top of page

When should you cross train?

There’s no doubt that to get better at running, you need to run more! However, it just isn't possible to run all the time and there is a happy medium, especially if you’re more of a beginner to running.

Cross training has a valuable place in your training plan, but it depends exactly what you’re aiming to achieve with the cross-training element. If it’s to specifically improve your running, then the best options are either aqua jogging or using the elliptical or the rowing machines. These activities have a good cross over back to running but if you’re looking at some cross training to improve your general fitness, have some fun and maintain motivation, then things like swimming, cycling, dance classes, body pump and spin classes are all good options. Pilates and Yoga are very helpful for building general body strength, improving your mobility and avoiding injury no matter what you’re aiming for.

The key is to make sure that whatever cross-training activity you choose is complementing your running and not leaving you feeling too fatigued to do the important key running sessions in your training plan. Very often an instructor leading a class can be well-meaning and enthusiastic, but the activity can easily turn into a hard session, resulting in you feeling fatigued with muscle soreness for a couple of days. This isn’t helpful for keeping your running sessions going consistently, it can also affect your motivation and leave you more vulnerable to injury or illness, so be careful.

One thing to keep in mind when you’re doing an aqua jog or elliptical session is that your heart rate will not be the same as when you’re running; it will generally be around 10 bpm lower, so the best way of executing these sessions is to work to the correct effort level.

There are number of times when doing cross training rather than more running would be a smarter idea, for example:

· if you’re new to running or struggling with muscle fatigue or are just coming back from an injury, then you'd be better off cross training

· if you already have a niggle then, depending on what it is, you may be better off with some non-impact exercise

· cross-training can also be helpful if you’re feeling a little fatigued or if you’re lacking some motivation and mentally struggling to train, then cross training over a run would be a good change

· cross training is also a smart alternative when the weather is bad or if you’re in a new location and don't know where to run, if it’s dark or find that the gym is your only option to exercise, then cross training is a safe and smart alternative

· cross training is also a good way to add extra training volume to your week without any added impact.

So you’ll see that there are plenty of times when cross training is a smarter alternative to running. It will help you maintain your fitness and, in some cases, improve it.

But remember we’re training for a running race and so as long as you’re not injured, then the key sessions and long runs in your training plan need to be completed as runs, this is how your body gets conditioned and used to the impact and repetition of running on the road.

Keith Anderson


bottom of page