Aiming to do your first 10K run or in marathon training but want a break from running? You’re not the first to go through this phase, and that’s why there’s a whole field of exercises known as cross-training. Simply put, cross-training involves exercises that help you strengthen and condition muscles that are not directly related to the act of running.

This means having alternative means for cardio workouts, getting strength in your core, which stabilises your body when running. It’s also about focusing on improving the flexibility of your shoulders, arms and elbows – crucial for building pace – and reducing impact on knees and lower body joints. These take a severe beating from running regularly. Cross-training makes a positive impact in your marathon training, without actually making you run, and the change of pace from running will revitalise your mind which is stuck in a routine.

Get on a cycle
Long distance runners really put their body through extremes during their races/runs, and end up getting injured every now and then. Cycling gives runners a great workout without putting your ankles and knees through the impact of running, so less stress on your joints and shins.

Indoor cycling classes
Indoor cycling can be an option when you can’t head out

If you train only for running, then know that you’re only working on a certain set of muscles that can result in lopsided development. When you cycle, you’re using muscles in your legs and core that complement the muscles used for running. This makes you stronger, faster and definitely more efficient.

Pedalling a bike is hard work – it requires consistent steady motion and a smooth cadence. And the same is required for running. Your cadence on the bike can positively affect your cadence in running. Of course, this takes time and you have to work towards it, but your leg turnover increases significantly with biking.

Row the boat
Whether you pursue it indoors or outdoors, rowing helps strengthen the core, back, and arms, which are common weak spots in runners. Building strength in those muscles can help in maintaining good posture and form. It must be noted that rowing is a super-intense activity and you will likely not get into the rhythm immediately. A great cardio workout, it helps in building your stamina for endurance runs. For best results, introduce interval training to your rowing, with easy, medium and fast-paced motions distributed evenly in a 20-30 minute rowing workout.

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Strength training
Lifting weights is encouraged amongst even the newest of runners nowadays—the resultant strength helps you perform even better during your runs, because your muscles and bones benefit from the weight lifting. If you are a beginner at strength routines, start with light weights and high repetitions (10 – 15) and gradually increase your loads and reduce the number of reps over time.

A reasonable, balanced program for runners would include half squats and lunges for combined leg muscles; heel raises for calves; toe raises for shins; leg extensions for quads; hamstring curls and bent leg sit-ups for abdominal muscles; bench press for chest; upright row for upper back, neck and shoulders; behind the head triceps curl, hammer bicep curl, and regular and inverted wrist curls for forearm muscles.

Start with light weights
Start with light weights when beginning your gym strength training routine

Step aerobics
Step aerobics combine plyometric actions with an aerobic workout to maximise the effect of your exercise. Aerobics offer high-intensity and low-impact workouts that are easier on the joints than running but still effective in improving muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. The key is to perform the moves properly and safely to avoid injury.

Pool workouts
The great thing about being in water is that you can stretch your muscles a lot more than otherwise. You could try these workouts the next time you are in the pool.

Double leg raises

Seems like child’s play but your legs will feel the burn after this one. Lean back on the edge, lower your legs straight down and then raise them up as high as you can. Use the edge as a rest for your elbows for maximum effect. Absolute beginners can sit on the edge of the pool with legs in the water and perform the same movement while seated.

Underwater jacks

Regular jumping jacks but under water. Seems easy? Think again as you have to fight the resistance of the water, and also maintain your balance. Your body will rend to fall forward or back thanks to the natural buoyancy. Jump with your legs out as you normally would on ground, but don’t let your feet touch the bottom when coming back together – this is the real hard part. Pros can try the suspended jumping jack which involves not letting the feet touch the bottom!

Got any more cross-training ideas that you swear by? Let us know in the comments or simply write in to [email protected] with your ideas and we will explore them in detail.

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