The Ultimate Guide to Cross-Training and Strength Training for Runners

The Ultimate Guide to Cross-Training and Strength Training for Runners

Table of Contents

Revolutionize your running with cross-training and strength training for runners. Boost speed, endurance, and performance like a pro athlete!

Cross-Training and Strength Training for Runners: a match made in Athletic Heaven or a sweaty sitcom episode?

Picture this: you’re a seasoned runner, but suddenly, you’re lifting weights and cycling, feeling like a fish out of the water (or a gazelle on a unicycle). In this article, we’ll reveal why diversifying your workouts can transform your running game (spoiler: it’s like upgrading from economy to first class). So, lace up your sneakers and loosen those limbs as we sprint into the world of cross-training and strength training for runners.

Key Takeaways

  • Cross training and strength training are essential for runners to improve performance and prevent injuries.
  • Incorporating different forms of exercise, such as swimming, cycling, and weightlifting, can help improve overall fitness and target different muscle groups.
  • Cross training enhances cardiovascular endurance, agility, and balance, while strength training improves muscle strength and power.
  • It is important to vary the intensity, duration, and type of exercises to challenge the body and prevent plateauing.
  • Proper form, technique, and rest are crucial to avoid injuries and optimize performance.
  • Consistency and dedication to a well-rounded training program are key to achieving optimal results in running.

What is Cross-Training?

What is Cross-Training?

Cross-training is a type of exercise in addition to your regular running workouts. It’s meant to improve your fitness level, prevent injury and burn more calories than running alone.
Cross-training can be anything from cycling or swimming to weightlifting or yoga. The key is that it uses different muscles than running, so you’re still working out when you’re not on the road!

In addition to helping runners stay healthy and fit, cross-training also has other benefits:

  • It helps prevent boredom with one activity (and thus overuse injuries).
  • It improves overall physical fitness by building strength in areas where runners may lack it (for example, upper body strength).

Check Out: Cross-Training for Runners: Unleash Your Runner’s Edge

Types of Cross-Training and Strength Training Exercises for Runners


Cycling is a low-impact cardio exercise that can be done indoors or outdoors. It’s also one of the best ways to cross-train for running, as it will help improve your overall endurance and strength. If you don’t have access to an indoor cycling class, plenty of apps are available for cycling at home.


The elliptical machine is another excellent way to get in some cardio without putting too much stress on your joints (therefore making it easier on the body). Plus, because it offers resistance like weight lifting, this cross-training type will also build muscle mass and burn calories–which means faster results!


Swimming is great because it works many different muscles simultaneously while keeping things low on joints like running does (though not relatively as low impact). If possible, try swimming laps instead of doing long-distance swims; this will help improve speed over time while reducing the risk of injury due to repetitive impact forces associated with long-distance swimming.

Weight Lifting

Weight lifting exercises like squats and deadlifts are great ways to strengthen muscles around joints such as ankles/knees/hips which can lead to preventing injuries during runs.

HIIT Workouts

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts involve alternating between periods of high-intensity exercise followed by short rest periods throughout an entire workout session rather than just doing one continuous period where intensity levels remain constant throughout each set.

Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises such as pushups or pullups are another excellent way to strengthen core muscles when running long distances without putting excess strain on joints like running would do.


Yoga involves stretching various muscle groups through poses called “asanas,” which helps improve flexibility while reducing the risk of injury when performing other activities such as running.


Squats strengthen your legs, hips, and core muscles. According to Runner’s World, they also help you run faster by improving your stride length and speed.


Lunges strengthen the glutes (your butt), hamstrings (back of thighs), and quads (front of thighs). These muscles are essential when it comes to running because they help you push off from one leg at a time while running or walking fast–which means you’ll be able to cover more ground with less effort!


Deadlifts work out all of your major muscle groups, including the back, shoulders, and arms, while also improving balance through using both legs together instead of just one side at a time like during squats or lunges above; however, this exercise may not be suitable if you have lower back pain issues since it puts pressure on those areas as well!

Check Out: The Ultimate Guide to Cross Training

The Power of Cross-Training for Runners

The Power of Cross-Training for Runners

Runners looking to improve their performance and avoid injury should make cross-training a core component of their training plan. Cross-training workouts, such as resistance and weight training, are essential for a well-rounded fitness routine. Incorporating different muscle groups through exercises like swimming, cycling, or aqua jogging can help runners and trail runners build strength, increase running economy, and enhance their overall physical activity. Whether you’re an experienced runner or just starting, cross training activities can complement your running workouts, making you a more resilient and versatile athlete.

