Cross-Training for Runners

Running is simple. Lace up your shoes, start your watch, and go! For many runners, this is what keeps the sport enjoyable and easy to replicate. While there is nothing better than going out for your normal daily run, as the old saying goes, too much of anything can be bad. This notion holds true for runners as well. As you begin to add more volume to your weekly training, the chances of imbalanced muscles, injury, or lack of progress increases. How do you continue to run injury free while also seeing improvements in performance? The answer is simple, cross-training. Here are a few of the most important cross-training activities that runners should consider as they look to improve in the sport.

Cross-Training for Strength

As runners begin to add more volume, they will begin to utilize the same muscles over and over again. This is what leads to both muscular imbalances and overuse injuries. Not only does this stress your active muscles, but it also puts more strain on your stabilizing muscles. As those overactive muscles start to pull on your tendons, you also decrease range of motion and increase risk of tendonitis. To help mitigate these issues, runners should have a dedicated strength focus to help maintain balance in muscular strength and range of motion. Aiming for 1-2 strength days per week will do wonders for your long term health as an avid runner.

Strength Training Workouts

Sally Mcrae’s Power 5 Strength Workout

Hillary Allen’s “Feel the Burn” Workout

Cross-Training for Endurance

Simply put, your body can only manage so many miles before it starts breaking down. This is especially true for many amateur runners that are looking to increase volume. One great way to add additional time to your training with limited muscular strain is through cycling. While running should make up the majority of your training time, adding in long rides or base days can help you maintain/improve your aerobic development. Next time you are looking for ways to increase your training load, think about incorporating time on the bike!

Cycling Workout

Long Ride for Marathon Training

Cross-Training for Speed

Plyometrics are one of the top training strategies for sprinters. That being said, many long-distance runners don’t incorporate them as they should. Plyometrics such as jump-roping increase both leg stiffness (rebound) and turnover (cadence). When running, your legs act as springs in space. The stronger you can make these springs plus the faster they turnover, the higher your potential to run faster. By adding in plyometrics and specifically jump-roping, you are training your legs and mind to fire faster than if you were to only run.

Jump Rope Workout

5 min progressive warm up, 10×1 min progressive jump rope speed, 1 min standing recovery, 5 min easy walk cool down

Cross-Training for Flexibility

As noted in the strength section, range of motion is important for injury prevention and performance. Runners should always mix in a dynamic warmup prior to running, and static stretching following their run. While this is better than most, we would also suggest you add in a dedicated stretching routine into your weekly activities. By adding in Yoga, Pilates, or other forms of stretching, you are keeping your muscles long and limiting the chance of injury. As muscles shorten, they become susceptible to more pulls and strains. Spend 30-45 minutes/week in a dedicated flexibility focus to help maintain your long-term running ability.


Runners are creatures of habit. Lace up your shoes, start your watch, and head out the door! While this should be the main focus, we want to note how important cross-training can be for long term performance and success. By adding in cross-training for strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility, you will reduce your risk of injury, enhance aerobic development, increase range of motion, and build speed! Allow cross-training to make up 15-20% of your total weekly training time and you’ll continue to make performance improvements while you stay healthier along the way!

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