What is the best type of cross training for runners?

Erich Heinlein's image for:
"What is the best type of cross training for runners?"
Image by: 

When you’re a runner, cross training has many benefits. It can make you faster (this part isn’t necessarily true for all cross training, but there is still plenty you can do) and it will reduce your chance of injury since it means you will have stronger bones. The exact benefit of cross training varies with the activity. So what activities can you do to cross train, you may wonder? Three of the more popular types include yoga/pilates, weight training and plyometrics. Here is a breakdown on why each type of exercise is a useful cross training activity.


Plyometrics, also commonly known as “plyos” are a series of exercises which contain various combinations of running in place, jumping and in some instances, various types of pushups can help you improve your overall strength, explosiveness and flexibility, which can in turn help your speed and coordination. So what are some scenarios as a runner where you might want to use plyometrics? 

  • If you are looking to set a new personal record at a certain distance
  • If you are looking to become more mobile and/or flexible (Note: While plyometrics would work for these purposes, it is really not the best option for flexibility purposes)
  • If you also play other sports and you need to become more agile or want to have better hand/eye coordination.

Weight training

Weight training, much like plyometrics, can also increase your strength, some exercises may also help with your speed and agility. As a runner, the main thing you may want to be careful of is that you don’t become too bulky, which is why a lot of long distance runners choose not to hit the weight room

The important thing about weight training is that you do the right type of weight training. If you click on the link above, you will find three basic types of weight training. Circuit Training, traditional weight lifting and Explosive Training. The same article also has several suggestions for specific programs which can be efficient weight lifting for runners. So what are some reasons why as a runner you would want to involve weight training? They are the following:

  • You want to physically get stronger or toned
  • Another type of workout that really gets your heart rate up (certain plyo exercises can also do this)
  • You want something to complement some other type of cross training you are also doing
  • You are also training for a secondary sport


Technically, Yoga and Pilates are two different types of exercises; however, they both have the same basic benefits and can often be a life-saver if you have any specific joint or foot problems and you want to continue running.

So what exactly is the difference between Yoga and Pilates one may wonder? According to an article on, Pilates is considered more of a workout while Yoga is considered more of a practice. In addition, Yoga also tends to focus more on relaxation and breathing.

If you are looking for a good runner’s based Yoga workout, Runners World has three specific sets of Yoga workouts that you can do which can improve your leg strength, flexibility and can also increase the strength in the bones of your foot, something which can reduce the possibility of injury, especially if you run a lot of miles. So how do you know if Yoga or Pilates are going to benefit your running? Here are some possibilities: 

  • You have foot, joint or back problems; of all the muscles that you exercise, one of the few muscles not often exercised with other types of training are those in the foot
  • You want to be able to go faster
  • You want to make one specific area of your body stronger
  • You want to become more flexible

So what is the type of workout that runner’s ideally want to do? There really isn’t a perfect answer. It all comes down to what you are looking to do and whether or not you are easily prone to injury (if you have weak muscles, then you are). If you are unsure, you can go see either a doctor or most gyms will give you a free fitness assessment (assuming you become a member of course) in order to get you on the right track.


More about this author: Erich Heinlein