Cross Training Tips for Runners

Much to my endless relief, no one expects you to run every single day when you’re training for a half-marathon. Even better, you’re not supposed to run that often.

Why? Well, there are exceptions to every rule, but the majority of people can’t run with the degree of frequency without hurting themselves (I can’t even think about running that often without hurting myself).

This is because doing the same type of exercise every day puts a whole lot of strain on the same muscles and joints over and over and over again. Without the chance to rest and recovery, those parts of your body can become overused, weakened, and prime candidates for injury.

Which is where cross training comes in. Cross training is, simply, doing one form of exercise in order to improve your performance in another. If you choose the right ways to cross-train, you’ll end up a better runner as well as prevent injury, speed up rehabilitation, and break the monotony of running day after day.

So, that sounds great but, uh, what are the right ways to cross-train if you want to improve your running?

Well, I had no idea. So I asked JK! (Come on, did you really expect me to know the answer to that? We’ve been doing this blog thing for two months now, so surely you must know how clueless I am.) She gave me three RVC classes to attend that would work perfectly: Spinning, Pilates Mat, and Complete Conditioning.

I’m going to be real with all of you and admit that I did not make it to Complete Conditioning in time to write this blog as it happens at a time when I’m almost always scheduled to train with JK. However, I did do some research into what the class is and why it is ideal cross training!

Here are three classes at RVC, included with your membership, that are ideal for cross training with runners in mind.

1. Complete Conditioning: This class actually has a lot of similarities to the strength and conditioning circuits you might do with a trainer, but in a group setting. You’ll get short bursts of maximum effort cardio (such as jump roping), as well as strength intervals (featuring things like push-ups and planks). I am a truly laughable but enthusiastic jump roper and, as we have all learned, really passionate about embarrassing myself publically, so I clearly need to hit this class ASAP!

Now onto the classes that actually got the chance to kick my butt!

2. Spinning: Spinning is an awesome way to cross train because in targets different (often weaker) muscles than running and the more balance you have in your muscles strength, the less likely you are to hurt yourself. Remember what I said about your joints also needing time between runs to recover? Well, while running is a very high-impact activity that puts a lot of wear and tear on your joints, spinning on a stationary bike has low-to-no-impact and gives those joints a break!

Since I’ve got enough popping joints to cause several trainers eyes to bulge out of their head and ask me if I’m okay, spinning definitely seemed like a great idea. Plus, I’ve done it before and enjoyed it. I went to JK’s class, of course, (but I’ve also attended Janet and Deb’s classes in the past and enjoyed those as well – definitely check out Deb’s Beginner Spin class if you’ve never spun before). Spinning is supposed to be hard, but it is easily adjustable to your personal fitness level so that it is a challenge for you in particular. The camaraderie and the awesome music will help you get through that “I want to die” feeling, I promise!

3. Pilates Mat: Core strength, core strength, core strength. It’s a thing I have very little of and all of us, especially those of us trying to run long distances, need. Your core strength affects the way that your pelvis, abs, hips, and low back work together. The stronger your core, the more steady and straight it is when you run. And the steadier your core, the less energy you deflect, helping you to run faster.

A word to the wise: do not assume that this is going to be an easy workout simply because it involves a mat on the floor and a lot of stretching. You will likely contort your body in ways you are unprepared for and your abs will hurt the next day. Also, if you’re a newbie to this kind of workout, definitely make sure you attend one of the classes on the schedule marked level 1. Do not be like me and assume you will be fine in a level 2 class. Trust me, you will be glad you listened to me when you are able to laugh and breath without wincing for two days afterward.

So, there you have it, three awesome ways to cross train already available to you right here in the RVC. But if you’re not comfortable in a group fitness environment, or you schedule just won’t allow it, here are some other ways to try to cross training on your own:

  • Swimming – the best non-weight bearing cross training.
  • Cycling – even if you don’t want to go to spinning, give that stationary bike a try!
  • Skiing – it is the right time of year, after all.
  • Yoga – again, focus on that core!

Do you have any favorite ways to cross train that I haven’t mentioned here? I’ve still got three months to go and would love suggestions!

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