You’ve likely heard about the importance of cross-training. Greater speed, improved endurance, and reduced risk of injury are some of the frequently-touted benefits of adding cross-training into your running workouts.
But it can be overwhelming to decide which cross-training activity to add to your existing running workouts. Then there’s the time factor – between running, work, family, and friends, it can be a challenge to do it all.
Fortunately, there are a few forms of cross-training that provide maximum results with minimal time. The following activities, when strategically added to existing running workouts, will help you get stronger, improve your speed, and reduce your risk of getting injured.
The Best Forms of Cross-Training for Runners
Strength training is key when it comes to the best type of cross-training for runners. Strength training helps build power in your legs so you can run up hills more efficiently and sprint to the finish line with greater ease. It activates muscles, like the glutes, that become weak with excessive sitting. It also builds core strength, allowing you to maintain proper posture while running.
Yoga is another beneficial form of cross-training. There’s no doubt about it that running can be hard on the body. Yoga is more restorative in nature, re-filling your energy reserves and helping to stretch those commonly-used running muscles.
And finally, for those who are seeking the endorphin rush that comes from cardiovascular training, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great option to integrate into your running workouts. HIIT helps you improve your aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and it can increase your VO2 max. Simply put, it allows you to run faster for longer periods of time with less fatigue.
While effective, HIIT is taxing on your body so it should be done with care. Leave time to recover between workouts. Wherever possible find low impact forms of HIIT, such as sprint sessions on a stationary bike.
Adding Strength Training to Your Running Workouts
Strength training is at the top for the greatest results with the least amount of time and effort. It doesn’t require fancy equipment and can be completed in a short amount of time. It’s important to find balance with how frequently you strength train. Too little and you won’t see your desired results, but too much and you miss out on recovery. It’s recommended that runners add at least two days per week of strength training into their running workouts.
Strength training sessions can be done on non-running days, or they could be done after a short run. Anywhere from two to three sets of five to eight exercises such as squats, lunges, planks, and push-ups is a great starting point that will provide total body strength.
If you’re short on time, you can incorporate strength training directly into one of your running workouts. During a shorter run, you can stop at each mile to complete ten squats, ten push-ups, and a thirty-second plank.
How to Integrate Cross-Training Into Your Running Workouts
Regardless of whether you decide to add strength training, yoga, or HIIT to your running workouts, there are a few things that need to be considered to make your program as effective as possible.
Before deciding what type of cross-training you want to add and how frequently, assess your running goals and your schedule. If you want to get faster, strength training or HIIT might be your best options. If you want to increase flexibility and improve your posture, yoga would be your best choice. Be realistic when it comes to your schedule. What do you have time for? Where will your chosen activity fit into your day?
Once you’re clear on your goals and what your schedule is like, pick your preferred method of cross-training! Pick one that will give you the greatest results, but also the one that you will enjoy the most. It’s important to find something you’ll be able to practice consistently!
The final step is to schedule your cross-training workouts just like you would schedule your running workouts, and then prioritize them! Give them the same importance you give your runs and all the other commitments in your life. After all, a plan only works if it’s executed!