Cross Training Exercises to Help Improve Running
Running is one of the most popular ways to exercises that there are. It’s an awesome way to get a great cardio workout while working towards your fitness and physique goals. It’s one of the most diverse exercises out there because of what it can be used for. If you’re a keen runner, though, you might begin to see your performance lack a little. Whether you’re bored, tired, or just too used to your workouts, it’s easy to do, but that’s where cross training comes into running.
Cross training is an excellent way to improve your performance no matter what it is that you need to improve. All you need to do is figure out what is going to be the biggest help. Using the same muscles that you’d use in running through other exercises is one of the best ways to give them the shock that they need to make sure that your progress can grow as much as you need it to, both in the long and the short term. As far as your performance goes, that can be vital.
Let's look at some of the best ways to do it.
Strength Cross Training
Running is more than just a cardio exercise. It uses a huge range of muscles, especially in your legs, and as your power there increases with your muscular endurance, you’ll be much better equipped to improve your performance no matter what it is you’re running for. These are some of the best exercises you can use to do it
Squats are pretty much the ultimate lower body exercise. They hit practically every single muscle in your legs, and that's what makes them perfect for improving your running. Every muscle that you could possibly need is getting hit in a way that is totally functional, as you need to balance yourself too. Get your form right and get the weight right, and you'll reap the reward rapidly.
This is by far and away one of the best exercises that you could do to help improve your glutes, and they’re responsible for a lot more than you might think in running. Your glutes are the biggest muscles in your body by volume, and it’s for a reason. Running once was one of the most important things a human body needed to be able to do, so it makes sense. Train them to help you do it again!
As far as cross training goes for running, it’s near impossible to argue that adding weight to the same kind of motion isn’t going to help you out, and by using a sled, you can really maximise the benefits that you’re going to see in the long term. Sled pulls are a great way to strengthen your running by needing you to pull more weight than you're used to, but still doing the same motion as running. Pushes, on the other hand, do the total opposite. By putting the force in front of you instead of behind, you're hitting the muscles from a completely different angle.
Your calfs are an easy one to forget about in leg workout. They kind of train themselves after all, but they aren’t something that should be so easily forgotten. If you train them as well as you do everything else, they’ll repay the effort in your next run with ease. Adding calf raises applies a similar motion range to them as running does, but with a different dynamic. Add weights when seated for example, and you’ll be amazed at how much weight you can push up form what’s a seemingly small muscle. It’s a great way to improve your explosive performance, especially for speedrunning
The last strength cross training exercise we’ll talk about to boost your running is box jumping. Box jumps are an awesome example of plyometric exercise, and that’s just what we need to really nail running. If you think about what goes into your running stride, you’re launching yourself forward with both feet being off the floor at the same time. In other words, you’re actually doing small jumps all the time. To add more power to those jumps, box jumps are just what the doctor ordered. The higher you can reach, the further your stride should be with ease, in theory anyway.
Cardio Cross Training
Moving into the other side of cross training, to really improve your running performance, you still need to be working on your cardio side of things. That’s improving your stamina and endurance while still working your muscles differently.
Cycling is one of the best forms of cardio out there. It’s leg focussed again, like most cardio is, but with a difference; you can be stood or seated. Either way, you’re going to get a hard upper leg workout in particular. Instead of pushing yourself forwards and upwards, you're pushing the pedals down and back. Changing that angle while adding more resistance to your peddling is an awesome way to give your body a shock while still getting that heart and breathing rate where it needs to be for progression.
Rowing is similar to cycling but adds an even harder twist to things. It's a full-body workout. You won't find many exercises out there that can do what rowing can. It's an awesome way to help burn a lot of calories as well as build up a lot of muscle definition. You’re using all of them in some way or another after all. Again, you get all of these cardio benefits too, but potentially even more so from the increased number of muscles used.
As with all cross training, you still need to spice things up completely from time to time, and running is no exception to that. That's where boxing comes into play. Boxing is potentially the best possible exercise you can do. Again, it's a full-body hitter, but even in just 12 rounds like you see in professional matches, you can burn hundreds of calories. For the time it takes and to burn that many calories, it must be hard. It doesn't hit your legs so much as your whole body in unison, but the cardiovascular benefits are unparalleled.
At the end of the day, diversity is good. When it comes to really being at the top of your game, practice does make perfect, but cross training is never a bad thing to try and do as well. Try different things and see what works best for you on a personal level. For more advice on how to improve your running time, don't forget to check out our other articles looking into it too.
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