The Most Effective Cross-Training Sports for Runners

Running is fun.

That, as a concept, can be difficult to explain to non-runners—but it usually doesn’t take too long for new runners to figure it out.

Running is competitive (even when you’re alone and just trying to beat your last time), it’s a wonderful form of active meditation, there’s a great community for it here in Fort Collins so you have built-in friends if you want them, and the oft-misunderstood “runner’s high” can give you a healthy way to experience feelings of euphoria and reduced anxiety.

However, even with all those great benefits… sometimes you just need to switch it up from time to time. For those of us that truly love it, running doesn’t get boring, but runners as a group, and this even includes some of us at Runners Roost, can sometimes be too one-dimensional. The reality is that anytime you can work on different muscle groups, balance, flexibility, or just something different, it’s going to be beneficial.

That’s why in today’s post we’ll be discussing the most effective cross-training sports for runners. These sports are fun and can help you train to be a better runner. Plus, who doesn’t want to shake things up every now and then?

Let’s take a look:

benefits of swimming for runnersWhy Swimming Makes You a Better Runner

Swimming is one of the best activities runners can do as a cardio workout without the impact of other cross training sports. Whether you’re swimming competitively—as part of triathlon training, for instance—or just for fun, your body is going to reap all kinds of benefits.

Swimming works out unique muscle groups that other sports can’t, at least not with the same level of intensity. Hips, glutes, your core, shoulders, and arms to name a few. Horizontal exercise like swimming also allows for higher blood return and VO2 max, because your heart has to pump a bit harder to keep your blood cycling to your muscles without the aid of gravity.

And that no impact thing is pretty important too, especially for runners. If you have an injury (such as a stress fracture or even a minor sprain), swimming is pretty much the perfect exercise to keep up your training without risking further injury.

Finally, runners should definitely consider checking out an activity called aqua jogging. It’s essentially just running in the pool. Sometimes implemented as a rehabilitation exercise, you don’t have to be injured to get a lot out of this heart-pumping exercise. After all, water is thicker than air, so you’re basically giving your body a whole lot of resistance. If you can run quickly in water, what do you think you can pull of on land?

You Live in Colorado, So Go Skiing

If you visit us at Runners Roost regularly, you’re probably a Colorado resident—so you already know how popular skiing is here. If you’ve never hit the slopes before, or just not as often as you’d like, now you have the perfect excuse: skiing is an awesome cross training sport for runners.

For some Colorado residents, skiing is a key element of their winter training regimen. Whether you manage to get out to the slopes regularly or just a few times a year, you should know that skiing, particularly cross country skiing, is an effective way to increase your cardiovascular endurance, VO2 max, and even a bit of strength training.

Cross country skiing demands you use all of the muscles you use when you run and more, plus you’re almost certainly carrying more weight than you normally would while running, which leads to stronger muscles. You should also notice measurable overall balance improvements.

Plus, wouldn’t it be weird if you lived in Colorado and never went skiing?

Not Technically a Sport, But Still Great For You: Elliptical Training

Elliptical training isn’t a sport, but plenty of runners swear by it. Similar to what we discussed above with swimming, one of the huge benefits of elliptical training is the lessened impact on your joints—in fact, elliptical trainers can even strengthen your joints by building muscle around them, which is key for long distance runners in particular.

Studies have even indicated that working out on an elliptical trainer can result in the same oxygen and exertion levels as running itself, but without the impact on joints. Furthermore, since an elliptical machine allows the user to easily adjust resistance and incline, runners can work both the upper and lower body at once. Your hamstrings, hips, calves, glutes, and quads will thank you.

benefits of cycling for runnersTake a Break From Running & Start Pedaling: Cycling as Cross Training for Runners

Cycling, another non-impact sport, is an excellent way to cross train for runners. If you’re completely new to cycling, it can be encouraging to know that there’s no wrong way to start. Take a spin class, rent a high-end road bike for a day to see how it feels, or dust off that old mountain bike that you’ve had sitting in the garage for the past six years.

However you do it, cycling offers plenty of benefits like building strength, increasing your heart rate, and improving your endurance while running. Depending on what kind of improvements you’re after, you can modify how and where you ride your bike. Strength gains can be had if you ride uphill on a high gear setting, long and steady rides will improve your endurance, and cardiovascular workouts are easy to get if you do out-of-saddle sprints.

Whether You’re Hitting the Track or Training for a Triathlon, Runners Roost is Your Local “One Stop Shop”

You might have noticed that some of the best cross training activities for runners are swimming and cycling. That’s perfect for anyone interested in participating in a triathlon.

Did you know that Colorado has a vibrant triathlon community? In fact, you can find everything you need for swimming and cycling at our sister store, Rocky Mountain Multisport, which is located right inside Runners Roost in Fort Collins.

We have everything from wet suits to the latest-and-greatest road and tri bikes. Come and meet our friendly staff and in-store bike mechanic the next time you swing by Runners Roost!

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