Cross-training to combat burnout, injuries

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Leimkuhler: Cross-training to combat burnout, injuries


Throughout the summer, I have written several columns about running injuries and various coping and preventative measures, including caring for injuries, acupuncture to alleviate knee pain, collagen to combat joint pain, and dynamic stretching to decrease injuries. But one of the best ways for runners to avoid injuries altogether is by cross-training.

As a multi-sport enthusiast, my cross-training go-to is triathlon. Not only do I enjoy swimming and cycling, but numerous sources site these activities as top cross-training alternatives for runners.


Put simply, to be a better runner, you have to run. However, in, running coach Nancy Howard says that “Cross-training should be part of every fitness plan because it helps reduce the risk of overuse injuries, improves muscular balance, targets your muscles in new and different ways, and aids in muscle recovery.”

Specificity, or how specific a certain exercise is to running, should be your top criteria when choosing an effective cross-training exercise, notes an article in Cycling, deep water running or aqua-jogging, cross-country skiing or using an indoor cross country ski machine such as a Nordic Track, and using the elliptical trainer are activities that utilize the muscles, connective tissues and joints in a manner similar to running but with lower impact on the joints.

Complementary cross-training activities such as swimming, rowing, stair climbing, plyometrics, and walking use the primary running muscles in alternative ways and engage additional muscles not typically used in running. This diversity allows athletes to build greater muscle strength and balance, which reduces the risk of injury.


Given that cycling and swimming are two of the best alternative exercises for runners, taking a break from a strictly running-based program to train for a triathlon would not only complement your running routine but it would also add variety to your workouts, keeping burnout at bay.


Weight lifting is another important piece of the cross-training puzzle. According to, lifting heavy weights uses more muscle fibers and increases strength, making athletes more impervious to injury, and allows the legs to apply more force to the ground in a quicker time frame, which improves running performance.


The article goes on to state that runners should “perform exercises such as dead lifts, pull ups, military press, bench press, squats, lunges, and overhead press that focus on multi-joint, compound movements that build functional strength.”


Adding yoga to your workout regimen will also prove beneficial in all facets of your life. This mindful practice increases flexibility, strength and balance, sharpens focus, fights fatigue, reduces stress, improves oxygenation and circulation of blood, builds a stronger mind-body connection, and fosters a sense of overall well-being.

In short, running too much — and pushing the mileage envelope — can lead to injuries. Adding alternative workouts to your schedule gives your muscles and joints a break from the pounding that’s associated with running while still burning calories and developing cardiovascular fitness.


By mixing cross-training workouts with running you can elevate your races to the next level and ultimately become a better runner. For best results, aim to add up to three cross-training sessions each week without compromising scheduled rest days, which are as vital to training as workouts are.


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