What are the Different Types of Cross Training for Runners?

Dan Cavallari

The type of cross training for runners depends entirely upon the runner and his preferences and goals. A runner who is serious about the sport, participates in races, and who considers running his or her primary form of exercise may want to take part in cross training for runners who are interested in developing the same muscles used in running. Such a program would essentially help build muscle in lower-impact exercises meant to be easier on the body. Other runners who run for fun or who want variety in a workout may opt for cross training for runners that does not focus on the same muscles as running.

The type of cross training for runners depends entirely upon the individual runner.
The type of cross training for runners depends entirely upon the individual runner.

A runner who races or is preparing for a running event may only be interested in developing the muscles that will help him or her in the race or event. He or she will therefore participate in cross training for runners that works similar muscles. Elliptical machines or ski machines are popular choices for such runners. These machines allow the user to work the same muscle groups but in a much lower-impact exercise. Running can be very hard on the body, so cross training for runners may be necessary in this case to maintain overall strength and cardiovascular performance without participating in high impact running that can damage joints and muscles.

Competitive runners should find cross training programs that enhance their running muscles.
Competitive runners should find cross training programs that enhance their running muscles.

Other cross training for runners who are not interested in necessarily working the same muscles as running, or who consider running to simply be a hobby they enjoy, may include activities that are not related to the running motion but still develop strength and endurance. Bicycling is a popular choice for this category, as well as for runners who participate in triathlons. Such athletes may cross train by swimming and cycling in addition to the regular regimen of running.

Cycling is a good option for runners looking to cross train.
Cycling is a good option for runners looking to cross train.

Stretching exercises and yoga are also popular choices for cross training. Such activities keep muscles loose and limber, which can help prevent injury during intense athletic activity. Skiing and ski machines work similar muscles but add a new context for athletic activity, which means the trainer gets the benefits of a workout with the interest in a new activity. Hiking and trail running are popular alternatives to running as well; trail running uses many of the same muscles as regular running, but more lateral movements over obstacles also means different muscles get worked as well. At the gym, stair-climbing machines can add variety to a cross training regimen as well.

Hiking through scenic terrain is a popular cross training technique for long distance runners.
Hiking through scenic terrain is a popular cross training technique for long distance runners.

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