What is Cross Training?
Cross training is engaging in 2 or more sports or exercise to improve your fitness. As a runner, there are many activities to incorporate into your training schedule to aid in building endurance, strength and flexibility, which are are beneficial to runners.
Types of Cross Training & Benefits
Running-Specific Cross Training
Examples: cycling, swimming elliptical, stair stepper, roller blading, cross country skiing, hiking & so on.
Benefits: These activities mimic running and will help to improve your cardiovascular system as does running. They can be a good supplement to running when you are injured or an add on to your training schedule to help build endurance without loading onto your legs the way running might.
Flexibility, Balance, Mobility & Stability Cross Training
Examples: Pilates, yoga, plyometrics, stretching, core focused workout.
Benefits: 1. Improved speed & endurance by loosening your hips, legs and back, all helping you keep a fluid, long stride. 2. Provides mobility and improves flexibility which will decrease recovery time post workout. 3. Corrects postural imbalances through the strengthening of your core, which helps reduce the risk of injury and protects your spine and surrounding musculature from injury during dynamic movement. 4. Strengthens muscles that you otherwise do not use when running to help improve your gait and fire up muscles to help you maintain better posture while running.
Muscle Strength Cross Training
Examples: Power weight training, endurance weight training (high reps, low weight).
Benefits: 1. Helps to improve control, coordination, and stability, which can improve your form and especially help when fatigue sets in during long runs. 2. It can also help increase push off, which will make you a more efficient runner, and improve core stability, which can improve running posture.
Cardio + Muscle Strength Cross Training
Examples: Circuit training, cross fit, HIIT, etc.
Benefits: 1. Combines strength training and cardio which will help you to learn to run on tired legs/with fatigued muscles. 2. Increase your V02 max (the amount of oxygen you can use) which helps in building endurance. 3. Strengthen muscle groups that can help improve your running form.
In general, incorporating cross training into your training schedule is always a good idea. It can build mental strength, avoid burnout by "mixing it up", provides an active recovery (vs. no activity), strengthens other muscle groups that you otherwise would not strengthen with running.