Running basically just uses a few of your muscle groups. The muscles that you don’t use can become weaker than your running muscles and the imbalance can cause injuries. Cross-training helps you strengthen those muscles that you don’t use for running.
Cross-training is also a great way to keep up your fitness during your running rest days. Many runners feel that if they take a day off from running that they will lose fitness levels. Doing another form of exercise on those days will help with that. Most runners will some other activity 1-2 days a week.
Also, if you have an injury, you may be able to do certain cross-training exercises that won’t further aggravate your injury. Doing this will also help you to maintain your fitness level while you are recuperating.
Here are some cross-training activities that you can incorporate into your fitness program:
Swimming is one of the activities that many runners do. It is not a form of weight-bearing exercise and, therefore, will give your joints a break. It also improves your upper body strength. Many runners take on swimming as cross-training to move on to triathlon training.
Weight training is a great way to improve your running. You can target your non-running muscles and strengthen them. It is also a great way to help get stronger overall, which will help you maintain proper running form. This is my favorite form of cross-training. In addition to strengthening non-running leg muscles, I also love to do upper body weights. This helps with arm pumping which will help get you up hills better on your runs.
A super activity for your running rest days is simply walking. Walking is great for your rest days – especially if the day before was a longer run or you did speed work.
Whether you are recovering from an injury or you want to become a stronger, more efficient runner – cross-training is excellent for you. You don’t want to over-do what you do on these days – remember they are a supplement to your running and supposed to be a rest/easy day.