Injury Prevention and Active Recovery with Cross Training

Injury prevention is a top priority for any runner, especially when preparing for half marathon or marathon races. Cross-training workouts strengthen various muscle groups and promote active recovery by allowing runners to engage in low-impact exercises that alleviate stress on joints and muscles. For example, aqua jogging or swimming can be excellent options for active recovery days, providing a break from the impact of long runs or tempo runs. By incorporating a mix of cross-training exercises into your training plan, you’ll be better equipped to stay healthy and maintain a consistent running schedule.

Crafting the Perfect Training Plan with Cross Training

Designing a comprehensive training plan requires careful consideration of your running goals, fitness level, and personal preferences. Incorporating cross-training exercises and workouts into your routine can help you build the strength and endurance to tackle marathons and other challenging races. A balanced approach that includes running training, cross-training activities, and proper recovery is key to maximizing your potential as a runner. Don’t forget to consider factors such as proper running shoes and exercise routines that align with your specific needs. Doing so will create a training plan that enhances your running performance and keeps you engaged and motivated throughout your journey.

Check Out: A Comprehensive Half Marathon Training Guide

The Power of Strength Training for Runners

The Power of Strength Training for Runners

Unleash your inner speed demon with the transformative power of strength training for runners! Gone are the days when runners solely relied on pounding the pavement to improve their performance. Strength training in your routine enhances your running prowess and fortifies your body against injuries. With the perfect fusion of endurance and power, you’ll be on your way to achieving personal bests and turning heads at your next race.

Strength training for runners is a game-changer, targeting critical muscle groups that boost your speed, stamina, and stability. You’ll build a solid foundation to propel you through even the most grueling courses by focusing on exercises like squats, lunges, and core work. You’ll wonder how you ever ran without it as you conquer hills and trails with newfound ease. Don’t let misconceptions hold you back; embrace the undeniable benefits of strength training and watch your running performance soar to new heights.

Check Out: How Frequently Should a Beginner Exercise Running

How to Incorporate Cross-Training and Strength Training into Your Running Program

How to Incorporate Cross-Training and Strength Training into Your Running Program

Here’s a concise table I created for you about how to incorporate cross-training and strength training into your running program:

Focus on liftingFocus on lifting, not on raising your heart rate. Many runners turn their session into a metabolic workout by including too much cardio. But runners get enough cardio. Instead, they should focus on gaining strength and power¹
Use heavy weightsFitzgerald recommends focusing on relatively heavy weights for a moderate number of repetitions, with full recovery¹
Work your entire bodyFocus on working your entire body; you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you emphasize mostly compound exercises – those that involve multiple joints and muscle groups – rather than isolation exercises¹
Include single-leg exercisesIt’s also worth concentrating on single-leg exercises – after all, running is a series of one-legged movements. Construct a routine that includes exercises such as single-leg deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats and lunges¹


(1) Strength training for runners: Your need-to-know guide. https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/cross-training/a33573783/a-runners-guide-to-strength-training/

(2) How To Incorporate Strength Training Into Your Running. https://the5krunner.com/2021/11/01/incorporate-strength-training-running/

(3) How To Combine Strength Training With Running Workouts. https://www.polar.com/blog/running-workouts-with-strength/.

Benefits of Cross-Training for Runners 

Balances muscle groupsCross-training helps balance your muscle groups because it helps to strengthen muscles that are used less during running¹
Maintains/improves cardiovascular fitnessYou’ll maintain or even improve your cardiovascular fitness with cross-training¹
Reduces chance of injuryBy balancing your weaker muscles with your stronger ones, you’ll help reduce your chance of injury¹
Prevents boredomChanging up your workouts with cross-training can help you avoid getting bored with running¹


(1) Benefits of Cross-Training for Runners. https://www.verywellfit.com/cross-training-for-runners-2911952.

(2) The Ultimate Guide To Cross-Training For Runners. https://www.polar.com/blog/cross-training-for-runners/.

(3) Eight Benefits Of Cross-Training. https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20813186/eight-benefits-of-cross-training/.

(4) What Is Cross-Training For Runners?. https://halfmarathonforbeginners.com/cross-training-for-runners/.

The Impact of Running on Cross-Training

The Impact of Running on Cross-Training

You need to know how it will affect your running to get the most out of your cross-training and strength training.

