Article | June 2017

Benefits of Cross-Training

Is running the best way to become a better runner?

The benefits of cross-training

If your goal is to prepare for a race, cover longer distances or run for longer durations, making running your sole fitness activity sounds logical — right?

What if I told you that by running less, you have the potential to increase your speed and reduce your risk for injury? Well, I have good news, it is true! The secret is cross-training.

Cross-training is a term that gets used a lot, but what exactly is it?

Cross-training mixes several forms of exercise including aerobics, and strength and flexibility training. Exercises are done at different levels of intensity to maintain a high level of fitness. By varying the stress placed on specific muscles, you can enhance performance and reduce your risk for injuries.

Six reasons to add cross-training to your exercise routine

  • Improved skills, agility, speed and balance
  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Greater aerobic fitness (achieved by developing lesser-used muscles through low-impact aerobic activity)
  • Prevention of injuries caused by instability or inadequate strength — common for runners
  • Variety and flexibility in your routine
  • Reduction in boredom, burnout, and the ability to adjust your workout when needed to accommodate the rest of your life

Types of exercises to include

  • Aerobic: Running, swimming, biking, rowing, jump rope, hiking, stair climbing
  • Strength training: Calisthenics (push-ups, crunches and pull-ups), free-weights, machines
  • Flexibility: Stretching, yoga, using a foam roller
  • Skill conditioning: Sprinting, agility, plyometric and balance drills

My personal experience

For my first marathon, I ran five days a week. I did minimal strength-training and other forms of aerobic training. Then I signed up for my next marathon with a new approach - to run less and cross-train more. Incorporating cross-training enabled me to avoid injury and improve my marathon time by 47 minutes — from 4:24 to 3:37. Now those are results I can feel good about.

Watson, S, Cross Training, WebMD, July 21, 2014, http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/cross-training

Creating a Personalized Fitness Program, WebMD. Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/creating-personalized-fitness-program?page=3

The information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your doctor for appropriate health advice and guidance, including prior to starting a new diet or exercise program.