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Cross-Training for Runners

Why, when and how you should cross-train

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Updated April 07, 2014

Cross-Training for Runners

Swimming is an excellent cross-training activity for runners.

Chris Cole/Getty Images

Benefits of Cross-Training for Runners

Cross-training is any sport or exercise that supplements your main sport -- in this case, running. Whether you're a beginner runner or an experienced marathoner, you can benefit from cross-training. Here are several reasons why runners should cross-train:

  • It helps balance your muscle groups. Cross-training helps strengthen your non-running muscles and rests your running muscles. You can focus on specific muscles, such as your inner thighs, that don't get worked as much while running and may be weaker than your running muscles.

  • You'll maintain or even improve your cardiovascular fitness. Many cross-training activities are great cardiovascular workouts, so they build on those similar benefits of running.

  • It reduces your chance of injury. By balancing your weaker muscles with your stronger ones, you'll help reduce your chance of injury. Participating in low-impact cross training activities, such as swimming or water running, will also lessen the stress on your joints, which are often a sore spot for runners.

  • You'll avoid getting bored with running. Running day after day will eventually burn out even the most hard-core running enthusiast. Cross-training gives runners a much-needed mental break from their sport, which is especially important for those training for long-distance events such as marathons.

  • You can continue to train with certain injuries, while giving them proper time to heal. Runners suffering from injuries are sometimes told by their doctor to take a break from running during their injury recovery. But, with certain injuries, it is possible to continue with cross-training. Cross-training can help injured runners maintain their fitness and deal better with the frustration and disappointment of being sidelined from running.

    Next page: When Runners Should Cross-Train -->
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