When training for a big race, having a consistent routine is key. However, your schedule should include a variety of activities besides running alone. Doing the same thing everyday can become boring, even tedious, and may even cause your progress to plateau over time.
In order to continue strengthening your muscles, building endurance, and preventing boredom, it’s recommended to add some cross-training ideas to supplement your regular running workout regimen. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some of the best cross-training exercises that will give your body a break from running while still giving you an incredible workout.
Kevin Koskella, a swimming coach for triathletes in San Diego, says that swimming can improve a runner’s endurance, strength, and flexibility without putting more strain on the athlete’s knees and ankles. “If you aren't sure how to include swimming into your running routine, try swapping out an afternoon recovery run or a 4-mile morning jog with quality time in the pool,” Koskella recommends. Depending on which muscle groups you’d like to focus on, you can choose among three main swimming routines:
- The Puller. This routine allows your legs to get a break after a particularly tough run. Your arms and upper body will do most of the work for this set while you use a pull buoy. Begin your warm-up by swimming 400 meters at an easy pace, and then complete 6 x 200 pull builds, increasing your speed every 25 meters. You should finish the set with a sprint. To cool down, swim 400 meters without the buoy at a slow recovery pace.
- Lung Builder. This exercise will help you build lung capacity with controlled breathing exercises throughout the routine. First, swim 200 to 400 meters at an easy pace to warm up, and then complete 12 x 100 meters. For the first 25 meters, take a breath every three strokes. For the next 25 meters, take a breath every five strokes, and from 50 to 75 meters, take a breath only every seven strokes. Sprint for the last 25 meters of the set, and then cool down with a 100 to 200 meter recovery swim.
- The Kicker. This will strengthen the hip flexors, IT band, and your hamstrings. To build ankle flexibility, you can wear a pair of flippers during the routine! Start with an easy 200 to 400 meter swim, and then complete the following set 5 times: 50 meters easy, 100 meters fast kick, 50 meters easy, 100 meters fast swim, followed by 15 to 20 seconds of rest. After you’ve repeated this set 5 times, cool down with an easy 200 to 400 meter swim.
Also known as “cross-country skiing,” Nordic skiing is an excellent way to build endurance, burn a significant amount of calories, improve your cardiovascular strength, and find some enjoyment during the cold winter months. Scott Johnston, a coach for Uphill Athlete, explains, “It’s true when they say cross-country skiers have the highest VO max because, very simply, you’re using your entire body. As a runner, there’s no disadvantage to cardiovascular gains.” Johnston also says that skiing can improve a runner’s balance, strengthen their core, and improve their overall coordination.
If you don’t live in an area that gets snow, you can check out CTS coach Kirk Nordgren’s workout tips by clicking here!
Doing yoga might sound like the exact opposite of what you want to do as a runner, but its slow movements, flexibility-strengthening impacts, and calming effects can offer some pretty impressive results when added to your workout routine. If you don’t want to get into a full-blown yoga routine, start by slowly implementing poses into your cool-down stretches after a run. According to endurance sports coach and author Sage Rountree, the three following poses will “stretch the main muscle groups of your hips, thighs, and lower legs.”
- Dancer. Stand on your right leg, inhale, and lift your left heel behind you while bending the knee. Reach behind you to hold your left heel with your left hand, pulling until you feel a gentle stretch.
- Standing Pigeon. Standing on your right leg, bring the left foot forward to rest upon your right knee. For even more of a stretch, bend your right knee to squat, or stretch your chest by locking your fingers behind your back.
- Pyramid Pose. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, simply bring your left foot forward and bend your upper body forward until you feel a gentle stretch.
Each pose should be held for 5 to 10 breaths, and it’s recommended to complete all three stretches for one side of the body before switching sides and completing the routine again.