Be a Better Runner: Cross-Train

4 cross-training activities to improve your running
3 minute read. In a hurry? Scroll down for our 60-second summary

Be a Better Runner - Cross-Train

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By Coach Sally, We Run Coach for the Midlands

It is a commonly held belief for recreational runners that to be able to get a great race time or to comfortably run a long distance, the main thing to do for your training is to run, a lot. But wait, there’s more! Building in some cross-training activities like swimming and pilates alongside your running will not only reduce your risk of injury but also hugely improve your overall running performance. Boom!

Here we discuss the impact running has on our body and suggest 4 things you can do to strengthen and condition your body to get better at the activity you love.

Running demands maximum output from a wide range of muscles and joints. However fast or far you run, you are continuously and repetitively moving your body in one plane of movement. Whilst this feels brilliant, the more you run, without doing any other forms of exercise or strength training, the more likely any imbalances or areas of weakness will be exposed and the greater the risk of injury.

In addition, many recreational runners naturally reach a training pace that they are comfortable with and then tend to run that pace for every run. Every run improves aerobic capability, but sticking at the same pace will not make you physically stronger. Then, when you do try and run faster or further, your physical ability to withstand the forces involved lets you down and you get injured. Every time you get injured you stop running and impede any improvements.

To break this cycle, get your body working optimally and increase your running efficiency, try shaking up your training and including one or two of the following activities:

  • HIIT sessions
    High intensity interval training sessions give you a brilliant full-body workout with a series of short intense repetitions. Classes usually range from 20-40 mins – try some of the HIIT session workouts on YouTube at home.
  • Cycling
    Cycling on any bike gives you a great cardio workout whilst providing a low-impact alternative to running the streets, taking pressure off the joints and getting your body working in a different way. Try a spin class or digging out your bike from the shed and heading out for an hour.
  • Swimming
    A good one to help improve your endurance, build strength and enhance recovery. If you get bored going back and forth try doing a variety of strokes. Backstroke is great for opening up the shoulders and chest. Or you could throw in some sprints – 10 × 50m with 30 seconds recovery in between, increasing the number of intervals as you get stronger.
  • Pilates
    Improve your balance, posture, core strength and flexibility by taking up a weekly pilates class. For those of us who don’t stretch enough this is a great one to do.
60-second summary
  • Many runners find a comfortable pace to train at and stay there, inadvertently inhibiting their ability to go further or faster

  • Cross-training will reduce your risk of injury, improve your physical ability and have a huge impact on your running performance

  • Include a stretching activity such as pilates, and a strengthening activity such as circuits or swimming into your weekly routine and you will quickly begin to see big improvements in your running