After gaining confidence from crossing the finish lines of their first few 5Ks or 10Ks, many runners who are new to the sport try to improve their race times. So they run more mileage and tougher workouts, and, unfortunately, inevitably get hurt.
Overuse injuries are most common for beginners, especially during periods of increasing mileage or workout intensity. It's therefore a necessity to prioritize safely getting in better shape by exercising a healthy amount of caution during the first few months of a new runner's training.
But how do you improve running endurance without increasing your risk of stress fractures, tendonitis or plantar fasciitis? You simply focus on aerobic exercise that has very little risk involved.
Supplemental Exercise (Not Cross-Training!)
Supplemental forms of aerobic exercise can dramatically improve fitness levels while posing virtually none of the injury risk of running. The key is to choose types of exercise that are no-impact but still specific to running.
The two best supplemental exercises are pool running and cycling (or indoor spinning). But before we talk about the benefits of each type of exercise, why shouldn't these be considered cross-training?
The term cross-training is frequently defined by runners as anything that's used in place of running when you're injured. Thus, it gets a bad reputation as being something you only do when you're nursing an overuse injury.
Instead, consider these exercises supplemental—or in addition to—your current running. They're not replacing any scheduled running workouts, but instead are used in addition to them.
Cycling or Pool Running: Which Should You Choose?
Both cycling and pool running are very specific to running, meaning the fitness you gain from these forms of exercise is transferable to running. They'll directly impact your running and get you in better shape to perform on race day.