Top 9 Cross-Training Exercises For Runners

Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has reported that the majority (over 90%) of runners suffer from some kind of sports-related injury during their running career.

Even though lifting weights can increase your strength and endurance, numerous athletes steer clear of weight training.

Scott Johnston, an elite mountain athlete, coach, and co-author of the-authorizing for the Uphill Athlete, insists that excuses such as not believing in weightlifting or being anxious about getting bulked up are nothing more than cop-outs.

General resistance training can address any lack of ability and enhance mechanized activity, yet its advantages reach past injury counteraction. Stronger legs will also improve your running economy.

As you become more fatigued, your legs become less effective, meaning you will use more energy for each step when you are most depleted.

Johnston states that it appears as if the further you go in a race, the less efficient your gas consumption becomes. Training with weights makes your muscles less prone to exhaustion, counteracting this phenomenon.

Consider incorporating approximately one or two hours of cross-training in addition to how much running you currently do. However, also be cognizant of the danger that comes with overtraining.

Jason Koop, coach for the Colorado-based Carmichael Training Systems, insists that taking time to rest is the best way to extend yourself as a runner.

If you have additional hours in the day and access to energy, consider beginning a strength-training workout. If this applies to you, look at our selection of the top workouts for runners who are looking to remain in peak condition for lengthy periods.

The Best Cross-Training Workout

Johnston’s exercise routine works all the essential muscles runners need to focus on. Do the exercises consecutively, taking a one-minute break between each exercise and three minutes of rest between each cycle.

Begin with 2 sets of the routine and then increase it to 4 sets, doing it twice a week with a rest period of at least 2 days between. Begin your exercise by taking a few minutes for a leisurely jog, or doing some jumping rope, as well as a few dynamic stretches, paying special attention to using correct form and not doing too many repetitions.

The goal of these workouts is not to build muscle, so make sure not to push yourself until you can no longer continue (which will lead to muscle development). When you’re just starting out, focus on using relatively low weights and doing more repetitions. When you become stronger, increase the weight you use and decrease the number of reps to make it more intense.


Cross-training involves engaging in any kind of exercise or sports activity, other than running, to supplement your running regimen. For instance, you can go running four times a week, swimming once, and biking twice. This would be cross-training.

The Best Exercises for Runners

1. Squat with Resistance Band

This sentence is about how to improve knee stability and control by strengthening the quads, glutes, and hip abductors.

Secure a resistance band to your upper legs above your knees, and make sure you are standing straight with your feet placed at a hip-width distance apart. Stand tall with your torso straight, make sure your shoulders are pulled back and down, and brace your abdominal muscles.

Move your weight back onto your heels and lower yourself into a squat position until your legs are at a ninety-degree angle with the floor. Push through the heels to stand back up.

Push your knees outward against the band while going through the motion to keep them even. Pay attention to correct posture and ensure that your knees are in the right position while keeping your spine straight.

Begin only using your own body weight, and keep going until you reach 20 reps or your posture begins to fail. In a couple of weeks, use a weighted vest, a kettlebell which you can place in front of your torso, or place a barbell over your shoulders to increase resistance. Reduce weighted reps to six to eight per set.

2. Push-Up to Side Plank (with Hip Dip)

Working the upper body and core, especially the obliques, can help you keep your posture and balance as you jog.

Begin with your hands on the floor directly underneath your shoulders in the standard push-up position, arms stretched out straight, back straight, and feet at most 12 inches apart.

Perform a precise push-up: lower yourself until your biceps are even to the ground, turn your elbows backwards, and then return to the starting posture while adopting a stiff plank stance.

Move to one side then so your hips are at a right angle to the floor, with your feet one on top of the other and your upper arm held straight up. Descend your hips towards the ground and lift them back up, focusing on your obliques.

Return to the high push-up stance and do the same routine, including the push-up, on the other side. Alternate sides every rep.

