Can Cross Training Be Beneficial?

By: Brian Elder

I have heard some beginning runners ask: “What is cross training?”

Broadly speaking, cross training is any form of training that is different from the specified sport of the individual athlete in training. More narrowly, for a runner, cross training is any training or exercise besides running that is performed to seek aerobic and strength benefits. For many runners, common examples include swimming, biking, and strength training.

Cross training is a controversial subject in the running community and culture. Some people swear by the benefits that it offers while others believe that only running can make you a better runner. In most of the races that I have trained for in the past, my training has consisted of nothing more than logging miles, miles and more miles. This season of training has been different for Boston as I have tried to create some change. Change can be a good thing and cross training has provided this so far.

I want to provide some insight on my thoughts entering this new season of training. Below are some of the forms of cross training I have attempted in the past few months and I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think about cross training? What do you think of the cross training methods I have used?  

  • Strength training (P90X) and core to add muscle and build a strong foundation entering training. Muscles burn more calories than fat and I believe even runners should be strong for longer races such as a marathon.
  •   Swimming in the morning or afternoon to strengthen my aerobic capacity.
  •  Biking in the morning or afternoon to strengthen my legs.
  •   Running paired with swimming/biking in the mornings or afternoons to simulate a two-a-day workout fatigue with less physical stress on my joints.
  • Run lower number of miles and add cross training workouts
  • Taking more days off because cross training and running work new and different muscles.

These are the types of cross training experiments I have tried thus far in training and only time will tell if they will pay off. 

Brian Elder is a learner, amateur explorer, and nomadic runner that is going to run until it takes him somewhere. He is a senior at the University of Georgia studying English and Religion.  After running competitively on trails and roads, he fuels with an appetite so big you would swear it’s competitive.  Follow Brian's training on Instagram.