Advice From the Future: Cross Training For Runners

This time last year, I was just weeks away from running the Chicago Marathon – my first 26.2 ever. This year, some of my friends are getting ready for the same race. If you are a runner, it’s what August means to you – the height of fall marathon season. It’s hot. Your body is tired. Your sanity is in question. And you are hungry. Very, very hungry.

Chicago marathone smile {Delirious at mile 20-something in Chitown. Hi Rose!)

You already know what I’ve learned from training for a marathon. But there’s one thing I didn’t tell you about because I didn’t realize it was important until after the race was over. Hindsight, you know?

So here it is: Cross training for runners is muy importante. That means “do it” in Spanish. Trust me on this, I took high school espanol and went to Spain once. I’m practically fluent.

I know what you want to say to me. “Megs – I’m already running 6 days a week, and you are telling me I need to do other exercises, plus go to work, sleep, remember to wear pants and accessorize accordingly? I want to punch you in your mouth.” Trust me on this, folks. It’s worth it.

Glasses-frames {Would this face lie? PS – check out my article on online deals for glasses}

When I say “cross training”, I mean anything that isn’t running. I know some people might tell you it’s not cross training unless it’s aerobic, but I don’t agree. That being said, I think cross training – specifically low-impact training – is really important. So important that I think you should drop a running day to do it. Here’s why.

One: Running can be hard on the body because of the repetitive movements of stretching the hamstrings and connective knee tissue. By asking your body to do other exercises that shorten and contract muscles, your body is able to adapt and strengthen in a complete, balanced way. Also, by performing different movements, you are giving those specific running muscles a much needed break and aiding in injury prevention.

Two: Low impact training avoids the heavy impact on your body that running inflicts, leaving you less sore and tired the following day. As a result, it’s possible to get in a hard, long cross training workout without having to take a rest day afterward. Recovery is extremely important for endurance training. Your muscles must have time to repair themselves, so that you can continue to tackle long miles and improve speed. Cross-training allows this, while helping you maintain your cardio base. This benefits your training program, allowing you to get in big workouts on days that would otherwise be filled with easy, less-productive recovery runs.

Three: Cross training helps you avoid the dreaded burn-out. After several months of speed work, long runs and loops around the track, your mind and body could use some variety. In fact, taking a break from running one or two days a week might even make you miss it. Might.

swimming Fiterature’s Best Cross Training for Runners

1. Cycling: Biking targets the quad and shin muscles, which are slower to develop in runners and helps strengthen the connective tissue of the knees, hips and ankles, which may reduce your risk for injury. Don’t overdo it though; cycling can be just as taxing on your body as running.

2. Yoga: The strength and flexibility developed on the mat – namely in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors – can help you run more efficiently and stay injury-free. The concentration required for holding poses and clearing your mind also helps build mental endurance – which is needed at mile 20.

3. Swimming: Jumping in the pool gives your joints and connective tissues a break from the impact of running while allowing you to maintain the cardio base you’ve built. Because swimming is a full body workout (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back and upper body), it gives your legs a break while developing the upper body strength that is often neglected but needed in runners.

4. Weight training: Runners should focus on multi-joint, compound movements that build functional strength. Exercises like dead lifts, pull ups, military press, bench press, squats, lunges, and overhead press are best – and lift heavy. Running is your light resistance training – lifting uses more muscles fibers, helping you get stronger and faster.


**If you are weeks away from a race, don’t start cross training now. You don’t want to add something new at this point – think of this as advice from the fuuuuuture. For those of you that are training right now, for a 5k to an ultra – congrats. You’re doing great work. Keep going. Don’t get discouraged. Trust the training. Hydrate and fuel properly. Ice your legs. Rest your body. Oh yea, and have fun. GOOD LUCK!


I just realized there are way too many picture of me on this post. So here is a picture of a cucumber that looks like a duck. And for your information, a cucumber is a fruit not a vegetable. Did I just blow your mind?


What is your favorite way to exercise?

How do you rest your body?

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9 thoughts on “Advice From the Future: Cross Training For Runners

  1. Mind blown!!! My favorite vegetable is a fruit. My world is now turned upside down. Thanks, Meg! What is your advice if said runner does cross-train and still wants to gouge her eyeballs out when someone says the word RUN?! I’m not saying I know anyone like that…just hypothetical.

  2. I LOVE reading your blogs…always fresh and you touch on topics that I’m seriously wondering about. 🙂 Yay for cross-training and cucumbers shaped like ducks!

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