Whether you're looking to reduce the risk of injury or just trying to put a little variety into your workouts, cross-training can be a valuable supplement to your preperation for race season.
But which activities are a great addition to your training? And how intense should your cross-training activities be?
Here are six running experts on the benefits of cross-training for runners and specific tips on how to ensure the gains made in cross-training translate to success on your runs.
Cross-Train Tip No.1: Break Up the Routine
"Burnout and lack of motivation can arise from doing the same thing over and over again. Keep your program fresh by finding a new trail or running your normal route backwards.
"Toss in some of your favorite cross-training activities (cycling, stand-up paddle boarding, yoga, Zumba) a few times a week to work a variety of muscles, decrease the wear and tear on your body, and refresh your running spirit. A simple change of scenery can renew your motivation for any training program.
Cross-Train Tip No.2: Go Hard...But Not Too Hard
"Choose workouts that are closest to running in terms of muscles used and aerobic systems taxed. Good options include elliptical trainers, cross-country ski machines, stationary bikes, and water running.
When cross-training, keep your heart rate at or above 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) most of the time. In other words, you should be working hard and sweating a lot.
"Check your morning heart rate regularly. An elevated morning heart rate is a sign of overtraining, which can occur if you add too much cross-training too soon."
Cross-Train Tip No.3: Hit the Treadmill
"Research has shown that the human brain uses exactly the same motor pattern to run or walk briskly on steep uphill gradients. In other words, when you crank the treadmill incline up to 12-15 percent, running becomes walking and walking becomes running.
"Therefore, walking on a steep incline is a highly specific way to maintain running fitness when you're injured. But impact forces are reduced drastically compared to running, so steep uphill walking is possible with most common running injuries.
"Many runners don't think of walking as a good alternative to running when injured because they assume they cannot match their normal intensity. Trust me: You can. Set the incline at 12 to 15 percent, increase the belt speed to 4 mph or so, check your heart rate and you'll see!ay be a bit more exhilarating and liberating than conventional track work."