For many runners, there’s no other exercise that compares. Biking, swimming, certainly not walking — there’s no workout quite like a good, hard run. But, as Patrick McCrann, a Marathon Nation lead coach and triathlete trainer, notes, building in cross-training days to your weekly running routine, especially if you’re training for a distance run, is key. “As much as runners — and especially new runners — absolutely love to run, there comes a time when running itself is potentially the worst thing for your body or your goals,” McCrann says.
If running caused an injury, for example, continuing to run won’t help you recover from it. “Most athletes identify problems simply as hurdles to be overcome, [but] the smart runner recognizes his or her limitations and finds a better way,” says McCrann.
By cross-training instead of running, you can not only help heal injury, but also prevent it to begin with, by giving your running muscles a day to recover. High-intensity cross-training can also help you improve your running performance, especially for endurance athletes and distance runners. (For beginners, like first-time marathoners, however, you might want to take a full day off during training instead.)
There are two specific types of cross-training activities for runners, according to McCrann: replacement cross-training and performance cross-training. Both types have one thing in common: not running. “Just like any form of training, you’ll get out of cross-training what you put into it. Spend the time finding the right modality and mastering the technique and you will get an excellent workout,” he says.
Following are sample cross-training plans provided by McCrann. Runners, you may be surprised by how much you like your off-day workout.
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