The Importance of Cross Training for Runners

I have spoke to a few groups lately on this topic and as a runner and a gym addict, I want to show people how adding in one or more extra activities to their routine can benefit their overall fitness.

So lets get the captain obvious point out of the way. Running can be hard on our bodies. It is high impact and can often cause tenderness to our joints. Cross training can help us avoid injury by supplementing in low impact work that still increases out fitness. It can also help avoid over training, give us a little mental variety and help keep our fitness up if we are recovering from an injury. With so many benefits it stumps me when I hear runners saying cross training couldn’t benefit what they are setting out to accomplish. Their punchline is that if they want to improve their running they must run and I am not refuting that. But by adding another activity or two into your routine you can increase leg speed, finish runs with little to no tenderness in the hips or knees, create a more powerful push off and create greater range of motion in your joints.

What activities should I look at when cross training for running?

I find people will not keep up with an activity more often than not because they hate doing the activity. No one is forcing you to do that one activity! There are tons of options out there! Take up swimming, spin class, cycling, weight lifting, group fitness classes, yoga, cross training, you name it! Most facilities have a great policy when it comes to your first class or first time using the gym, try it out and see if that is something you want to keep up with!

Find something that could improve over all fitness
As runners we are bad for neglecting our upper bodies. The only time I recall using my upper body is when my legs are completely shot on the last few kilometers of the marathon distance. Here are a few examples:

Swimming is a great cross training activity as it works the muscle groups we often don’t use, its low impact and yet still aerobic like running.

Pilates is a great cross trainer as it can have a lot of focus on the core and many runners, again, tend to neglect doing core work. Sometimes lower back pain in runners can be caused by a weak core and/or taking strides that are far too long for them.

Yoga is an AMAZING cross trainer since flexibility has been linked to increase your speed as it opens up range of motion in your hips and allows for a stronger stride.

Cycling is great because it helps develop your quadriceps at a better rate than running. Runners hamstrings tend to develop much faster than the quadriceps. When there is a significant muscle imbalance, injuries become much more prevalent. Cycling is low impact, works many of the same energy systems as running, improves hill running and increases leg speed. Not too shabby! If cycling on busy streets just isn’t your cup of tea, take up a spin class!

Plyometric work! My favorite. Plyometric movements are explosive jumping type movements. Some of these movements are performed laterally which is very different from running (so I highly suggest not performing these in your running shoes since shoes designed for running are not built for this type of movement and you will ruin your runners!). Movements like jump squats, burpees, switch lunges and so on! (AKA SUPER HAPPY FUN TIME WORKOUTS!) They help increase power, lactic threshold, and push off!

3)Low impact vs high impact
This is just personal preference but on days that I am not scheduled to run, I look for low impact exercises to give my joints a little bit of a break. These are the days I work on strength, yoga, or cycling.

Feeling overwhelmed with how you will fit it all in?
– Plan ahead! Print off or buy a calendar where you write down your schedule at the start of each week. Bring in the post its and highlighter brigade!
– If you are weight lifting, write out what muscle groups you want to target and don’t work them out two days in a row (them muscles need time to repair so they can grow back stronger!)
Write out what day is your rest day! Rest is EQUALLY if not MORE important when it comes to working out!
Make sure you have flexibility in your routine somewhere even if it is just post workout. Stretching is VERY important!

For those who cross train with their running routine: What is YOUR favorite cross training activity?

For those who don’t cross train: What is holding you back from doing so?


2013 Resolutions? Nah, 2013 GOALS!

Hey everyone!

2012 gone in a flash! Am I right?! So I don’t know about you all, but I am a HUGE goal setter. I set goals for the year, the month, the week, and even every day. (post-it notes and highlighters are my best friends….yeah I don’t get out much. HUSH!) So why is it that when January 1st hits goals are now named “resolutions”? (I googled the history of New Year’s Resolutions, if you are interested here is a neato article!) I think what baffles me most is the idea of “I will start on January 1st.” Kind of like my old excuse of “I’ll start my diet on Monday” since it was the start of the work/school week. The final time I joined Weight Watchers and began my weight loss journey it was NOT a Monday, it was a WEDNESDAY *gasp*..yet I was successful?! CRAZY TALK! 😉 Why start later when you can start now? everyone has to start somewhere right? (I am all about the tough love if you can’t tell).


So in my “catch all” journal I decided to start writing out my resolutions 2013 goals. (My “catch all” journal is my everything journal. I write down my thoughts, feelings, ideas for blog/business/videos/wedding/recipes and notes for fitness and so on…can you say SUPER UNorganized?!)  Last year I achieved all the fitness type goals I set out for. Here they are:

Jenn’s 2012 Fitness Resolutions Goals

1. PB the half marathon distance  ✓

2. Sub 4 hours on the marathon distance  ✓

3. Fund raise and run the marathon with Team Diabetes in Reykjavik, Iceland 

4. Run the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon

5. Become a Can Fit Pro Certified Personal Trainer 

Why was my 2012 so successful? I personally believe that you should write your goals down in a place you can reference. My daily goals? (HELLO POST IT NOTES!) I stick them in my planner! Sometimes I will even post them to my bathroom mirror if I need a SPECIAL reminder (ie: Be kind to Jenn today – sounds corny but I can be my worst critic!) I also categorize goals into things like Fitness, Self/Well being, Relationships, Financial, School, Business and so on. Not only should you write them down, but write down what your first step of action will be for that goal! I am not saying write an entire game plan, just write down your first step. Once that is done cross it off and write down your next step.


“Lose 5 lbs in the month of January”

Step One: I vow to do cardio for at least 30 minutes four times a week and add more colour to my plate (AKA veggies/fruit).

Step Two: ??? (eg: incorporate in a weight routine!)

So yes. I believe goal setting is one of the most important keys to success. I am sure we have ALL heard of the S.M.A.R.T acronym (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-targeted) and I believe this is important. It is so easy to get overwhelmed, especially when it comes to weight loss, muscle gains, training for a race, ANYTHING. Don’t be one of those people who are going hard at the gym and then we don’t see you once March has come. This is a lifestyle. Your body was meant to move and be nourished. If you are having a day where you are finding it hard to get to the gym or go for a run make a mini-goal for yourself. This was a tactic I used on myself when I was just beginning to get active again. “Jenn, move for at least 30 minutes..if you STILL don’t want to do this you can stop.” If you think about 30 minutes is really not that long, in fact most of our favorite TV shows are that long! Why not do jumping jacks/burpees/pushups/squats/lunges/WHATEVER while you watch your TV show? Pretty manageable if you ask me!

Don’t wait for January 1st or Monday. Start now. If you really want this, you will put everything aside and WORK for what you want. Don’t have that goal be just a wish. Make it happen! Believe me, I had a few too many treats on Christmas but once boxing day hit it was on it like Donkey Kong (uhh that is a saying right?). I popped in my Insanity DVD after a day of shopping in terrible boxing day crowds (that’s agility training on its own!) even when I was completely exhausted, I ate completely clean and stuck to my caloric goal! (Hey follow me on My Fitness Pal!) You will make time for fitness and you will make the effort to eat clean if you really want to achieve your resolution of “being healthy” in the year of 2013. (Told ya! Tough love!)

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s make this one the best year yet!! I challenge you to write down your goals and course of action!