kilos.

Prevent injury: Cross-training prevents injuries—as long as you take a healthy approach.


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