7 cross-training exercises every runner should be doing

Cross-training for runners_opener Training for a race is a great way for runners to set and reach new fitness goals. And while a steady increase in mileage is obviously one way to improve your time, many runners tend to forget about the other methods necessary to get stronger and faster.

“Running usually works one skill,” explains Joe Holder, a Nike+ NYC trainer, who coaches at Nike+ Run Club and trains clients privately at Nike+ Studio at 45 Grand in New York City, an invite-only studio.

“You need cross-training to work some other bio-motor skills important for running, like strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and coordination,” he explains. All of which help you get to the finish line faster—and that you can improve with a few simple exercises.

“Look at any elite runner and they’ll tell you they started to get better when they got stronger and trained like an athlete, not a runner,” says Holder.

So trade the pavement one night this week for a gym mat, and try these cross-training moves that work all the muscles you need to cross that finish line faster. —Amy Marturana

(Photos: Valerie Fischel for Well+Good)


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cross training for runners_squat1 cross training for runners_squat2 cross training for runners_squat3 Squat with Rotational Press

Focus: Strength
Muscles worked: Shoulders, thighs, butt, arms, abs

Stand with legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand just under your chin. Perform a squat.

As you stand back up, push the left arm overhead and out towards your right side as you rotate your left leg and torso to the right. Rotate back to start, perform another squat, and rotate and twist now with the right arm to the left side.

Do until you’ve completed 12 squats, 6 presses on each side. Aim for three sets.


cross training for runners_ss1 Speed Skaters

Focus: Power, coordination
Muscles worked: Shoulders, core, legs, butt

Lateral movements aren’t exactly common when you’re running, but getting your body comfortable in all planes of motion will help make you a a better athlete—a great injury prevention tool—and will help increase mobility.

Stand with the left leg out in front, bent, with most weight on it, and the right leg crossed back behind the body. Hold the right arm in front of your body and the left back and out to the side—like they’re winding up for an explosive movement to the right.

Jump out to the right, swinging your arms with your body. You should land with the right leg now out in front holding your weight, left leg behind the body, arms in the opposite position.

Repeat this movement, jumping back and forth for 20 seconds.


cross training for runners_jump1 cross training for runners_jump3 Star Jumps

Focus: Power, coordination
Muscles worked: Quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms down close to your side. Squat down halfway, swinging arms a bit in front of you, and jump up as high as possible as you spread your arms and legs away from the body—forming a star in the air. Stick the landing with your feet together back in starting position.

Do 6 to 10 jumps. Proper form, not needless reps, are crucial for this exercise.


cross training for runners_kb2 cross training for runners_kb 1 Inverted Kettlebell Walks

Focus: Strength, stabilization
Muscles worked: Core, shoulder

It may look too simple to have an impact, but this move helps improve balance, core strength, and stability in your shoulder.

Hold a kettlebell upside down in one hand, with your arm bent up so the kettlebell is at your chin height. Walk across the gym, or wherever you are working out, holding the weight stable and engaging your core. At the end of your walk, perform 5 presses.

Switch arms and repeat on the opposite side. Perform the walk two times on each arm and be sure not to compensate by leaning toward the arm holding weight.


cross training for runners_dl 2 cross training for runners _dl 1 Single Leg Deadlift

Focus: Strength
Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back

Stand with feet together, legs straight, holding a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand down by your sides. Keeping your back flat the entire time (this is crucial), lower the dumbbells to the floor as you lift one leg straight out behind you. Slightly bend your standing leg.

After the weights touch or come near floor (depending on your range of motion), bring your torso back up straight and your leg back down to the stationary one. Be sure to engage the glute on your standing leg as you return to start. Straighten out the stationary leg, so you end back in the starting position.

You should feel this in your hamstrings and glutes. Repeat 10 times on one leg; switch and do 10 times on the other. Aim for 3 sets.


cross training for runners_pu 2 cross training for runners_pu 1 cross training for runners_pu 3 Push-up to Lateral Raise

Focus: Strength, stabilization
Muscles worked: Chest, shoulders, core, triceps

Get into an extended arm plank position, with legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart for an extra power base. Hold a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand.

Lower down and come back to the top, to perform a push-up. Then, lift one arm up on the side, perpendicular to your body, and place it back into starting position. Do another push-up. Repeat the raise movement on the other arm.

Alternate between push-up, right raise, push-up, left raise, and so on, for 10 complete reps. Aim for 3 sets.


cross training for runners_b1 cross training for runners_b2 cross training for runners_b3 Glute Bridge into Reverse Plank

Focus: Strength
Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, core

This move combines two simple exercises to work the core, glutes, and hips.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and flat on the floor, hip-width apart, belly button to spine so your abs are contracted and your lower back is on the floor, arms straight down beside you.

Next, gently lift your hips off the floor, keeping your abs engaged and your back straight (don’t overarch!). Squeeze your butt at the top. Slowly lower the hips back to the ground to starting position.

Repeat this movement 10 times. Then, hoist yourself up into a reverse plank. Keep abs, butt, and legs contracted. Hold for 30 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe and keep your hips up! Aim for 3 sets.


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