The Dos And Don’ts Of Cross-Training For Runners

It can be difficult to figure out how classes and cross-training work in with a marathon or half marathon training program.


As a coach, one of my jobs is to create a balanced training program that allows my runners to meet their running goals, while still being able to meet their professional and personal goals. Part of this balance is knowing exactly how much cross-training to do and when to do it. Cross-training is probably one of the subjects I get asked about the most.

In the age of ClassPass and the rise of the fitness class studio trend, it’s difficult to figure out how classes and cross-training work in with a marathon or half marathon training program. If your goal is related to running, you need to stay focused on the running portion of your program and not get too caught up in taking fitness classes.

I know this sounds simple and to many of you may be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people have come to me for help during the middle of marathon training who don’t realize their cross-training activities are why they are struggling so much with their runs. Too much or too little cross-training can prevent you from reaching your goals.

Before we get any further, let’s discuss what counts as cross-training: Any physical activity or workout that is not running is cross-training. Yoga, spinning, strength training, barre classes, swimming and high-intensity interval training are all examples of cross-training workouts. Simple, right? What isn’t so simple is figuring out how to work these into your marathon training schedule.

Follow these rules to get the most out of your cross training.


  • Complete 1 – 3 cross-training workouts per week.
  • Choose an activity that allows your body to move differently than you do while running.
  • Primarily strength training based workouts.
  • Make it an activity you enjoy.
  • Activities that are mostly low-impact.
  • Movements that focus on your running weaknesses (i.e. include single leg deadlifts in your routine to strengthen glutes so you avoid injury and run stronger).
  • Cross-train more often during the off-season.


  • Continue to do workouts that leave you so sore that you have to skip running workouts.
  • Prioritize cross-training over running.
  • Do sports that involve lots of running (i.e. soccer).
  • Avoid plyometrics.
  • Jump into a new form of exercise too quickly without giving your body time to adapt.
  • Increase cross-training activities during the taper.

Read More:
The Best Cross-Training For Runners
This Is How To Make Cross-Training Less Daunting