Cross training- where does it fit for runners?

I am often asked if cross training is important for runners- the answer is yes… and no…

What is cross training? Cross training for runners basically means using another fitness workout in order to enhance their running.

I believe that runners become better runners and racers by running. I typically don’t add a lot of cross training to the weekly plans of the professional athletes I coach. However, just as strongly, I believe that keeping a runner healthy is crucial to improving fitness and staying motivated. Cross training can be an incredible tool in keeping runners injury free.

One of the many reasons running is so great is that it is such a low maintenance activity; grab your shoes and head out the door.  Easy breezy. Cross training involves a little more time and effort because, unless you have cardio equipment at home, you’ll need a gym or a pool.

Below are three cross training workouts that don’t take all day. Cross training is great in that you can work more intensely for a shorter period of time and get more bang for your buck with not a ton of extra time!

Stationary bike:  always adjust seat height so that you are able to pedal with middle of foot and leg maintains a slight bend throughout cycle.

Begin with pedaling 10 minutes easy with moderate resistance, same effort as an easy run. After the warm up, alternate pedaling quick (90-100 RPM’s for beginners) at a more intense resistance for 2:00 minutes with 1:00 minute of easy pedaling at little resistance.  Do this 6x.  End the session with 5-10 minutes of easy pedaling for a cool down

Pool running (AKA aqua jogging). 

Form is important here; try and run as you normally would by staying nice and tall, tightening
core muscles, and pulling back with glutes and hamstrings. You DO NOT need a high knee lift here; quicker turn over with shorter strides is better. If available, you can always use an aqua jogging belt to help with flotation (I’ve seen them for $20 on Amazon…)


Begin by running in water or swimming easy for 10 minutes. Next, alternate 90 seconds of “quick running” (quicker turnover) with 30 seconds of easy running. Repeat 8x, by the 5th one, it should be very difficult to talk! Cool down with 5 minutes of easy running or swimming.

Elliptical:  I am usually a fan of the machines that can vary in incline and I switch it every 3-4 minute so that different muscle groups are targeted.


10-12 minutes easy on a moderate intensity. Alternate 5 minutes on a harder intensity with 2 minutes on easy intensity. During each 5-minute interval, increase effort each minute. Repeat 3x.

As with any activity, build in time for good recovery afterwards!!