Cross Training For Runners

cross training for runnners seminarIf you’re a runner, you probably approach the starting line of any race with a few simple goals in mind:  finish strong, remain healthy and injury free, run your best time yet and recover well after the race so you can keep on running for another day.

Ironically, in order to reach these goals runner need to do more than just run.

They need to incorporate cross training into their workouts, said Katie Benick, MS, CSCS, CPT, Director of Performance Services for Tidewater Performance Centers, told a group of athletes during the third session in the Runners Education Series held at Point 2 Running Company this week. The series, now in its second year, is presented by Tidewater Physical Therapy and its Performance Centers as a free, educational event for the community.

Cross training is one of the most important factors in a workout that runners, no matter what distance they run, often disregard, Benick said.

During the seminar, Benick offered tips for how to incorporate cross training and other injury prevention and performance techniques into a running regimen.

Prepare to rest.

First and foremost, everyone needs rest.

“Rest and recovery are hugely important as a runner,” Benick said. “Your body breaks down as it is put to work and your training causes microtraumas that need to be repaired during rest and recovery.”

It is during rest that your muscles strengthen and grow. Proper recovery allows you to place a progressively higher demand on your body during future workouts.

Benick recommends one rest day per week. Active rest days are ok, too. That means no intense physical exercise.

Strength and Power training.

Along with incorporating rest, runners need to incorporate strength and power training, which are the cornerstones of cross training.

During the workouts where a runner is lifting weights, doing body strength and stabilization exercises, they are still growing stronger while also allowing their “body to recover from the impact of the run,” said Benick.

Cross training involves training movements, not muscles, and includes stabilization, strength and power.

Strength training strengthens your muscles, corrects muscle imbalances and minimizes injuries.

“The stronger our muscles are, the longer they can go,” said Benick. “Strength training will make you less tired on a long run, and it will also decrease the amount of energy you spend on a run.”

Strength training also involves your core, from your shoulders to your abdominal muscles to your hip and glute muscles. Strengthening the core helps improve running form, which leads to an ability to properly run for longer periods.

It also makes tissues, tendons, bones and ligaments stronger, as well as will provide runners with a non-impact form of training.

Power training is equally as important, said Benick.

Power training involves short, explosive movements usually found in plyometrics such as jump squats and box jumps. This decreases your foot contact time with the ground, which will provide optimal usage of the stored energy you are releasing every time your foot strikes the ground.

Where to begin.

Consider cross training one to three times a week, Benick said.

Training should be short but intense, keeping the time you cross train between 15 and 40 minutes.

Your repetitions should be low, and you should increase the number of sets as you begin to feel stronger.

When you cross train, you want to focus on multi-joint, total-body movements instead of isolating one particular muscle. Think beyond one motion on a weight machine.

Start by mastering basic movement patterns such as hinging at the hip, squatting, pushing, pulling, stepping and rotating.

Once you are able to do those movements well, move on to strengthening the muscles that are used to perform those movements. Do this by adding weight and increasing sets to your repetitions.

Even though you won’t be logging miles during these workouts, all of your cross training translates to your run. You’ll be able to run longer, faster.

Up next!

During the last session in the Runners Education Series on May 22 at the Tidewater Performance Center in Newport News, Tidewater’s Physical Therapists and Performance Coaches will offer runners a chance to test their functional movements using the Functional Movement Screen, a seven-screen assessment that evaluates a runner’s physical strengths and weaknesses. Tidewater Performance Coaches will show runners how to correct basic movement patterns to maximize running form and decrease the risk of injury.

Benick, also a degreed and certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, enjoys teaching local runners the correct exercises for improving their training program.

“That’s part of what Tidewater stands for,” she said. “We want to be educators to our community.”


Want to make your own training appointment with Katie Benick or her team of Performance Coaches? Learn more about the Tidewater Performance Center or email Benick at