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.

Man riding bike through woods in the fall

Watson, S, Cross Training, WebMD, July 21, 2014,

Creating a Personalized Fitness Program, WebMD. Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

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.