The Best Cross Training Workouts for Runners

Cross training isn’t only for competitive runners. Both beginner and seasoned runners can benefit from switching up their routine and adding a new activity into the mix. Incorporating cross training for runners into your regimen is an excellent way to enhance your running performance and prevent injuries.

But how do you know which cross training activities are right for you? The answer depends on what you want to gain from your cross training workouts for runners.

Whether you want to strengthen your muscles, improve your speed, or simply keep boredom at bay, check out the best cross training ideas for runners:

Whether you want to strengthen your muscles, improve your speed, or simply keep boredom at bay, the following cross training workouts are ideal for any runner.


Training for your first half-marathon? Hop on a bike and start pedaling. Not only is cycling a non-impact sport (meaning, it’s easy on the joints), it also provides a variety of aerobic benefits as a cross training workout for runners.

Cycling is an excellent low impact sport which works many of the same muscle groups as running, including the hip flexors, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. This makes it a great workout for those who have been sidelined with an injury and want to maintain their fitness.

It’s also an excellent cardiovascular workout which strengthens heart and lung health. In fact, research has shown that cycling can cut a person’s risk of heart disease and cancer nearly in half.


If you’re trying to improve your speed, soccer will do the trick. The quick and varied movements used in soccer are effective at building endurance and speed, as well as overall fitness.

Soccer is effective at improving speedwork because it shifts regularly between walking, running, and sprinting. The short bursts of speed help strengthen your cardiovascular system, training your body to use oxygen more efficiently when you run.

However, it’s not recommended if you’re susceptible to injury. Shin splints, tendinitis (knee pain), and ankle sprains are common injuries in this sport, which can sideline you on race day if you aren’t careful.


Struggling with a foot injury? Whether you’re recovering from an injury or want to reduce the stress on your joints, swimming is the ultimate cross training workout for runners.

This low impact, whole-body exercise targets a wide variety of muscles. Depending on the type of swim stroke you do, you’ll be working everything from your pectorals (chest muscles) and abs to your glutes and hamstring muscles.

Injured or not, getting into the pool twice a week can help make you a more well-rounded runner. However, some runners find that swimming is too boring. If swimming more than twice a week sounds tedious, try swapping out your weekly recovery run for a swim instead.

Related: 6 Workout Accessories the Runner on Your List Doesn’t Know They Need


Yoga is an excellent complement to any runner’s fitness regimen. In addition to building your strength, flexibility, and balance, yoga is also an effective way to increase your mental focus and breathing.

For many, running is a form of meditation in its own right. But for some others, running can come with its own anxieties—namely, the mental blocks that runners often face such as negative thinking and doubt.

Spending time on the mat has been proven to reduce stress and can help you maintain a positive attitude on longer runs. With its gentle movements, restorative yoga is a particularly good activity to do on your recovery days.

Elliptical Machine

If your knees need a break from pounding the pavement day-after-day, the elliptical is the ideal cross training workout for runners. This cardio machine closely mimics your running form and takes the stress off your knees.

The Best Cross Training Workouts for Runners

To make the most of an elliptical workout, be sure to bump up the resistance and intensity. If you have a heart rate monitor, wearing it while on the elliptical can give you a better sense of how hard you’re working. Similarly, don’t forget to pump your arms. It might appear silly, but runners need strong arms to maintain good form while running.

Barre Class

Barre classes, as a cross training workout, can benefit runners in numerous ways. This low-impact, full-body workout uses a combination of exercises inspired by ballet, Pilates, and yoga to tone and strengthen muscles all over the body.

Many of the conditioning exercises used in Barre are isometric, which simply means that muscles are worked without changing their length. But don’t be fooled—those tiny micromovements will have you feeling the burn.

Barre is especially important for runners with weak hip flexors and tight hamstrings. When searching for a barre class, find an instructor who is attentive. Tucking the pelvis into unsafe positions is a common mistake which can impede your results.

As you can see, there are a variety of cross training workouts for runners that can make you a better runner. Whether you’re training for a race or working through an injury, the right activity can help you reach your goals.

Just remember that with any new activity, it’s important to wear the right gear, such as FlipBelt products, and pay close attention to your form. The last thing anyone wants is to be side-lined from running due to a cross-training injury.

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