If doing a standard push-up is too hard, try doing them while elevated on a box, bench, or table to make it easier, or do them from your knees on the floor.

Once you can manage ten repetitions of this workout easily, make it harder by raising your feet on top of something like a box, a bench, or an exercise ball, or even by adding a weighted vest. To work the upper body even further, grip some light weights in your hands.

Eight reps total.

3. Side Steps with Resistance Band (Lateral Steps)

Increase the strength of the hip muscles on the outside of the hips to promote better stability and regulation of the knees.

Position yourself with both feet together and maintain a slight bend in the knees, and then attach a resistance band around the ankles. Position your palms on your hips to make sure they remain even, take a step the width of your hips to the left or right, and, smoothly and steadily, bring the other foot up to meet the first.

Walk 12 to 15 paces in one direction, then turn around and traverse the same path back. Pay close attention to proper form. Be certain to keep your feet facing forward and maintain an even pelvic position throughout the movement. Keep your knees from caving inwards, as this can be a cause of knee discomfort.

Do three to four sets of 20 steps, going back and forth, until your posture or technique reaches a point of deterioration.

4. Forearm Plank

Increases the power and steadiness of the core muscles by maintaining a still position.

Start from a kneeling posture and place your forearms on the floor with the elbows lined up beneath your shoulders, making sure that they have spaced out the same distance as the width of your shoulders. Stretch your legs out behind you, keeping your feet and toes close together, and straighten yourself out so that you make one long line from your feet to the top of your head.

Engage your core. Maintain an upright posture, with your back level—not drooping, bent in an arc, or tilting the pelvis—and your head held high with your neck in alignment with your spine. Maintain this posture until you start to go out of alignment (when your hips begin to drop or lift up). Remember to breathe.

If you are unable to sustain a form for a full minute, start off with shorter repetitions of holds, such as doing six reps of 15-second holds with 15-30 second breaks between each one. Increase the time for the holds as your fitness improves until you reach the goal of a full minute.

If the single minute feels too easy for you, try alternating between a three-point plank, wearing a weighted vest or having a friend place a plate weight on your back during each set.

Wait for one minute or until your posture collapses.

5. Backward Skate with Resistance Band

Developing the glutes and hips will help give the hamstrings more support, increasing steadiness and command of the knees.

Tie a resistance band around your ankles and stand in a position with your legs close together, making sure that your knees are slightly bent. Take a diagonal stepbackwardsrd, alternating sides.

Make sure your heels stay on the ground as you land so that your foot is flat rather than on your toes. It should appear more as if you are gliding your foot backwards than taking a step. Between each step, bring your feet back together. Make sure to keep your feet directed ahead, pay attention to the placement of your knees and maintain a proper technique.

Twenty steps on each leg.

6. Cycling 

The decision of whether to ride a bike indoors or outdoors is yours to make; yet, the advantages do not differ significantly. Riding a bicycle is much gentler on your body than running, particularly when considering the amount of force it takes to do either.

Biking is an excellent way to get your heart rate up while guarding against any type of injury from running or jumping – unless you have an accident and come off your bike.

We suggest that when riding a bike, a variety of workout regimens should be incorporated. These include:

  • Interval training (for example, 5×3 mins at a hard effort)
  • Long, slow rides
  • Sprints
  • Hill rides and hill sprints

If you have an injury at the moment, it will be worthwhile for you to include a combination of all four of these cycling exercises in your training plan. Despite keeping up regular daily workouts, it is advisable to do only a single or a maximum of two of these runs every week to lower your chances of overworking yourself.

Riding a bike is notably advantageous since it helps fortify the same muscles utilized for jogging. In addition, your cycling rate can be aligned with your running rate, even leading to enhanced running efficiency.

7. Walking 

If you can’t run, walk! Jeff Galloway promotes walking as it resembles running, albeit much slower and less stressful for the body.

