Why Beginning Runners Need Cross-Training

Get Wet With Aqua Jogging

A pool can be a runner's best friend. "We always use the pool as 'Plan B' for injured runners or those who just need some time off the roads," says Harris, adding that you can always replace a tempo run with a hard effort of aqua jogging. Park suggests trying an interval set, such as 10 x 30-second sprint with 30 seconds easy for recovery. "It's a challenge to run in the pool, and it can be a huge asset to run training."

More: How to Aqua Jog

Or, don goggles and swim some laps. "On days when your legs are just exhausted from the mileage you have put in, you can jump in the pool for a couple thousand yards and work your body in an entirely different way," says Park. "A lot of runners are intimated by swimming, but it can be the ultimate recovery tool."

More: 10 Swimming Tips for Beginners

How to Incorporate Cross-Training

Ready to implement cross-training into your routine? Here's a simple blueprint to follow:

  • Schedule three key running workouts per week, targeted to your goal (say, one interval workout, one tempo or fartlek, and one long run)
  • Supplement the above with 1 to 3 days of cross-training
  • Give yourself at least one day of complete each week

More: The Importance of Rest for Runners

"I recommend two swims per workout and one bike workout, no more than an hour long," says Park. "The goal is to challenge your body in a short period of time without the stress of running."

No gym? No pool? You can still get a quality cross-training workout without having to leave your house. "Hip and core strengthening exercises, which are imperative for runners, can be done anywhere," says Park. Plank and crunch variations, push-ups and squats will make you stronger and prepare you for increased mileage. 

More: How to Increase Running Mileage Safely

Or try this workout, which Harris often has his athletes do on their off days.

60 seconds of jumping jacks
10 squats
10 calf raises
45 seconds of jumping jacks

10 push-ups
10-second plank
10-second right-side plank
10-second left-side plank

30 seconds of jumping jacks

10 side-lying leg lifts with the right leg
10 side-lying leg lifts with the left leg
10 bridges

15 seconds of jumping jacks

Repeat this circuit 2 to 4 times, allowing a 3-minute break in between sets.  

More: 5-Minute High-Intensity Circuit Training for Runners

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