Healthy You - Every Day

Improve Your Running Performance With Cross-Training

By including low-impact activities into your training, you can build strength and endurance


Running injuries are common, especially if you are training for a race. Although you may want to run as much as possible to prepare, Steve Hultgren, Director, Sports Performance Initiatives, Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute, says the best way to avoid injury is to incorporate cross-training into your fitness routine. 

“The idea behind cross-training is to reduce the risk for injury. You don’t want to add additional high-impact activities or do too much cross-training.” - Steve Hultgren

Cross-training is the practice of including exercise outside of your main sport to improve your overall fitness. As a runner, you may want to incorporate swimming, walking or biking into your fitness routine to continue building endurance while giving your joints a well-deserved break from the impact of running. 

“Most running injuries are from overuse,” Hultgren says. “By cross-training, runners can continue to build strength and endurance while minimizing the risk for injury.” 

Benefits of cross-training

Many runners would prefer to do any type of running workout, but there are advantages to cross-training. While the benefits of cross-training are endless, Hultgren feels there are five that hold the most value.

  • Injury prevention – Running is a high-impact activity and can be hard on your joints. Cross-training reduces the amount of impact on your joints, bones and tendons, and helps prevent overuse injuries.
  • Rehabilitation – If you suffered an injury, cross-training is a great way to stay fit while not being able to run or to ease back into running. Coaches with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Sports Performance Program can help design a program to fit your needs.
  • Motivation – Cross-training adds variety to your workout routine and can keep you feeling motivated.
  • Improved running fitness – Hultgren says adding an aerobic activity like cycling, elliptical or jumping rope can improve your cardiovascular health, which also will help improve your running.
  • Active recovery – Performing a low-impact activity following a high-impact activity, like running, is known as active recovery and another form of cross-training. Hultgren says active recovery can help reduce soreness and keep muscles flexible.

Get started

There are many activities that are appropriate for cross-training. Hultgren recommends choosing something that interests you. Some ideal activities for cross-training are aqua running, swimming, yoga, cycling, weight lifting and elliptical.

He also says it’s important to keep your goals in mind. “The idea behind cross-training is to reduce the risk for injury. You don’t want to add additional high-impact activities or do too much cross-training,” he says.

The amount of cross-training you choose to incorporate into your fitness routine depends on your goals, interests and injury risk. Hultgren suggests one-to-three times per week. He also stresses the importance of having fun.

“You should enjoy cross-training as much as running. Take your dog on a hike or join a group class. Overall, have fun,” he says.

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

The region’s leader in joint, spine and orthopedic care gets you moving again.

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