Running can greatly impact how much weightlifting or other forms of exercise you can do without injuring yourself. Doing too much cross-training can lead to overuse injuries such as shin splints or stress fractures in the foot or lower leg bones (metatarsals). These injuries are caused by repetitive pounding from running on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt–and they can be painful enough to force an athlete into an extended period of rest before resuming training again.

Cross-Training Schedules for Runners

Cross-training is an integral part of a runner’s training plan. Cross-training can help prevent injuries, improve your running form and increase speed and endurance. When done correctly, cross-training workouts do not interfere with your running fitness or cause any loss in performance.

The best way to incorporate cross-training into your routine is following an effective schedule that includes strength training exercises and aerobic activities like swimming or cycling. The following schedules will help you get started:

Cross-Training for Injured Runners

Cross-training is a great way to stay in shape and prevent injuries when you’re injured. It can be used as a substitute for running, or it can be used alongside running to reduce the risk of injury.
There are many benefits of cross-training for injured runners:

  • Cross-training allows you to maintain your fitness while recovering from an injury or illness. You don’t have to take time off from running entirely if you’re sick or injured–switch to another activity that has a low impact on your joints! If you’ve been diagnosed with shin splints, try swimming instead of jogging. Or, if you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis (painful inflammation at the bottom of your foot), try cycling instead of walking around town every day after work.
  • The more muscles trained during exercise sessions, the better prepared those muscles will be for future workouts.
  • Cross-training can also help prevent future injuries by improving strength throughout different parts of your body (not just those related directly to running). For example, strengthening gluteal muscles may help prevent knee pain later because these two body parts work together closely during movement patterns such as walking up stairs or lifting heavy objects off shelves.
  • Finally, cross-training gives us something else fun besides watching TV shows online all day!

Cross-Training for Advanced Runners

Cross-Training for Advanced Runners

You’ve been running for a while now, and you’re looking to push your limits. You want to run faster, longer, and stronger than ever before. You’ve got the endurance of an Olympian and the speed of Usain Bolt–but how can you improve?
Cross-training is an excellent way to build strength and increase your fitness. It helps prevent injury by improving muscle balance in your body as well as increasing flexibility through stretching exercises. Cross-training also builds cardiovascular endurance by working different muscle groups than those used during running (e.g., arms).
Here are some cross-training workouts for advanced runners:

Tips for Cross-Training

  • Cross-training: The best way to incorporate cross-training into your running routine is by alternating between different workouts. For example, if you’re training for a race and want to focus on speed work, try doing two sprints followed by one strength training.
  • Strength Training: You should also consider adding some strength exercises into your routine–this will help prevent injuries and improve overall performance in both short and long-distance races (and it will make those post-run sore muscles feel better). For example, try doing squats or lunges before heading out on the run; these exercises will strengthen the muscles used when running while also getting them warmed up so they don’t feel tight later on!

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

Increased running efficiencyStrength training can help you improve and maintain your running form, resulting in greater running efficiency¹
Weight lossAdding more lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism, which means you’ll burn more calories both at rest and during workouts¹
Improved endurance and reduced fatigueStrength training helps your body better deal with the stresses of running. Your muscles will be able to perform longer before getting fatigued, which will help you maintain your proper running form¹
Faster paceImproving your form and endurance also translates into a faster overall pace¹


(1) Strength Training for Runners: Benefits, Types, and Tips. https://www.verywellfit.com/benefits-of-strength-training-for-runners-2911925.

(2) Why Strength Training Is So Important for Runners. https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20074772/strength-training-for-runners/.

(3) Strength Training For Runners: The Complete Guide. https://marathonhandbook.com/strength-training-for-runners/.

(4) The 7 Best Strength Training Exercises for Runners. https://www.shape.com/strength-training-exercises-for-runners-6829983.

(5) The Benefits of Strength Training for Runners. https://pure-physio.com/the-benefits-of-strength-training-for-runners/.

Cross-Training and Strength Training for Advanced Runners

Advanced runners can benefit from a variety of cross-training and strength-training activities. If you’re an advanced runner, your body is used to running and can handle more intense workouts.
Here are some examples:

HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training) involve alternating between short bursts of activity at high-intensity and low-intensity recovery periods. They’re great for building speed and endurance in addition to burning calories!

Interval Training – This type of workout involves performing intervals at varying speeds over a set distance or period. For example, if you were making sprints as part of your interval training routine, each sprint would be followed by walking back down the track until you were ready for another one!

