Cross training refers to the process of combining multiple exercises into an athlete’s training regimen.  Most often, these exercises work varying muscle groups under different types of stress to round out the overall routine. Athletes may combine cycling, tennis, swimming, yoga, rowing, cycling, or many other forms of exercise together in order to create a comprehensive training program that best supports their athletic endeavors.

Why Cross Train?

Cross training is well-known as an important means by which to build stability and prevent injury. Without proper cross training, muscular imbalances can occur that may lead to overused muscles, excessive soreness, long recovery periods, and physical instability. Cross training is especially important for runners, as too many miles can put excess stress on the legs. Muscle tone improvement throughout the body as a result of cross training is an important means to prevent injury and mitigate the effects of high impact sports such as running. Constantly pounding the pavement can cause undue stress on knees, hips, ankles, and backs.

Aside from preventing injury and ensuring a well-rounded physical fitness routine, cross training can also help prevent the burnout and boredom that often comes with performing the same exercise day after day.  It can also help you build endurance faster by allowing you to press your body by multiple, varied means more frequently with shorter recovery periods, speeding up your results.

How to Cross Train

Supplementing your running routine with cross training isn’t a difficult task, but it is important to supplement with a routine that satisfies its purpose. Let’s take a look at a few ways to build a cross training routine that is best configured to suit a runner’s needs:

  • Select similar exercises without the high impact. Elliptical machines, cycling, pool workouts, and skiing all closely mimic the movements of running, but without the constant impact. This can help you increase your running endurance without overtaxing your joints.
    • Cycling is one of the most popular options, as it provides an aerobic cross trainingactivity that can be performed both indoors and out, and continues to exercise and strengthen the legs without the high impact of mile after mile of running.
    • Swimming and water aerobics are a great way to increase endurance and also build up complementary muscle groups to balance the body.
    • Elliptical and ski machines allow runners to mimic a movement similar to running and can help bring some variety to a monotonous routine.
    • Often underrated, walking can be a great form of exercise that can increase running endurance without requiring such intense stress on the joints. Incorporate walking into your running routine and extend your mileage without overexerting your body.
  • Make sure that the workouts are aerobic in nature. Aerobic exercises teach your body to use fat as fuel, and workouts that focus on aerobic endurance are perfect for increasing your capacity for longevity during runs. This is not to say that you should scrimp on weight training, as it has been proven time and time again that weight training is a vital part of any physical fitness program.
  • Listen to your body. If your runs begin to feel painful or you feel as if you have hit a wall, switch them out for other activities to prevent injury and help bring some excitement back into your routine. Substituting 25 to 30 percent of your weekly running mileage with cross training activities can help you obtain an optimal level of variety that will help improve both your physical and mental endurance.

Cross-training has become ever more popular as a way to prevent the doldrums of a static routine, and to keep athletes healthy and race-ready. Mixing up a physical training program with a variety of other aerobic activities can improve your overall fitness, increase muscular balance, prevent injury and overuse, allow for quicker workout recoveries, and prevent boredom and burnout.