As a runner, using cross training techniques can serve to complement or supplement one's running routine. Cross training can be incorporated as an alternative to an easy running day, or as a less impacting activity when recovering from injury. How often you cross train depends on how you are feeling both mentally and physically. It can be used 2-3 three times a week, or once or twice a week to fill in as a non-running day. Cross training exercises are also versatile for when you are away from home or can not run or use a treadmill.
Activities that can complement a runner's regimen include pool running, cycling/spin classes, or using an elliptical machine. All these activities serve to improve flexibility, strength, and endurance. Water running or aqua jogging can be an easy running day if you are in a recuperation period from injury. Swimming, on the other hand, gives the upper body a cardiovascular workout while allowing leg muscles to take a break. Since cycling, whether indoors or out mimics the movements of running, this is good cross training to supplement your program. In addition to a cardio workout plus strengthening, cycling or spin classes are great exercises for the quads and glutes.
As a substitute for a non-running day, using an elliptical machine can work all the major muscles of the legs, since it can be programmed to move in both a forward and backwards motion. The beauty of using an elliptical for cross training purposes is it resembles the actions of walking, stair climbing and cross-country skiing, all rolled into one graceful movement. Since the elliptical is low-impact, it allows a person to work out when an injury prevents him/her from running.
Rowing is also an effective cross training exercise that provides an excellent cardiovascular workout, as well as strengthening the hips/buttocks and upper body, all in one low-impact strenuous activity.
Weight training is a great addition to any running program, as it serves to balance out the weaker muscles against the stronger muscles developed through running. Using weight resistance is an effective way to strengthen your core, help prevent fatigue, injury, and maintain good running form.
Doing cross-country skiing can also enhance a running program, as it is similar to the movements of running; using the same muscle groups; providing an effective cardiovascular workout. If nursing an injury, cross-country skiing can reduce the impact and pounding experienced in running, whereupon gliding motions serve to stretch the lower back muscles, hamstrings, and calves, in addition to improving a runner's flexibility.
Last but not least, doing yoga can be a beneficial component of cross training for runners. While yoga uses body weight to build strength and flexibility, it also involves extensive stretching; yoga postures are important in any cool down segment; for relaxing after an intense or rigorous run; as an integral part of cross training to benefit running. When it comes to choosing the right cross training activity for your needs, there are certainly many options to consider. Once you have reached a plateau, you can always pick and choose another to customize your running program to enhance your training.