Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT, CSCS
Oh you’re a runner? Shouldn’t you cross train so you don’t get injured running all the time? I can guarantee at least once a non runner friend, family member or even stranger has asked you this question. So what’s the deal with cross training? Is it important and should you do it? And if so, how do you incorporate it into your current running routine?
Cross training, as defined by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, is combining different types of exercise activities to vary your fitness program. A well rounded cross training routine includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility or mobility based exercises. For us runners, cross training is any other type of exercise besides running, such as strength, biking, swimming, yoga or pilates.
As a general answer, yes, runners should do at least one type of cross training.
For the majority of us, this would be strength training 2x/week. Preferably this is strength training without a HIIT component which allows you to focus on form. Strength training is beneficial for ALL runners, regardless of if you’re in a training block or not. It helps prevent injuries, increase your speed and become a more efficient runner. There are a few ways to incorporate strength into your current running plan and working with a PT or coach will help personalize this to your schedule.
Other cardio forms of cross training such as biking, swimming or the elliptical can also be beneficial to improve overall cardiovascular endurance while keeping mileage manageable. If you’re injury prone for example, running more than 4 days/week may be more than your body can handle. Supplementing these days with low impact cardio will still stress your muscles in an endurance manner with less load to your body and can even enhance recovery.
Cross training should always support your running, not hinder it but can sometimes be tricky to fit into your already established routine.
If you’re in the middle of a training block, try to avoid adding a completely new type of exercise to your training. The offseason is a better time to experiment with what you may enjoy supplementing your runs with. If you’re injured however, that’s another story! You probably need 2 types of cross training, strength and cardio, to get through your current training block. Like all things running, there is no one size fits all approach. We can help you add cross training to your running routine in a way that works best for you!
By Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT, CSCS