Even the most ardent runners need a break from pounding the pavement once in a while. Not only can cross-training in the offseason give you a much needed mental and physical break, it can also make you a better runner by providing you with additional strength and skills not offered by the straightforward movement of running. Check out these cross-training activities and why they're perfect for runners in the off-season.
While the classes may vary from one studio to another, the fundamentals remain when it comes to barre fitness classes. All are centered on the use of a ballet barre as a tool to allow for the execution of small isometric movements that tone your muscles. A combination of yoga, Pilates, strength training and sculpting workouts, barre classes will challenge runners in a whole new way. Be sure to master the lower level classes before jumping into more advanced barre sessions, as it's important to build the necessary strength, flexibility and technique to execute these exercises properly and effectively.
If you're a trail buff, this will be right down your alley. Even if you're a roadie, you won't be able to get enough of the head-to-toe strength workout that rock climbing provides. In particular, this is an activity that can help improve upper body strength, which is something many runners lack. Also, the positions you're required to hold while scaling a wall also build core muscles, including everything from abs to lower back to hips.
While many runners enjoy the solitary pursuit of their sport, plugging into a team-oriented environment can help increase motivation and reduce boredom in the off-season. Runners tend to be inherently good at ultimate Frisbee because it's a game that requires a lot of—you guessed it—running. In fact, you can probably skip your weekly interval session for a game, as you'll be putting in plenty of short, explosive bursts of speed to move the disc down the field.
The benefits that runners can gain from subscribing to yoga are many. Perhaps most importantly, it can play a major role in helping a runner skirt injury by strengthening many of the stabilizer muscles involved in the running motion. Since running itself is simply an exercise in balance as you hop from one foot to the other, gaining better stability and balance through a number of key yoga poses can be a game changer. Yoga can also be an important recovery method for the bodies and minds of runners to help quiet and center your brain, while simultaneously rehabbing fatigued muscles.
More: Yoga for Runners
If you think running is a good workout, just wait until you try cross-country skiing. With two techniques to choose from—classic and skate—you're bound to like one of them. Both techniques require a combination of leg and arm strength, as well as superior cardiovascular fitness to push ahead. There's a reason the top VO2max values often belong to elite cross-country skiers. If you live in colder winter climes, you'll be hard-pressed to find an endurance workout as tough as this.
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
For those who don't have access to snowy trails for skiing, stand-up paddle boarding is another dynamic workout for runners to try. Requiring supreme balance and total body strength, you'll notice muscles that often get neglected through the running movement get worked through paddling forward and backward, as well as from simply stabilizing your body on the board. Standing on a board floating on top of water requires balance and strength from your core, including your hips and low back, as well as your legs, ankles, and even your feet.
Indoor Cycling Class
If you're looking to reduce pounding while still getting your blood pumping, indoor cycling provides an impressive cardiovascular workout if you do it right. Since it can be hard for some runners to gauge effort on the bike on their own, joining a class with an instructor who can guide you through increasing resistance and cadence is sure to provide you the best workout. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits of this type of exercise, cycling strengthens the hips and glutes (albeit in a different position), two of the major movers in running. It'll also give your quads a major workout, which assist in everything from keeping your patella stabilized on the run to aiding in the landing phase.Sign up for your next race.