Cross Training Guide

Injury is awful, and sometimes soreness turning to pain is an unavoidable part of training. We do many things to mitigate our chances of injury, but sometimes it still happens. Often we have two options. We either stay sedentary when we are unable to run, or we can cross train. If cross training is in our long term health’s best interest, it can be a great tool to help maintain fitness through periods of injury. While a few days of rest may be the trick getting you healthy faster, sometimes that is not the case. It is then when we suggest these cross training methods.  

One of the most frustrating pieces of being injured is cross training. Generally, most runners are not elite swimmers or masters on the bike or elliptical. Therefore, these activities can be bothersome. When injured, the goal is not to master another sport, the goal is simply to maintain fitness, so that when you come back to running, the transition back to fitness isn't quite as challenging. 

There is one very important idea to remember before you start your cross training routine in time of injury. Because most runners are not accustomed to cross training as much as they run, these activities are a new stimulus. This means that the progression into the activities needs to be controlled. Cross training progression doesn’t follow as conservative of an approach as running because it is non-weight bearing or not quite as weight bearing as running. Nonetheless, progression is important to consider. 

There are a number of schools of thought out there on how much to cross train. In the beginning it is safe to follow the number of minutes your typical running week followed. For instance, say you typically run 40 miles a week and those 40 miles equate to about 6 hours of running during the week, then 6 hours a week of quality cross training is a safe place to start. Most believe it is safe to build up to 1.5 times your typical weekly minutes. 

Cross Training Tips 

  • Try to replicate effort of what you’d normally be doing on the given day. If you are doing threshold work, see if you can replicate your heart rate that you’d have while running. 

  • If you have access to different ways of cross training, change it up. 

  • Try to replicate your typical run cadence if you are biking or are on the elliptical 

Best Cross Training Methods 

  • Cycling- While cycling, you can replicate running workouts based upon intensity and effort. Cycling is unique in the fact that you can emphasize hamstring activation in the “up” stroke, and this is often a neglected area for runners

  • Swimming-Swimming, though not specific to running form, is a great way to get a full body workout, maintain aerobic fitness and eliminate weight bearing activity.

  •  Aqua Jogging- Aqua jogging is a great cross training tool to use to get through an injury and maintain your fitness. It is one activity that allows us to maintain running position and form, while eliminating impact. You can use a belt to add buoyancy or go without a belt to increase the difficulty.
  • Elliptical or Elliptigo- The elliptical is a great way to mimic the running motion while implementing a gliding pattern rather than pounding. This is perhaps the closest form of cross training to running.  


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If this time last year someone would have said to me, "By April 2016 you'll have run 3 5Ks and will be running 15 miles every week (and enjoying it!)," I'd have laughed and made a joke about being chased by a scary clown. But, here I am, just finished my 3rd 5K with a time a little bit better than the last.  I'm really glad RunningLane encourages beginners. As someone who has never run or even been very athletic, it's nice to have guidance and a place to get my questions answered. Big thanks to my coach, Michael for setting me up with a program that I can stick with and challenges me.  My program is just that…mine.  It is tailored to my fitness level and ability and having someone to check in with each week keeps me accountable. It’s working!  In 14 weeks with my coach and RunningLane my BMI has dropped 5 points, my cholesterol went from over 200 to 165, and my resting heart rate has lowered because my heart is healthier and happier!  Thank you, RunningLane!