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Best Cross Training Exercises for Runners and Trail Runners

When the weather gets bad, sometimes it is in your best interest to take your workout indoors.  Alternatively, your workout regimen may implement cross training days in order to supplement your running; or, you may be trying to maintain fitness while healing an injury.  Whatever your reason for hitting the gym, listed here are a few of the best cross training programs for runners. 

When properly clipped into a spin bike, the repetitive cycling motion is highly beneficial for runners.  In both cycling and running, cadence is an important measurement that defines either effort or efficiency.  Most runners strive to improve their cadence, ideally towards 180 beats per minute (i.e. how many times your legs hit the pavement in a 60 second period).  Because of the similarities in movement, cycling has been suggested to improve running ability in numerous ways.

Aqua Jogging
While it certainly is not a favorite activity among runners, aqua jogging is one of the best ways to mimic running in a non-impact manner.  Aqua jogging can be performed with or without a flotation belt, which will change the perceived effort of the workout.  If you are recovering from injury or looking for an effective way to stay in shape, pool running is one of the best exercises.  To make the time fly by, switch up your workout by incorporating fartleks or tempos into your pool routine. 

Barre is most reminiscent of a ballet class, one in which high repetitions of small movements (i.e. flutter kicks) are performed.  While barre may not provide a high-stress cardiovascular workout, it will strengthen muscles that are traditionally weak for runners, such as glutes and hips.  This core-targeting regimen will also target small stabilizing muscles for better all-around form.

The benefits of yoga are so vast, there truly isn’t a good reason for runners not to try yoga.  Vinyasa and other flow-classes provide cardiovascular benefits while also reducing stress levels, teaching better breathing habits, improving blood pressure, strengthening your core, and stretching tight, overworked muscles. 

Circuit Training
Need to fit in cardio and strength, but only have a short amount of time?  Circuit workouts are a great way to achieve both goals.  In a weight lifting circuit routine, you will choose 5 – 10 exercises such as pushups, chin ups, seated running with weights, seated shoulder press, and other body weight or dumbbell exercises.  Then, you will alternate completing the activity for 45 – 60 seconds with 15 – 30 seconds of rest.  Choose exercises that you can safely perform quickly, as the goal is to move rapidly for maximum cardio benefit.  Total circuit time should be 20 – 30 minutes.

A variation of the circuit is Tabata training.  Here, you choose a body weight exercise (i.e. pushups) and perform it at 100% effort for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest.  This cycle is repeated 8 times, for a total of 4 minutes. 

Ultimately, cross training shouldn’t be an activity you dread.  Choose an activity that you find most enjoyable, even if it isn’t on this list!