5 Summer Cross-Training Activities To Make You a Stronger Runner

Abbie Mood
by Abbie Mood
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5 Summer Cross-Training Activities To Make You a Stronger Runner

For many of us, summer is race season. With races comes training and more running — and an increase in running means a bigger risk of an overuse injury. That’s where cross-training comes in. Several studies show that cross-training is great for overall fitness, rehabbing injuries and can also improve your running performance.


According to Dr. Heather North, owner of Red Hammer Rehab in Louisville, Colorado, and co-founder of Revolution Running, “the gluteal muscles are major injury preventers because they stabilize the leg by keeping the knee driving over the feet and preventing knee pronation (internal rotation) and helping prevent foot pronation. If you keep the mechanics lined up, you decrease injuries substantially.”

Activities that build up your glutes are a good place to start when it comes to cross-training, such as:

  • Cycling: Staying seated when you go up hills keeps the focus on your glutes, not your thighs.
  • Hiking: Walking uphill requires you to push off with your glutes as you step up.
  • Rollerblading: Each time you push forward with your rollerblades, you’re using those gluteal muscles.
  • Beach volleyball: While many of us think volleyball focuses on our arms, it takes quite a bit of lunging and squatting to get into position and to set up the ball for your teammates.



Beyond building strong glutes, turn to cross-training to work muscles your running routine sometimes neglects.


Team sports are  great for general fitness and keeping your heart rate up, which is always a good way to stay fit,  (Think: soccer, tennis or basketball). The short bursts of speed required are similar to a high-intensity training session, which has been shown to boost your VO2  max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use when you’re exercising.


Most runners loathe the gym because we run to get outside. But it’s been shown that just 30–60 minutes of strength training per week is enough to impact your running performance.


Rowing is frequently touted as a great full-body workout, so rent a kayak and hop on the water for a couple hours. (If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want to stick to calmer water like a lake, bay or creek.) You may think a couple hours, or even an hour, doesn’t sound like a long time, but don’t be surprised if your whole body is sore the next day. Rowing obviously works your arms and back, but it can also work your core, and the entire rowing motion starts with your legs.


It’s nice to give your joints a break occasionally, with a no-impact activity like swimming. Whether it’s at the pool, the beach or a lake, swimming is a wonderful cardio workout that also strengthens your arms and back. Many runners don’t think about their upper body, but your arms help propel you forward (especially on hills), and your back helps keep your form aligned, which means it doesn’t hurt to throw in a little arm workout every once in awhile.


Speaking of upper-body strength, rock climbing is a fun way to cross-train. Again, most people don’t think of climbing as a full-body workout, but you push off of each hold with your legs before reaching with your arms. Holding yourself into the wall also takes some core strength, especially on an overhanging wall or roof. You may get a bit of a cardio workout in, too, but it’s more of that short-burst activity like the sports we mentioned above.

So whether you like to get in the water, climb mountains or stay on level ground, there’s something you can do this summer that will also make you a stronger runner. It’s also a great way to try a new activity, while mixing up your regular fitness routine!


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About the Author

Abbie Mood
Abbie Mood

Abbie is a freelance writer and editor based out of Colorado. She loves writing about a variety of topics from running to soccer to social/environmental issues, and when she isn’t writing, Abbie tries to be outside as much as possible. You can find her online at her website or on Twitter/Instagram @abbiemood.


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