When you’re training for a marathon or half marathon, it’s natural – and expected – that your focus is on meeting your mileage goals each week to build up your endurance and prepare for the big day. But it’s so important as a runner to cross train with other forms of exercise in order to strengthen the muscles you rely on for running distances, as well as all of the supporting muscles to help prevent injury.
If you’re not a fan of cross training because you only associate it with lifting heavy weights, you might be surprised to know that there are hundreds of other effective ways to cross train. The reality is that it can range from yoga to cycling to interval training, so find what works best for you. That way, you’ll genuinely enjoy adding it to your training schedule.
To get you started, we’ve listed three effective cross-training exercises to try. Each provides a full-body workout but is also low impact to give your joints a rest in between runs.
Rowing is a fantastic way to build strength and endurance. Because you’re using your legs to push, your arms to pull and your core to keep you steady throughout the movements, it provides a total-body workout, utilizing 84% of your muscles with each row. Like running, it’s a cardiovascular exercise, but unlike running, the continuous gliding motion is much easier on your knees than pounding pavement.
Barre focuses on tiny, isometric exercises and high reps using light weights or body weight to strengthen different muscle groups, including those around the knees and ankles which are crucial for runners. Throughout the class, you’re constantly keeping your core engaged, which improves your balance and helps reduce the risk of injury. Barre also incorporates several stretches to lengthen the muscles, open up the hip flexors and increase flexibility.
While Pilates is primarily associated with building core strength, it has a ton of other benefits for runners. Pilates teaches you how to correct your posture, so you can in turn correct your running form which will help prevent injury. Regular practice also loosens up the hips and back and stretches out the legs, increasing joint mobility to help you recover faster after your long runs. Finally, the focus on breathing patterns in Pilates brings awareness to your breath while you’re running so you can align it to your strides.