The Best Cross-Training Exercises For Runners

by Estelle Low

These complementary exercises will make you a stronger runner.

Doing a combination of exercises such as swimming, cycling and yoga is an effective way to improve your running. By engaging in a non-running activity, you’re giving your joints a break. At the same time, you get to build endurance, plus strengthen the major muscles that power you through a race: core, quads, hamstrings, hips, back and shoulders. Here are some great cross-training exercises to incorporate into your routine.
(Also read: Runner’s Test – How Fit Are You?)

1. Cycling

Cycling primarily works the quadriceps, a big muscle group that running alone won’t awaken. In fact, having weak quads can lead to knee problems like runner’s knee.
Get started Join a spinning class or hit the roads with your bicycle. Do a 30- to 60-minute cycling session once or twice a week, then gradually increase the frequency and distance as your marathon draws near.

2. Swimming

Relieve your joints from the stress and strain of running by taking a dip. Being a full-body workout, swimming lets you work the neglected but important muscles – such as your lower back and shoulders – that will enhance your running performance, while continuing to build your aerobic fitness. Opt for cool water where possible; swimming in under-26 deg C conditions provides an anti-inflammatory therapy for sore muscles.
Get started Swim at a relaxed pace weekly, clocking the same duration in the pool as you would at a training run.

3. Hot yoga

Done in a heated room of 38 to 42 deg C, hot yoga helps your body acclimatise to high humidity – every runner’s pet peeve in Singapore. Besides being a great calorie burner and metabolism booster, yoga improves flexibility by loosening your muscles and joints. The strength and flexibility you stand to gain from hot yoga – specifically in the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors – will help you run more efficiently and stay injury-free.
Get started Sign up for hot yoga or Bikram yoga classes at a studio near you.

4. Core exercises

A strong core provides the stability and endurance you’ll need to maintain a good running form during a long-distance race, plus the power to sprint to the finishing line. So it’s worth dedicating some time to do core-strengthening exercises.
Get started Lying on your back, do basic crunches or leg lifts, increasing the number of reps and holding time as you get stronger. Or try this easy abs workout.
(Also read: 6 Exercises That Tone Your Tummy More Effectively Than Sit-ups)

5. Strength training

A great supplement to a runner’s roadwork, strength training will improve your race time and reduce the risk of injuries. Note that your training focus should be on building muscular endurance instead of muscular strength, particularly in the hips, legs and core.
Get started It’s best to engage a personal trainer who can recommend a strength training regime that’s tailored to your fitness level and goals. Typically, the workout involves using external weights (like dumbbells and kettlebells) as well as your body weight.
(Also read: 5 Strength Training Moves Every Runner Needs to Do)

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