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Cross Training For Runners: Boost Your Speed And Endurance

Cross Training for Runners: Boost Your Speed and Endurance


Cross-training is not just a buzzword but a strategic approach to enhance your running performance. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a weekend jogger, incorporating cross-training into your regimen can lead to significant improvements in speed and endurance, as shown by the millions who do this type of workout every year. This blog explores cross training for runners and the best activities to include in your routine. It’s essential for all-around athlete development, increasing aerobic fitness and muscular strength while providing the necessary variety to stave off overuse injuries. A cross-training workout several times per week as part of a comprehensive training program can bolster injury prevention and contribute to a more balanced use of different muscle groups.

What Is Cross-training and Why Is It Important For Runners?

Cross-training is a multifaceted approach to fitness that offers a wide range of benefits, especially for runners. Unlike a one-size-fits-all training exercise, it allows each individual to tailor their workout regimen to their specific needs, helping to enhance aerobic endurance and overall physical resilience. According to exercise physiologists, incorporating various types of exercises such as interval training, weighted squats, and solid core strength training can significantly improve a runner’s performance.

These activities, often integrated into regular gym sessions, contribute to building a strong core and optimizing a mileage training plan. This strategic diversity not only helps runners gain more from endurance cross-training but also ensures a more balanced development of muscle groups, enhancing both strength and stamina.

Why Cross Training Is Beneficial For Runners?

Cross-training offers a multitude of benefits for runners:

  • Reduces Risk Of Injury: Cross-training reduces the risk of common running injuries by balancing the muscular demands and giving overused muscles a chance to recover. It allows the connective tissues to heal and strengthens muscle imbalances, which are often overlooked in regular running. Additionally, cross-training helps distribute the biomechanical stresses across various muscles, not just those repeatedly used in running.
  • Enhances Cardiovascular Fitness: Engaging in various aerobic activities improves overall cardiovascular capacity and endurance. It involves different forms of cross-training that stimulate the heart and increase blood flow to major muscle groups differently than running does. This variety can lead to superior aerobic development over time, essential for endurance events.
  • Breaks Monotony And Keeps Training Enjoyable: Introducing different forms of exercise can keep motivation high and prevent burnout. The mental refreshment that comes with trying new sports or workouts can also enhance the enjoyment and adherence to a long-term training plan. Whether it’s a spin class or an alternative workout like cross-country skiing, diversifying one’s regimen can rejuvenate an experienced runner’s enthusiasm for training.

Best Cross-Training Activities For Runners

Best Cross-Training Activities For Runners

The best cross training for runners is designed to complement their primary training by enhancing overall fitness, preventing injuries, and ensuring sustainable progress, especially during high-mileage weeks. A well-rounded strength training program addresses the strength training aspect crucial for runners, involving both heavy weights for building power and low-intensity workouts for recovery. Resistance workouts and types of aerobic training like swimming or cycling increase muscle blood flow and strengthen primary mover muscles without the repetitive strain caused by constant running.

Including several sessions per week of these supplemental workouts can significantly improve the benefits of fitness, offering a balanced approach to endurance and strength. Moreover, for those focused on marathon training, such workouts are pivotal in maintaining performance while managing time between runs effectively. This strategic mix of exercises ensures runners can continue their regimen with reduced concerns about injuries and optimized body weight management.


  • How It Benefits: Swimming is a full-body workout that enhances lung capacity and builds endurance without stressing your joints, making it an excellent activity for recovery days. It allows runners to maintain a high level of fitness through an aerobic workout while being gentle on the body. This form of cross training for running provides significant injury risk reduction by minimizing the repetitive motion injuries common in running.


  • How It Benefits: Cycling targets different muscle groups such as the quadriceps, which can help balance the runner’s strong hamstrings and calves, reducing injury risk and improving leg strength. It’s a fantastic low-impact exercise that complements high-impact running by maintaining endurance and cardiovascular workout without the repetitive impact. Adding bike workouts a few days per week can significantly enhance leg muscles and core strength without additional stress on the running muscles.

Strength Training

  • Key Exercises: Incorporate squats, lunges, and deadlifts for your strength training routine—these compound exercises target multiple major muscle groups.
  • How It Benefits: Strength cross training exercises increase overall muscle strength, power, and stability, which are crucial for improving running efficiency and pace. It also ensures muscle groups are balanced, reducing the likelihood of injury-prone areas becoming problematic. Regular strength training sessions, focusing on both upper-body strength and lower-body explosiveness, can fortify runners against the demands of uneven terrain and explosive movements.