Low Impact Cross Training – Activities include swimming or cycling, where the joints have little impact compared with other sports such as running or basketball, which stress them constantly throughout each exercise session.

Check Out: How Should Trail Running Shoes Fit? Get The Perfect Fit For Your Trail Running

Best Cross-Training Workouts for Runners

Best Cross-Training Workouts for Runners
  • Cross-training, or other exercise besides running, is a great way to stay fit and prevent injury. Here are some of the best cross-training workouts for runners:
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Weight Lifting (with free weights or machines)
  • HIIT Workouts (High-Intensity Interval Training)
  • Yoga and Pilates are also good options if you’re looking for something more relaxing that doesn’t involve heavy impact on your joints. If you want an even more intense workout but still want something low-impact on your body, try CrossFit!

Tips for Cross-Training and Strength Training

  • Start slowly.
  • Focus on form.
  • Listen to your body, and listen to what it’s telling you about how hard or easy the workout is for you at that moment in time. If something feels like too much, scale back! And vice versa: if it feels like not enough of a challenge for the day, ramp up the intensity by adding more weight or reps than usual or increasing resistance on an elliptical machine (or whatever else).
  • Incorporate rest days into your training schedule–and don’t feel guilty about taking them! Rest days are just as important as workouts for building strength and endurance; they give our bodies time to recover so we can return more substantially next time!

Latest Science-Based Data

1. Normative measures of hip strength and relation to previous injury in collegiate cross-country runners

  • Published on: February 24, 2021
  • Abstract: This study establishes normative values for hip abduction and external rotation isometric strength in collegiate cross-country runners and explores the association between strength and previous injury.
  • Read Full Text

2. Effects of Pelvic and Core Strength Training on High School Cross-Country Race Times

  • Published on: August 1, 2017
  • Abstract: This study examines the effect of pelvic and core strength training on running performance, focusing on high school cross-country race times.
  • Read Full Text

3. Training Habits and Injury Rate in Masters Female Runners

  • Published on: April 1, 2022
  • Abstract: This research focuses on the training behaviors and cross-training engagement in masters female runners and their relationship to running-related injuries.
  • Read Full Text

4. The Impact of Different Cross-Training Modalities on Performance and Injury-Related Variables in High School Cross Country Runners

  • Published on: November 1, 2017
  • Abstract: This study compares the impact of different cross-training modalities on performance and injury-related variables in high school cross-country runners.
  • Read Full Text


What is cross training?

Cross training involves participating in different types of exercises or activities to improve overall fitness and prevent injury.

Why is cross training important for runners?

Cross training helps runners build strength, improve endurance, and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

What are some effective cross training exercises for runners?

Examples of effective cross training exercises for runners include swimming, cycling, yoga, and strength training.

How often should runners incorporate cross training into their routine?

It is recommended for runners to incorporate cross training exercises at least 2-3 times a week.

Can strength training benefit runners?

Yes, strength training can improve running performance by increasing muscle strength and power.


Cross-training and strength training are essential for runners. They can help you improve your performance, prevent injury, and increase speed.

Incorporate cross-training into your running program by doing one or two weekly sessions. For example: If you run five days a week, add one cross-training day (or two shorter sessions) and strength exercises on another day.

You’ll want to ensure that each session’s intensity level matches what you’d typically do during a run so that it doesn’t interfere with recovery time between workouts.

Incorporating cross-training and strength training into your running routine may seem daunting initially, but the benefits to your overall fitness and running performance are clear. With a little planning, choosing activities you enjoy, and staying consistent with your schedule, you can successfully balance all three types of exercise. So don’t be afraid to mix it up and try something new – your body (and your running times) will thank you!


Strength training for running: Does it improve performance? – Live Science

A certified personal trainer, Eliza Flynn, agrees that strength training glute, calf, and quad muscles can increase a runner’s speed by enabling them to generate more force to push off…

Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained …

Four of the 5 included studies used low to moderate training intensities (40-70% one repetition maximum), and all used low to moderate training volume (2-4 resistance lower-body exercises …

What is cross-training? | Live Science

Cross-training is any exercise modality other than a person’s primary sport activity. For example, runners could try cycling, swimming, and cross-country…

Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance …

Equivocal findings exist regarding the effects on power output or velocity at the lactate threshold. Concurrent endurance and heavy strength training can increase running speed and power output at VO2 …

Scientific Studies That Will Improve Your Running Fitness

Adding lifting to your training schedule as a form of cross-training may add years to your life, according to a study from the American Journal of Epidemiology. Those who regularly