Best Cross Training for Runners

All the best runners have one thing in common: their workouts aren’t just about running. In fact, the key to becoming a better runner is found in cross training. It helps equalize your muscle groups by working the ones that aren’t used primarily for running. They maintain your cardiovascular fitness while giving your body a break from the high-impact stressors of running. Changing up your running routine can be refreshing, as well. Ultimately, the thing that runners like the most about cross training is how it can prevent injuries, and runners are certainly prone to particular injuries. Many runners don’t discover cross training until they get injured and it becomes the only kind of training they can do while healing, as cross training is typically exercises that are very low-impact compared to high-impact running.

So how do you choose which workout to try? There are many options when it comes to cross training for runners, but here’s our top list of workouts and the reasons why they’re our favorites:

Yoga

This cross training workout for runners is a staple;  it’s low-commitment, low-stress, and low-cost aspects. (And yes, yoga is a workout — it can get your heart pumping, too!) Don’t be afraid if it seems hard at first; it will get easier. The point of yoga is to use your body weight as resistance to strengthen your muscles, and by getting to know your body this way, you can also achieve serenity and find peace.  

  • Practice yoga at least one day a week if you need increased flexibility paired with relaxation.
  • There are several types of yoga, so just make sure you don’t pick the hardcore versions to start with. Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga are the most athletic, while Bikram or hot yoga adds a sauna-like environment to make things harder.

Get our yoga tips for beginners here.

Strength Training

Similar to yoga, strength training (or weight training) is the yin to your yang for running. Where running focuses on cardio, strength training covers everything else. This is a great way to avoid injuries by strengthening all the muscle groups that support your main running muscles.

  • Add at least one day per week of strength training, and make sure you’re incorporating exercises that work your core and back.
  • Make sure you’re adding additional weight to your exercises (and not just utilizing your own body weight).

Cycling

Despite the startup costs of cycling (buying a bike, helmet, and/or bike shoes), cycling is a fan favorite for cross training for runners. It’s because runners get the same euphoric feeling of running outdoors, but in a more low-impact way. And they can even go further than normal, exploring new places that their feet can’t always take them to. Your quads and glutes will thank you on your next run.

  • Start cycling to add some low-impact, high-cardio workouts to your routine.
  • The type of cycling doesn’t matter: indoor or outdoor, road or mountain, etc.  
  • Take a spin class if you don’t have the time to pack everything up for a road ride.

Swimming

Want something that’s even more low-impact than cycling? Grab your bathing suit and try swimming. All you need is a suit and pool (although finding a pool big enough for laps can be tricky). And if you just can’t get away from running, you can always go aqua jogging, too.

  • Hit up the local gym or swim club for a cross-training swim, and start racking up the pool laps. Start low with your lap numbers and work your way up — just like running training.
  • Take an intro class to learn swimming techniques, especially if swimming doesn’t come naturally to you.

But what if you already cross-train? Let’s say you already do yoga as part of your routine. Consider swapping it out every now and then for another type of workout, like swimming. Change is good for the body (and soul).  

And that concludes our list of the best cross training workouts for runners. But no matter what cross-training workout you choose, don’t forget to fuel your exercise both before and after. Our Chia Bars are just the thing for any kind of cross training you do.