For many runners, running is their main source of emotional and physical wealth. It’s all they know. It’s all they love. But what if this love can be shared? What if we opened our hearts and minds and let some more love in? Love that, when joined with running, only made us better and stronger?
One of the most powerful tools for improving overall running performance is cross training. Yes, you heard it right: to be a better runner, you don't always have to run. This may sound like witchcraft, voodoo, or counterintuitive at first, but allow us to explain.
Cross training can elevate your running game to the next level. The good news is that there is no shortage of options available for you to try. In this blog, we will narrow it down to the four most enjoyable and effective cross training activities that not only enhance your running performance, but also make you a better athlete overall.
Why Cross Train?
The goal for us runners is to always be well-rounded and well-balanced. Doing the same activity over and over again will slowly break you down. And we're not just talking about the dull, constant pounding that will wear you down physically. We're also talking about the persistent repetition that can burn you down mentally as well.
Not to mention, running is a very high impact and hard-on-your-joints exercise. If that’s all you do, and if that’s all you train, then eventually the injury bug will get you. Hence, why cross training is so good for you. And hence, why every runner should adopt cross training into their weekly exercise routines.
So while there are many activities to choose from, the below list has been hand-picked as the very best to help you in your journey.
Let us lean into the great benefits of alternative exercises.
4 Most Fun and Effective Cross Training Activities for Runners
Biking (or cycling as it is often called) is packed to the brim with a mountain of benefits. It saves your joints from the barrage of pounding you put it through when you run, it’s a great cardiovascular exercise, and it also strengthens the muscles in your legs. Did we mention it’s fun too? You get to go fast and feel the wind in your face while simultaneously reducing the impact on your body. If you haven’t incorporated cycling into your routine, now is the time. So take the load off, Annie. And enjoy the ride.
Ah, the great outdoors. Hiking, generally speaking, will take you on an expedition through and around the wonders of nature. Just being out in the natural environment and surrounded by Mother Earth alone has significant mental health benefits. But there are also some very physical benefits as well. Hiking helps strengthen your core and balance by being able to side-step and push your way over and through rocky terrain and uneven obstacles. No doubt this will build supplemental muscle in places that running doesn’t reach. In turn, this will create more aerobic endurance and strength that you can tap into during your runs.
This is the ultimate healer. Yoga cleanses your body when you’re beaten down from the road. It takes your muscles from that feeling of tightness, like a rubber band about to snap, and loosens them up to be more limber and agile. It’s also true that practicing yoga is as soothing for your body as it is for your soul. But don’t let it fool you – this is a workout. It’s a workout that decreases impact, but increases flexibility. Perhaps most importantly, a workout that will leave you feeling refreshed and restored and ready to be your best self. Whether that’s on the road or not.
4. Weight training
Weight training is not only where we get strong, but it’s also where we balance ourselves out. Let’s face it – strong muscles are needed for endurance runners. We need strong muscles to keep us plowing through our adventures when we get fatigued and start to feel weak. It’s important to strengthen your legs, to strengthen your upper body, and to strengthen your core. They all work in conjunction and will not only make you more of a complete runner, but more of a complete athlete as well.
- Swimming: It’s a great workout, but it’s tougher to have access to.
- Tennis: Fun activity that will increase agility.
- Elliptical: The most similar exercise to running, without your joints taking a beating.
There you have it, folks. The top 4 fun and effective cross training activities for runners.
So please put down the running shoes and get on a bike every now and then. Don’t forget to give your mind and body a break by exploring the great outdoors on an epic hiking adventure. Strengthen your muscles by picking up a few weights. And last, but definitely not least, loosen yourself up with some yoga.
If you incorporate these activities into your routine, your body and spirit will thank you. You’ll also be more well-rounded and less likely to suffer from a running-related injury. Which doesn’t hurt (pun intended), either.
One final note – this should be fun. Cross training is not a chore. It’s a time for us to break up the monotony of life and try new things.
After all, variety is the spice of life.