You can improve your running performance by balancing runs with cross-training and rest days. Cross-training with low-impact activities is a great way to prevent injuries. A crosstraining session should last between 30 and 90 minutes and should be done at a moderate level or pace. Below are a few examples of cross-training activities. We recommend trying each of them.
Cycling or spinning Cycling is one of the best cross-training activities for runners. Cycling builds your aerobic/cardiovascular endurance while maintaining range of motion in your muscles. It allows leg muscles to contract and increases blood flow, helping flush out any toxins that may have caused running fatigue. Cycling is low impact; and if the weather does not allow you to go outside, it can be done at your local gym or at home on a stationary trainer. Spinning is a more vigorous workout using stationary bikes and is available at most gyms.
Yoga There are a variety of reasons to add yoga to a cross-training routine. Yoga helps loosen tight, contracted muscles, making it the ideal counterpart to the repetitive strains of running. Yoga is a low-impact mind and body workout; it helps relieve tension, reduces stress and promotes balance. If you’re looking for a workout to rejuvenate your exercise program and motivate you from the inside out, yoga might be right for you.
Swimming Swimming is an excellent cross-training activity for running because it is a nonweightbearingexercise. Swimming allows your joints to recover and muscles to contract and release soreness. It also allows you to build strength and endurance, and improve flexibility. Swimming is a great balance for running because you’ll work predominantly your upper body while giving your leg muscles a break. Swimming is especially recommended for people who are prone to running injuries or are recovering from an injury. With the help of a simple pool float, you can take your legs completely out of the equation and get a great cardiovascular workout.
Elliptical machine The elliptical machine is a total-body cardiovascular workout and a great option for cross-training. The oval-like range of motion provides the feel of cross-country skiing, stair climbing or walking with no or little impact on your joints. Because the muscles used during elliptical training are similar to those used during running, the machine is a good low-impact cross-training option when an injury prevents you from running or you just need a change-up in your running routine.
Stacy Cohen, R.N., race trainer for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/miniMarathon talks about the importance of cross training.