  • How It Benefits: Yoga improves flexibility, balance, and core strength, and helps in mental focus, which is crucial for long-distance running. It enhances the range of motion and promotes recovery, making it an excellent recovery workout for runners. The practice of yoga also incorporates stability exercises that help maintain correct form during runs and reduce the chance of injury.


  • How It Benefits: Pilates focuses on the core, including the lower back, hips, and pelvic muscles, enhancing the runner’s alignment and symmetry. This training strengthens the stabilizer muscles, which are vital for maintaining proper running form and preventing injuries. Pilates offers a type of strength training that emphasizes the strength training aspect of a runner’s regimen, particularly useful for those recovering from injuries.

Integrating Cross Training Into Your Running Schedule

How Often To Cross-Train

Incorporating two to three sessions of cross-training activities per week can balance a runner’s schedule effectively. This frequency ensures that the runner maintains a variety of movement patterns, crucial for avoiding muscle imbalances and overuse injuries.

Balancing Cross-Training With Running Workouts To Maximize Benefits

The key is to balance intensity and type of training to complement running without causing overexertion. It’s important to schedule high-intensity running days followed by low-intensity cross-training days to allow for active recovery and maintain a high level of fitness. This approach not only prevents burnout but also ensures optimal recovery time, allowing for better performance during crucial running workouts and longer endurance cross-training sessions.

Example Weekly Schedule Integrating Cross-Training

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Interval running
  • Wednesday: Cycling or swimming
  • Thursday: Tempo run
  • Friday: Yoga or Pilates
  • Saturday: Long run
  • Sunday: Strength training

Monitoring Progress And Adjustments

Tracking Improvements In Running Speed And Endurance

  • Keep a Training Log: Log your training so you can monitor key information about your runs and other workouts. Using a fitness app would be an easy way to log your activities.
  • Use Technology: GPS watches and apps can help track the progress of your runs effectively.
  • Regular Testing: Time trials or set routes can gauge improvements.

Adjusting Cross-Training Activities

  • Align With Goals: Choose activities that support your running goals.
  • Balance Intensity: Ensure cross-training doesn’t overshadow running performance.
  • Listen To Your Body: Adjust intensity based on physical and mental feedback.

Signs You Might Be Overdoing It

Signs You Might Be Overdoing It

Persistent fatigue, decreased performance, mood changes, and trouble sleeping are telltale indicators of excessive training. When a runner experiences these symptoms, it often suggests that the repetitive movements and stresses of their training regimen are repeated many times without adequate recovery. This can compromise cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, ultimately increasing the risk of injuries.

Runners, especially those training frequently or intensively, should monitor these signs closely to prevent pushing their bodies beyond safe limits. Adjusting the frequency of workouts for runners, including reducing high-intensity cardio training or leg strength exercises, can help mitigate these issues.

Tips To Prevent Burnout

To maintain long-term engagement and prevent burnout, it is critical to incorporate scheduled rest days and vary your routine. Allocating specific times per week for recovery runs can significantly enhance muscle recovery and overall fitness while adding different types of cross-training workouts can keep the training regimen fresh and engaging. Setting realistic goals ensures that runners do not overcommit themselves, reducing the risk of injury and the mental strain of unattainable expectations.

Additionally, socializing your runs by joining running groups or community events can provide motivational boosts and emotional support. This social aspect is particularly important for injured runners, who may find renewed enthusiasm and helpful insights during group workouts, facilitating a healthier approach to training and recovery.

Elevate Your Running Game With Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy

At Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy, we are dedicated to helping runners achieve their highest potential. Whether you’re looking to improve your running speed, boost endurance, or prevent injuries, our expert team provides tailored solutions to meet your goals. Through our specialized run coaching services, we offer personalized guidance that adapts to your unique needs and fitness level. Additionally, we equip you with the knowledge of the best strength exercises for runners, ensuring you have the tools to enhance your performance and maintain optimal health. Join us to elevate your running experience with science-backed techniques and supportive coaching.


Cross-training is a versatile and effective strategy to boost not just your physical endurance but also your love for running. By incorporating these varied activities into your routine, you can enjoy a healthier, more balanced, and longer-running career.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of cross-training?

The advantages include reduced injury risks, improved fitness, and mental health boosts. Disadvantages may involve the initial learning curve and time investment in different disciplines.

What is an interesting fact about cross-training?

Cross-training was popularized in the late 20th century as athletes discovered the benefits of engaging multiple muscle groups and fitness components to enhance their primary sports performance.

What are the mental benefits of cross-training?

Activities like yoga and pilates not only improve physical fitness but also aid in stress reduction, enhance focus, and contribute to overall mental well-being.