When planning to run a marathon, it is important for athletes to prepare and train properly, as it can improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury. The best way to train is to incorporate additional means of exercise other than running into their routine. This is called cross-training, and it can help strengthen the heart, lungs, and/or muscles, depending on the type of exercise performed. Cross-training can involve cardio or aerobic exercise that is low or high impact or exercises that focus on improving strength specifically. Cross-training not only boosts a runner’s performance, but it also adds variety to a routine that can otherwise become stale or boring. To get the most benefit from cross-training for a marathon, runners should understand what some of the best exercises are and how they can boost one’s performance.
Pool Workouts and Swimming
Water-based workouts such as swimming are an effective contribution to the cross-training routine of runners. Workouts in the pool give the legs a break, serving as a type of recovery from more high-impact exercises. While it is lower-impact, it is highly beneficial in that it helps build the runner’s breathing or oxygen capacity. In addition, it helps the runner to improve their endurance and generally provides a workout that benefits muscles that are not generally strengthened with running alone. Exercises such as pool running or aqua-jogging are no-impact and can mimic workouts that are done outside of the water. Swimming laps and alternating between different strokes, such as breast stroke or freestyle, are also beneficial in providing good workouts for the legs. People should also include stretching while in the pool, which will give them good range of motion. Equipment that will prove useful with aquatic cross-training includes goggles, fins, a flotation belt, and a kickboard.
Cycling and Spinning
Arguably one of the best cross-training routines for runners is cycling. Cycling takes the athlete through a complete range of movement and motion that primarily works the lower half of the body. Because it works the muscles, specifically the quads, buttocks, and shins, differently than when running, it helps prevent an imbalance in the muscles. Cycling also helps to strengthen the athlete’s heart and improve lung capacity. For a workout that is as low-impact as cycling but more vigorous, runners may turn to spinning. While cycling can be done indoors or out, spinning is an indoor activity. Training indoors is often a good option, as it provides greater control and allows athletes to train in an air-conditioned, element-free environment year-round.
Plyometrics is a high-impact routine that is a type of strength training. It utilizes jumps and hops in fast bursts. This type of exercise is designed to improve upon the energy that is created by a runner so that they are running more efficiently. In addition, these types of strengthening exercises help to improve the runner’s lungs so that less oxygen is used. As a result, a runner who does plyometrics may improve their stride, their ability to jump, and their running times.
- Cross-Training 101: Plyometrics for Runners
- Go Ahead, Cross the Line: Plyometric Workouts Give Cardio and Strength Training
Yoga may seem like a surprising cross-training routine; however, it is also a highly effective one. Yoga is a series of poses and stretches that utilizes the athlete’s body for resistance. This proves beneficial to runners in several ways. It helps the joints so that they are loose and less susceptible to injury. Yoga uses all muscles and helps to improve flexibility. Just as important, yoga improves concentration as well as muscle mass and builds the athlete’s strength.
- Top Ten Sports for Cross-Training
- Cross-Training: An Approach to Benefiting Your Running Health, Fitness and Performance (PDF)
- Cross-Training for Injury Prevention and Management
Strength training is as important as cardio training to runners. Often, it involves weight training, or the lifting of weights for endurance and strength and to build muscle. Strength training may also entail workouts that do not require weights, such as push-ups, lunges, or squats. Runners should work out both their upper and their lower body when doing strength training. Optimal results can be achieved by incorporating strength training at least twice a week.