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Best Summer Cross-Training for Runners

Looking for non-running training to tackle this summer? Try these great activities to stay fit.

Photo: Getty Images

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While running mileage and running workouts should form the bread and butter of most training plans for runners, it is also important to cross-train.

Cross-training for runners offers numerous benefits, one of which has a seasonal component: summer cross-training for runners who live in warm climates allows you to work out and avoid some of the heat strain of running outside when it’s hot and humid out.

But, what are the best summer cross-training workouts for runners?

In this article, we will discuss some of the best summer cross-training for runners to help you reduce your risk of injury and keep training in pursuit of your running goals even when it is oppressively hot and sticky outside.

What Is the Best Summer Cross-Training for Runners?

There isn’t necessarily a single best type of summer cross-training for runners. The best summer cross-training for runners will depend on your training goals, fitness level, the climate in which you live, injury risk, overall training plan, and availability to perform different types of running cross-training workouts.

At any time of the year, generally speaking, the best cross-training for runners involves choosing low-impact exercises or non-weight-bearing exercises to help reduce the impact stress on your musculoskeletal system relative to the high-impact nature of running.

For this reason, any type of low-impact cross-training exercise that can be done in an air-conditioned gym or home gym that keeps you out of the summer heat, humidity, and direct sunlight can be a great option for summer cross-training for running.

RELATED: 13 At-Home Cross-Training Exercises for Runners

Examples include using the elliptical machine, riding an indoor cycling bike or exercise bike, using a stair climber, doing a rowing machine workout, or using a hybrid trainer like a Bowflex Max Trainer.

However, there are also excellent options for outdoor summer cross-training for runners. You can take advantage of the summer weather, particularly if you live in an area where it is not dangerously hot with risks of heat-related illnesses while still giving your body a relative break from the pounding of running.

Some of the best outdoor summer cross-training workouts for runners include hiking, mountain biking, road biking, stand-up paddle boarding, rowing on the water, kayaking, swimming or aqua jogging in an outdoor pool or open water, riding an ElliptiGO (outdoor, moving elliptical), and rollerblading in a safe area.

One of the challenges of cross-training for runners is often deciding how to structure cross-training workouts. Cross training can be monotonous if you are on an indoor exercise machine, aqua jogging for a long time, or swimming wrap after lap.

Here is an example of a fun, challenging summer cross-training workout for runners to keep cool in the water while reducing the impact on your body:

Fartlek 45 Minute Swim Workout for Runners

A fartlek is a common workout format for runners. The term is Swedish for “speed play,“ so fartlek workouts involve changing up your speed or pace without stopping in between intervals.

Long-distance swimming at a steady pace can get somewhat boring, particularly once you are working your way up to a full 45-minute swim workout to replicate the duration of a run on your training schedule.

This 45-minute swim workout uses a fartlek format to intersperse periods of faster swimming to not only challenge different energy systems and push your aerobic fitness, but also to help break up the monotony of lap after lap of swimming at a steady pace.

This is a great summer cross-training workout for runners who are training for a 10K or half marathon, but it can also serve as a challenging swimming workout for runners who are trying to set a 5K PR and build endurance and anaerobic strength.

Another benefit of this summer cross-training workout for runners who are training with others is that everyone can do the workout at the same time in their own lane without needing to wait for fellow swimmers to finish the interval before starting the next one together.

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Rather, you are just going at your own pace while each tackling the swimming workout on your own.

All you will do is set out to swim for 45 minutes without stopping. After 5 minutes at a gentle warm-up pace, begin interspersing intervals of faster swimming. Depending on how easy it is for you to see the clock or your watch, you can either do timed intervals or distance-based intervals if you do not have ready access to a clock.

For distance-based intervals, for the next 30 minutes of the workout, every other length, push the pace. Then, settle back into the normal pace. For timed intervals, swim hard for 45 or 60 seconds, and then ease back down to a recovery pace.

Using effort-based RPE numbers, if you’re swimming at 6-7 out of 10, the “on” length will be an 8-9.

Switching up the pace will also help train your body to switch gears when you run. There are plenty of times in a race when you might want to pass another runner or throw in a surge before the course narrows or turns so that you get out in front of the pack you are in to avoid getting boxed in. Practicing shifting paces without stopping is a great way to hone this skill, and you can use your cross-training workouts to do so.

Save the last five minutes of this summer running cross-training workout for an easy cooldown.

You can replicate the same workout aqua jogging as well.

Stay cool in the summer heat and keep your summer running varied with engaging cross-training workouts that challenge your body in different ways!

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