Cross Train for a Balanced Body

A group of people wearing athletic clothes work out together

four reasons to cross train every week

There are so many reasons to fall in love with running. After all, it’s probably the most convenient and cheapest way to build strength and cardiovascular fitness. And there are built-in rewards. Regular doses of outdoor exhilaration have been proven to give the mind and body a lift. Even beyond the well-known“runner’s high” induced by the activation of the body’s endocannabinoids, studies show that time spent outside can give you a lift that endures long after you run your last miles.

So it’s easy to see why so many runners are reluctant to tear themselves away from the road to cross train. But there’s good reason to give it a try. The time you spend cross-training—whether you’re swimming, practicing yoga, or jumping into an UrbanFit Bootcamp class—can give you the strength, stamina, balance, and mental refresh you need to develop a running routine that lasts for life.

“Strength is an area that runners should focus on more,” says Ellen Brenner, vice president and chief financial officer for Fleet Feet Rochester and YellowJacket Racing “These classes offer a more-structured way to provide overall body strengthening. In turn, this will help prevent injury, improve recovery rates, and provide overall better performance for running as it adds to endurance and speed.”

Here are four reasons to integrate cross training into your weekly training routine now.

You’ll run more efficiently.

And efficiency translates to running faster with less effort. Classes that focus on developing core strength will help make your body resilient to a lot of the overuse injuries that sideline runners. Studies show that core stability and strength can help prevent injuries in the feet and legs. What’s more, practices like yoga can also strengthen the smaller stabilizing muscles in your feet, hips, and core, says Yoga teacher Sage Rountree, author of seven books, including The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, and Racing Wisely. “It will keep you running smoothly and efficiently,” she says.

Brenner adds that strength training expands your capacity to go stronger for longer. She says, “Doing exercises to increase your muscle endurance allows you to go longer, perhaps faster, and with greater ease.”

You’ll balance yourself out.

We all have habitual movement patterns shaped by our anatomy, injury history, and activity that get ingrained as we’re sitting, standing, and going about our daily lives. Those patterns create imbalances of strength and range of motion throughout our body that are exacerbated by the repetitive motion of running.Eventually, this can lead to injury.

If there’s weakness in your quadriceps, for instance, it might cause you to over-rely on your hamstring on the run, which could lead to a chronic hamstring strain over time. That’s why activities like yoga and functional movement strength training can help even out those imbalances. “Any injury is the result of imbalance, says Brenner. “Imbalance in the body—top to bottom, left to right, or front to back—leads to overuse injuries; and an imbalance between work and rest leads to burnout.”

The solution? Again, add in some off-road workout time.

You’ll boost your heart rate while giving your muscles, bones, and joints a break.

While studies have debunked the popular myth that running is bad for your knees, loading too many miles or too much speed onto any bone, joint or muscle, without providing enough recovery time can lead to an overuse injury. Step up your cross-training game to target different muscles and still work up a sweat.

You’ll make new friends.

In a group fitness class —whether it’s Endurance Bootcamp or Indoor Rowing—you’ll have a chance to work out alongside people who you might not meet on the road and forge bonds that last long after the class is finished.

Plus, when you’re in good company and you have a teacher guiding you, you’re more likely to complete the routine. “It is way easier to be doing repeated squat thrusts, planks, walking lunges and pushups when you have an entourage of peers around you and an instructor leading you,” says Brenner.