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Supercharge: Cross Training for Runners

Cross training can be key for optimal running technique. It strengthens your muscles in different ways to benefit those you use when running, plus it makes a nice change, right?
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When it comes to improving your running, it’s not all about just running further and faster each and every day. It can be tempting to think that you only get better at running by running, but to truly progress you must embrace the art of cross training.

Cross training is when you spend a portion of your training time partaking in other forms of exercise. The key is that they must compliment what you are doing.

If you’re training for a marathon then other forms of cardio will help you a great deal, but maxing out and lifting huge weights in the gym is kind of counter productive. Let’s take a look at some great ways you can compliment your running, and have fun at the same time.

1. Swimming

Swimming is a great all-body cardio workout. By building up your aerobic system, you will last longer and recover quicker then next time you lace up your trainers. You will also work your muscles in a different way. By putting greater emphasis on the upper body, and the rotational stabilization of the core, swimming will help you develop more evenly than just running alone ever can. Did we also mention that it is a zero impact exercise? This means that joints like your ankles and knees which take a bit of beating when running, are given a break from the rigors of running. This is great for avoiding injury, without taking time off.

2. Cycling

People cycling cross training

The great thing about cycling is that it allows you to explore the same terrain as running, but you can go faster and further. Building up to long multi-hour rides in the hills is a great way of training your body to burn fat stores and convert them to energy. Perfect for pushing on in the latter stages of your runs as you find that extra level of endurance that you need to make it to the finish. As with swimming, it is also impact free, and greatly reduces your chances of muscle or soft tissue injury.

3. Gym

Woman at the gym cross training

Gym work can be a little controversial with runners. No form of exercise is inherently bad; the question is really whether your running is directly benefited by it or not. Adding pounds of muscle is likely to slow you down for all but the fastest sprint distances like the 100 meters. With more mass to carry, and more tissue to supply oxygen to, your body will gas. This is where you just run out of steam and grind to a holt, and nobody wants that! Instead why not focus on adding a small amount of lean muscle, as well as improving your flexibility. High repetitions on low weights on the seated leg press and leg curl machines will give your legs that extra boost, especially when tackling a steep climb where you need that extra bit of power to reach the summit. For your core, we really like the plank. Build up to a minute straight, and you will be well on your way to running immortality.

4. Boxing

Woman boxing cross training

Boxing is becoming an increasingly popular way for people of all abilities to work out. You don’t need to lace up your gloves and go 12 rounds in the ring, just work the bag at home or in your local fitness center. A great cardio workout that builds lean functional muscle, boxing is a great way to break up the monotony of the same old classes or dumbbell routines. By putting some additional strain on your aerobic system, a good 15 minute power session on the punch bag will give your body that extra bit of pop that you will feel the next time you tackle a steep climb on your weekend run.

There we have it, four fun and uplifting ways you can get better at running, without even running. The great thing about cross training, is that by changing up your routine every once in a while, you not only give your body something different to process, but you also give your mind something new to focus on. Plus, other kinds of training are perfect for giving you that inspiration and lift you need to get out there, and get running!