Running 101: Why You Need to Cross-Train

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | running tips

Jun 19

The spring racing season has come to a close for many of us and it’s often a time of the year where it seems that running is much more low-pressure. While you may not be training for a race right now, it’s still important to keep a good mileage base and supplement your fitness with cross-training!

Being a runner, it’s can be so easy to neglect cross-training, but you have to resist the temptation! To provide some inspiration, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to create a Running 101 post on the benefits of cross- training! Here are a few other Running 101 topics that I’ve covered in the past:

I’m linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and Debbie and Marc,  for the Running Coaches Corner!

In this month's Running 101 I'm sharing the reasons why cross-training is an important part of your running fitness!  Check out more running tips at!

Running 101: Benefits of Cross-Training

When you first start running and fall in love, you may become so committed to running that you set all your other workouts aside. I can definitely say that I’ve been guilty! Now, cross-training is an essential part of my training and it’s been a game-changer. Here are just a few benefits of cross-training.

Become a Well-Rounded Athlete

Believe it or not, the fastest runners in the world do more than just run. While they run hundreds of miles in training, they also spend time in the gym and build strength. Meb shares some great insights on the cross-training he did to win the Boston Marathon:

Keflezighi does core strengthening exercises daily. His preference is to do them outside after his morning run, but if he’s pressed for time he’ll do them later in the day at home. Here, too, he does basic exercises, such as various plank poses and push-ups. When he does his core work at home, he uses an exercise ball, and might include hamstring curls using the ball. Keflezighi says he spends 10 to 20 minutes on core work.

Runner’s World

If it works for Meb, I think the rest of us should follow suit!

Prevent Overuse Injuries

My boot
Never forget…

Cross-training is great because you get to utilize muscles that are either neglected while running while offering relief from areas that are overworked from running. It provides additional ways to build strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance, which will overall make you a better runner! One of the biggest mistakes that I made when I started running consistently and training for races was that I only focused on running. I ran a lot, and I probably ran some of my training runs at too fast a pace (I didn’t use a coach back then). I don’t think I cross-trained at all. When I ended up with runner’s knee back in 2012 after having 4 races in 6 weeks, it really set me back. Instead of training for my first marathon, I was on a long road to recovery. Don’t let an injury be the wake-up that you need to mix it up!

Have Your Eggs in Multiple Baskets

Unfortunately, from time to time, accidents, injuries, and health issues happen, and they can prevent us from running for a period of time. It’s really frustrating when you can’t run! But the great thing about cross-training is that when you can’t run, you still have the ability to get in a solid workout, though it will depend on the type of injury that you have. It’s much easier to cross-train while injured if you’ve already got your favorite go-to workouts! For example, the last time I was set back with plantar fasciitis (ugh), I leaned heavily on barre classes while making some modifications. If I didn’t cross-train, it would have been much harder for me to get back to health once I was cleared to get back to running!

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How to Find the Right Activity for You

I honestly believe that a lot of people don’t enjoy working out because they haven’t found the activity that’s right for them. Personally, I have signed up for a variety of fitness classes over the years and I’ve liked just about everything I’ve tried, but I definitely have a couple of favorites that will always be my go-to. Below are just a few examples of cross-training workouts you could consider giving a try:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Elliptical
  • Spin Class
  • Yoga
  • Barre
  • Cross-Fit
  • Weight Lifting
  • Boot Camp
  • Pilates
  • Kickboxing
  • Rock climbing
  • HIIT/Tabata

If you’re looking for a way to get started with cross-training, here are a few tips! Hopefully, with some trial and error, you’ll find the right cross-training workout that works best for you!

Talk to Your Friends

I feel like we all know someone who’s really into some type of workout. If you have a friend who loves Cross-Fit, why not talk to them and learn more about their experiences? Kim and I both participate in the American Lung Association Stair Climb in our respective cities, and I have reached out to her in the past on tips for good stair climbing workouts. The great thing about social media is that we all have a HUGE network of people to connect to – so take advantage and get some cross-training recommendations! You could even join your friend for a workout!

Do a Free Trial at a Gym or Studio

A lot of gyms and fitness studios will offer a complimentary class or weekly membership to get you in the door. Take the opportunity to try something new and bring a friend! Free trials are great because you can learn whether the class is worth trying out again or is simply a one-and-done, before making a huge investment. For example, I had the opportunity to take a Soulcycle class with some bloggers for a discount, and I quickly learned it wasn’t the place for me.

Once you’re ready to commit to a place, you can check out the Classplass or Mindbody apps to find inexpensive drop-in fitness classes in your area! I’d also recommend looking for new member promotions that have a discount for a monthly membership. What I love about classes is that you’re often surrounded by like-minded people and since you’re all “suffering” together, it’s a lot more fun and motivating!

Try a Workout Video at Home

If you’re a little nervous about trying a new workout in front of strangers, you don’t have to leave your home to get it done! There are so many fitness apps like Nike Training Club and Youtube channels that offer workouts that you could do in your living room, home gym, or even your backyard, as long as you have the necessary equipment. I know a lot of people love their Peleton bikes and take virtual classes with a live instructor.

What are your thoughts on cross-training? Do you have a favorite go-to workout (other than running)?

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