5 cross-training workouts to make you a better runner

Becoming a better runner isn’t simply about putting in longer, harder miles week after exhausting week. Far from it. Running coach Elizabeth Corkum explains how you can benefit from this range of easily accessible cross-training workouts.

1/ Weight training

‘I am a huge advocate of weight training because I find that most runners are extremely weak in their hamstrings and their glutes, and therefore they rely on their quads to do a whole lot of the work,’ says Corkum. This imbalance can lead to injuries such as IT band syndrome and runner’s knee. Corkum favours kettlebells, which help activate stabilising muscles that wouldn’t be engaged otherwise.

2/ Hiking/backpacking/rock climbing

Hiking and backpacking are great for active recovery, especially on uneven trails where small stabilising muscles have to activate, says Corkum. And rock climbing is a good total-body workout that strengthens areas running does not.

3/ Cycling

Easy cycling can speed your recovery from a tough workout, as it increases blood flow to your legs without putting them through the pounding of running. Avoid hard efforts during your training unless you’re cycling to stay fit while rehabbing an injury, says Corkum.

Related: 3 ways to fit cycling into a running plan

4/ Fitness classes

Classes that blend strength training, flexibility work and/or plyometric moves improve all-around fitness in ways running will not. Yoga, in particular, helps improve your strength and range of motion, says Corkum: ‘It’s great for a rest day – think of it as bonus stretching.’

5/ Swimming

Whatever your stroke, swimming is an excellent active-recovery workout that’s easy on the joints. ‘It also helps you get really in tune with your breath,’ says Corkum. ‘I think that awareness is then helpful when you’re powering up a hill or sprinting on a track.’

Related: 7 things to remember when taking up swimming as a runner