What Is Cross Training and Why Is It Important?

Cross Training

What Is Cross Training?

Cross training refers to taking a day or two out from running to focus on another activity. Usually this is another cardiovascular activity such as cycling, swimming or rowing. Cross training can be utilised on days where you are resting from running, as it uses different muscle groups. This gives your muscles time to rest, and thus can be useful in preventing injury.

Some good cross training activities for runners include:

  • Strength Training – can be done using your own body weight or additional weight from dumbbells, barbells or kettle-bells. Helps to improve your muscle strength and dexterity. Strengthening your glutes and core muscles will help improve your running form. A weak core can cause the body to lean forward when fatigued, leading to poor form and possible injury.
  • Yoga / Pilates – improves flexibility and can reduce muscle stiffness whilst improving running efficiency. Yoga and Pilates can also help to prevent muscle imbalances or weakness. A lot of runners experience niggles due to weak hips or glutes, so strengthening these can make running more enjoyable.
  • Swimming – low impact activity which doesn’t put additional stress on your joints. It is also a full body workout and a great way of burning calories for those who are looking to lose weight.
  • Cycling – not as high impact on your joints. Uses the same running muscles but in a different way allowing you to build strength in your hamstrings and glutes.
  • Aqua Jogging – aqua jogging (“running” in a pool) is a great way to run without putting pressure on your joints. The resistance from the water will also help build strength and power, improving your running efficiency.

Why Is It Important?

Build Fitness

It also allows you to build your cardiovascular fitness whilst taking a rest day from running. Running is a high impact sport which means the body needs time to adjust to the increase in mileage. Experienced runners are able to run higher mileage weeks as their cartilage and bones have adapted to the stress of running. Beginner runners should alternate running days with rest or cross training to give the body time to adapt.

Injury Prevention

It is important to work other muscles as it improves your overall flexibility and strength. This reduces your risk of injury, and also improves your running efficiency. It is especially important that beginners include rest and / or cross training days into their schedule. Running is a high impact activity which can place your body, especially the knees and hips, under a lot of stress. Running too much too soon can lead to shin splints, stress fractures and other injuries.


As well as building fitness cross training can help to maintain fitness if you experience an injury. You may not be able to run, however you may be able to participate in non-weight bearing activities such as cycling or swimming.

Prevent Boredom

Cross training also ensures that you mix up your schedule to prevent boredom or from becoming burned out from just running. It allows you to try another sport and opens up other opportunities.

The key to cross training is to pick another activity that you enjoy to ensure that you stick with it. It is also a great way for beginners to get into triathlons as they can improve their swimming and cycling as cross training methods.


There are a number of benefits to utilising cross training in your training schedule. Whether you are looking to strengthen your body to prevent injury, or just to prevent boredom, cross training can be extremely beneficial.

Do you cross train, and if so, what activity or activities do you choose?