Is Hybrid Running the Next Big Thing?

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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Is Hybrid Running the Next Big Thing?

There are many reasons runners need to add strength training to their workout routines, including injury prevention and enhanced performance. So it’s no surprise combo workouts for runners have been around for a long time, and with the rise in hybrid running — a mix of running and bodyweight exercises — has seen a recent rise in popularity. Instead of holding a steady heart rate zone, these interval-style workouts mix things up, forcing you to work in more than one heart rate zone for various distances. This encourages your body to adapt to variations in pace and utilize fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers while taxing the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

WHAT IS HYBRID RUNNING

Instead of running a combo workout such as a fast 1,500 followed by a mix of 400- and 800-meter intervals or a boot camp-like session with weights, hybrid running mixes running intervals with bodyweight strengthening. Meant to be a high-intensity session, these workouts are similar to HIIT workouts, offering a challenging session that mixes cardio and strength. Instead of hitting the barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells in the gym, the philosophy behind bodyweight training is it can closely simulate the stress of running by focusing on higher repetitions of exercises that force you to control your body weight while you’re fatigued.

Since a lot of runners focus most of their attention on running, these workouts place a greater emphasis on strengthening and improving weaknesses that can enhance running performance. For runners who don’t like strengthening workouts, it can be a way to sneak in a functional strength-training session while also getting a few quick miles added to your weekly total. Hybrid running workouts are also said to be ideal for runners looking to lose weight by maximizing calorie burn in shorter durations, making for an efficient workout for anyone short on time. In many cases, shorter, intense training can use just as much energy as long endurance runs.

Weight loss, athleticism and balancing muscular weaknesses are the focus, and these workouts can be a great way to complement traditional running regimens and keep your training from getting stale.

HYBRID RUNNING STUDIOS

Similar to a fitness studio or cross-training gym, hybrid running studios like STRIDE in Pasadena, California, have recently become popular. Classes revolve around treadmill workouts that are fast-paced and meant to simulate running fast on tired legs while burning lots of calories.

For example, a quick set of three treadmill intervals of 45 seconds, 60 seconds and 90 seconds (with 30 seconds of active recovery in between) can be followed with sets of single-leg bridges, stepups and jump squats for 4 minutes before jumping back on the treadmill for another round. The incline, intensity and areas of the body targeted can vary from class to class and are designed by the coaches leading the workout.

These workouts are perfect for beginners or individuals who don’t think of themselves as runners because of the shorter durations. “Running is mystified to so many people,” says Leanne Pedante, head run coach at STRIDE. “I talk to strong, athletic people all the time and they say, ‘yeah, but I can’t run.’ To come into a space like this and show people that yeah, you can run, and then have them be completely in love with it is awesome.”

IS IT RIGHT FOR YOU?

Like anything else, no single workout or training schedule will be right for everyone. Running or weight-loss goals, injury history and the type of workouts you prefer all play a factor in whether or not hybrid workouts are right for you.
If you are the type of person who wants to get into running or have found running boring in the past, this style of workout may mix things up in a way that holds your attention. For seasoned runners looking to add variety to a training routine and use strength training to improve upon weaknesses, including hybrid running and bodyweight training days could be what you need to take your performance to the next level.
Make sure you begin these high-intensity workouts conservatively and recover properly in between sessions. Treat them just as you would any other interval or strength-training session, avoiding back-to-back days and allowing rest days as needed. If you have pre-existing injuries, consult a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor before drastically changing your current running or weight-loss routine.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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