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Cross training for endurance runners

Cross training is often synonymous with injury, but what if it was used weekly to avoid injury in the first place?

Pool running

Cross training is often synonymous with injury, but what if it was used weekly to avoid injury in the first place? When training for an endurance event, the kilometres can take a toll on your body. Cross training is a great way to maintain aerobic fitness while saving your legs for your next long run or big workout. Cross training as a preventative measure should be used when it’s not necessary to be running, for example, an easy day or an active recovery day. Working different muscles on those easier days will allow your body to recover better for your harder running efforts later in the week, while still improving your aerobic fitness.

There are so many options when it comes to cross-training, and finding one you enjoy makes it easier to work into your weekly plan. Lauren Fleshman is an American track runner who has run 14:58 in the 5K, and placed 7th at World Championships in 2011 at that distance. On her blog, Ask Lauren Fleshman, she talks about the necessity of cross training and building it into your weekly schedule. Lauren’s advice for making it bearable? Find a friend! Lauren and her husband regularly bike and swim together to make sure they give their legs appropriate recovery time.


Here are some of our favourite cross training options:

Cycling is great when you’re looking for a scenic way to cross train. If the out-of-doors aspect is your favourite part of your run, then consider giving cycling a try. Cycling is an amazing way to see new place, here’s a great example of the exploring you can do on a bike.

Swimming/Aqua Jogging are great options for a zero-impact cross training methods. American 1,500m superstar, Colleen Quigley, coined herself “mermaid” this season and used swimming to help her finish 9th at the World Indoor Championships this past winter. She says swimming helped her overcome injury and she has enjoyed it so much, is has become part of her weekly routine. Aqua jogging, or water running, is mimicking the motion of running in a pool. Most people wear a flotation belt to start. Water running allows you to maintain running form without any of the impact.


Our final suggestion for cross training is the elliptical. A polarizing cardio machine, the elliptical is often used by marathoners and track pros to give their legs a rest. While this machine doesn’t work well for those suffering from foot or achilles injuries (as the elliptical will still put pressure on those parts of the body) it’s a great alternative for the healthy runner looking to use cross training as a preventative training measure.

Cycling, swimming, aqua jogging and elliptical-ing are all great cross training options. The key is to give them all a shot, whether that be in a class or at the gym and see which works best for you.