Cycling, swimming and strength training are just a few ways for runners to improve their fitness.

As recently as 15 years ago, few elite runners did much in the way of cross-training, which I like to define broadly to include all forms of resistance training, stretching, and non-impact endurance training activities such as bicycling. Non-impact alternatives to running were grudgingly taken up only when injuries made running impossible and were quickly cast aside when running was resumed.

Most of the elite runners of the previous generation did some stretching, but without much effect on injury risk because they usually failed to customize their stretching routine to fit their individual needs. Only a handful of runners did any amount of resistance training, and again, with questionable methods.

Within the past few years, a rapidly growing number of elite runners have chosen to make cross-training central to their training programs and have begun using more sophisticated methods. The athletes leading this trend are crediting the new approach to cross-training with reducing injuries, accelerating injury rehabilitation, facilitating recovery, and not least of all, helping them run faster by increasing their aerobic fitness, power and efficiency.

Few age-group runners are willing to cross-train as much as the pros do, in part because they simply prefer running to other forms of exercise, but mostly because they aren’t fully convinced of the benefits of cross-training. I’ve provided the benefits of cross-training below, in hopes of persuading you to give a balanced cross-training approach to training for distance running an honest try.

1. Fewer Injuries
2. Faster Rehabilitation
3. Greater Aerobic Fitness
4. More Power
5. Greater Efficiency


About The Author:

Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books, including Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2012). He is also a Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports. To learn more about Matt visit