Cross Training for Runners 

To Help Strengthen Your Non-Running Muscles

Whether you are a beginning or seasoned runner, adding cross training exercises to your workout schedule can be extremely helpful. Improved strength will give the runner more power and also reduce the chance of injury.

What is Cross Training?

Cross training typically is exercising in two or more different sports to improve your conditioning. The theory is that when you put all of your focus into one activity like running, you tend to only train the muscles used for that activity. Studies are showing that a versatile running plan doesn't mean just running around the track and taking on the hills.

Exercising different supporting muscles is the best thing you can do to limit the chance of injury and to increase strength and stamina. 

For instance runners need to build strong leg muscles, but if they ignore the rest of their body, they increase the risk of developing weaknesses and imbalances that can cause hip, lower back, and even knee problems in the future. 

Benefits of Cross Training for Runners

Find What Works for you:

Cross training for runners can mean varying activities from day-to-day, or you can include two or more activities in the same workout. For example, you may run three days a week, and do weight training two days a week. Or, you may do a 30 minute run followed by a 15 minute Yoga and stretching program three days a week and a 30 minute bike ride followed by a 15 minute weight training program two days a week.

Injury Prevention:

Cross training for runners will help create a balanced body so weak areas are less susceptible to injury. For example, runners experience a lot of neck and shoulder pain because their primary focus is on lower body strengthening. Neglecting certain muscles groups or improper posture while performing exercises can lead to imbalances and weaknesses that all too often result in serious injuries.

barbell squat

Improved fitness:

Runners need to build strong leg muscles, but if they ignore the rest of their body, they increase the risk of developing weaknesses and imbalances that can cause hip, lower back, and even knee problems in the future.


As much as you probably enjoy running, doing the same thing over and over again can become somewhat boring. Adding some new and different routines to your workouts will ensure that you look forward to exercising and increase the likelihood that you will stay completely motivated at all times.

Cross Training Workouts

Strength Training

Runners tend to focus on their cardio and ignore the weight room. There are studies that show up to half of the runners out there will get hurt in the next year. Cross training with weights can improve your overall body structure by increasing the lean muscle mass and decreasing the percentage of body fat.

This will add extra strength and the efficiency of how your body uses oxygen which translates into greater speed and stamina.

cross training with tricep dips

Exercise Bike

Although biking is only considered a cardio exercise, it is dependent on the major leg muscles. You can still strengthen and tone your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calf muscles, and major core muscles on the bike. It is also a low-impact exercise that won't overly stress your muscles and joints. 

exercise bike cross training

Elliptical Training

This is probably the cross training activity that copies running better than the others. An advantage to elliptical training is the low-impact stress it puts on your joints and muscles while still providing you with an effective cardio workout. Make sure to add enough resistance on the elliptical machine so that you get your heart rate going higher. 

elliptical training workout

TRX/Suspension Training

Suspension training involves using two long straps or ropes that are attached together and have handles on either end. This device (sometimes called a “harness”) can be hung from a tree, pole, weight rack, closed doorway, or any other strong stationary object.

Basically, you use gravity and your own body weight to perform various exercises. Suspension training can be done almost anywhere and is great for all fitness levels.Since it is low impact, it is a good option for those wanting to improve strength while also preventing injury or protecting delicate areas.

  • Total body workout
  • Improves balance and flexibility
  • Improves core strength
  • Increases endurance
  • Increases power
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Increases bone density

Barre Workout

Barre workouts contain a mix of ballet, yoga, and pilates moves as well as some interval training and body weight movements to get the heart pumping. It is a good cross training workout for runners because it strengthens the minor muscles that tend to be weak for the runner. 

  • Tones and sculpts long lean muscles
  • Combination of cardio and toning
  • Improves posture
  • Stretches and elongates muscles
  • Improves range of motion
  • Improves balance and flexibility

Cross Training for Runners

Cross training for runners just means adding a little variety to your exercise life! Try something new, spice it up, get out of your rut, break out of your comfort zone! The benefits will be amazing.

Other pages that might interest you:

I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or if you have any ideas you want to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum.

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