Going for a stroll, particularly if you’re hurt, is an awesome approach to initiate the same muscles utilized while running and moreover keeps you associated with being outside – a great psychological advantage to accomplishing your day-by-day steps.

Similarly, it should be obvious that you can cover more distance on foot than by running. Take advantage of this.

Go for an extended hike, or morning walk, or take a leisurely stroll in the sunshine; this will give your muscles a break as well as preparation to go back to running and also accommodate you with the calming effects of walking.

8. Swimming

Swimming is a fantastic form of exercise for runners, even if it involves a different type of movement than cycling. By participating in swimming workouts regularly, core stability, stamina, and muscle groups in the upper and lower portions of the body can all be strengthened.

Swimming is especially beneficial for those who have injured ligaments or muscles, especially if they cannot do any running right now.

Incorporating swimming as part of your workout routine, even if you don’t have an injury, is an excellent method to diminish the danger of injuring yourself while adding diversity to your training which can make it more enjoyable. You may take part in a triathlon in the future.

9. Elliptical 

We wholeheartedly suggest that you make use of your nearby gym or a home elliptical if you have one. This exercise is perfect for mimicking running movements and helping to get your heart rate up, make you perspire, and improve your aerobic endurance.

Make sure that you increase the effort so that it is difficult, yet still achievable, and you will be able to make the most of the session.

If you’re wanting a change of pace, interval training can be included in your routine of exercise and training. An example of interval training using the elliptical may be as follows:

  • 5-minute warmup
  • 3-minutes at an increased resistance
  • 60-90 seconds at an easy resistance
  • Repeat 6-8x, to begin with
  • 5-minute cool-down

Cross-training benefits

There are several benefits to regular cross-training for runners. These include:

1. Reduced risk of injury

Incorporating cross-training into your running regimen or using it to supplement your running will help reduce your chances of getting injured. Swimming and cycling are excellent exercises for improving our aerobic fitness and they are gentle on our bodies.

Secondly, cross-training increases circulation to the muscles utilized in running, which in turn helps to clear out toxins and bring down the amount of time necessary to recuperate between sessions.

Weight lifting serves as an additional type of exercise that works to boost our running performance and also lowers the chances of getting hurt.

Weightlifting enables us to toughen up major workout muscles like the glutes, hamstrings, and torso while correcting musculature discrepancies, which are commonly linked to harm.

2. Improved aerobic capacity

Various forms of training that incorporate different activities are excellent for enhancing our aerobic capacity. Some aerobic exercises that can be mixed up for a cross-training program include biking, going for a swim, and doing water jogging.

Incorporating these activities into your running regimen in addition to your regular exercise will enhance your aerobic strength and cardiovascular health, which are crucial for running more quickly.

Nevertheless, numerous joggers see one of the most noteworthy advantages of including cross-training in their calendar as the way that cross-training likewise affects the aerobics framework, permitting us to improve our running skills without really going for a run.

3. You won’t get bored as easily

Cross-training allows a mental break from your running routine. No matter how often one does it, whether that be every three days or every seven days, running can get dull occasionally.

Adding cross-training to your plan provides something to anticipate when your running becomes dull. It is probable that when you come back to the sport, you will experience increased physical capabilities.

4. You can train even when injured

The primary advantage of cross-training is that it allows you to stay active even when you are hurt.

Exercising even when injured enables athletes to sustain a significant amount of aerobic capacity, which is important for a speedy comeback to running. Make sure to get the approval of a medical professional before doing any physical activity. This will guarantee that your chosen form of cross-training won’t make your injury worse.

Side notes

No matter what, we urge you to involve some kind of cross-training in your workout plan. Benefits can be attained by engaging in activities such as cycling, swimming, and the use of an elliptical machine – especially if you are new to them.

However, as always, everything in moderation is best. Have a go at the different cross-training techniques mentioned here and discover what is the most effective for you. It is possible that you could discover a newfound admiration for a different sport.


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