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what is cross-training for runners

What Is Cross-training for Runners? 4 Things You Need to Know

When you’re a runner, you want to run. You probably don’t put massive amounts of energy into swimming, biking, spinning, or strength training.

But if you’ve avoided the gym, the bike, or the pool for, oh, forever, it’s time to reconsider and mix it up – all in the name of becoming a stronger, faster, fitter runner.

Here’s how runners can include cross-training in their routine and why they should.

1. Train like an athlete

If you want to perform like an athlete, you have to train like one, which means being well-rounded.

“Training like an athlete means doing more than just running, even if all you want to be is a runner,” says coach John Honerkamp.

“You need to do other things that will benefit your body, whether it’s helping increase your flexibility, building your cardio, or doing resistance training. All those things combined help with your overall strength, and will keep you from getting bored.”

Cross-training will keep your body strong by working all your muscles in different ways instead of just moving in a monotonous running motion.

2. Don’t wait until you have to cross train

“So many of us only cross-train when we have to versus being preventative,” says Honerkamp.

“If you’re injured and can’t run but want to stay fit, you’ll have to cross-train. But then you’re not used to it and getting into that routine can feel frustrating or daunting. If you’re already spending time in the pool or on the bike, though, you’ll just do more of it and it’s not such a big deal. You already have your goggles and your bike.”

3. There are so many  options

Honerkamp recommends pool running as the closest simulation to running. Other cross-training options include working on an ElliptiGo or Alter-G treadmill, swimming, the elliptical, spin classes, outdoor cycling, yoga, Pilates, boxing, or literally anything that gets you moving.

“These are all great ways to keep your schedule varied and your body healthy,” says Honerkamp. If running is your main focus, try to make sure at least 20 percent of your weekly workouts focus on cross-training activities.

“A friend of mine likes to remind me that the heart doesn’t necessarily know what it’s doing as far as cardio,” Honerkamp says. “It doesn’t know if you’re on an elliptical or swimming or dancing at a club. It just knows that you’re doing something to get that heart rate up, and all of that is considered cross-training. Your heart is a muscle and it’s working – that’s what matters.”

4. Keep it high and low impact

Cross-training doesn’t necessarily need to be low impact, nor does it need to be your “easy” workout for the week. So keep mixing it up.

“Replicate your running workouts on an elliptical, in the pool, or on a bike,” says Honerkamp. “You’ll still get quality work in by, say, doing a minute on and a minute off.”

Be creative. Add resistance. Gamify your workout.

“Just don’t feel like you have to go out and crush every workout because that will wear your body down. You can still do too much non-running hard stuff that can lead to overtraining.”

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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