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Top 5 Reasons Why Every Runner Should Cross-train

Let’s talk about cross-training. What is it, and why is it so important? If you’re new to running, you may have heard the term cross-training mentioned on occasion. Basically, cross-training means to train in more than one sport, or to combine a variety of exercises different than that of the athlete in training. But how do you go about doing it? Well, we caught up with Jennifer Marcum from Teaching and Training a she gave us the inside scoop on her cross training tricks! We hope you enjoy them, we sure did!

Why is cross-training so important? Here’s a list of Jennifer’s top 5 reasons why a runner should cross-train:

1. It helps to reduce, prevent, and/or heal injury.  I can speak from experience! This past February I ran my first half-marathon. Then a month later, I ran my 2nd one. A month after that, I ran a fairly hilly 10-miler. It was then that I developed some hip and side-of-the-knee pain. The grinding pain in the side of my right knee had gotten so bad it hurt to go up & down steps, let alone run. I found out that I was suffering from IT Band Syndrome at the fibular head. My orthopedic doctor sent me to physical therapy, where I learned hip & glute strengthening exercises. I was eventually referred to a chiropractor for Active Release Therapy (ART), where he noticed my knee was collapsing inward when I ran. I was given even more strengthening exercises.  

Let me say, I used to do leg work in the gym with my trainer, but got away from it when I started running & my trainer’s motto was “bigger…stronger…faster”. I felt like my legs were getting very bulky, heavy, and sore…that it was interfering with my running. I thought running was working my legs, so what was the point in the squats, lunges, leg press machine, and leg curls? So I quit doing leg workouts and just focused on my upper body. BIG MISTAKE!  Boy was I ignorant to running & cross-training… I was just starting out… what did I know?

2. Cross-training strengthens, tones, and improves over-all fitness.  I may not always feel in the mood to do a workout and sometimes have to force myself to do it, but once it’s over I’m so glad I did it!  I feel so much better…physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I also have to remind myself that bikini season is just around the corner.  Who doesn’t want to look and feel good?

3. It prevents boredom in routine and keeps motivation high.  What’s that saying?...Variety is the spice of life!  I like doing different workouts when I can find the time…keeps me on my toes so to speak.

4. Helps improve performance and speed.  Since my injury, I haven’t run any races to see if my speed/times have improved.  I am currently training for my 3rd half-marathon that takes place in December.  I will say that my times have somewhat improved on my training runs.  We’ll see next month just how much these strengthening exercises have helped my performance and speed.  Fingers crossed!

5. Cross-training can be a great stress reliever!  Any workout for that matter can relieve stress.  Being a teacher, I need to relieve stress by any means possible.

What are some tips/tricks to cross-training?  Here’s a list of my top 5 tips/tricks to cross-training:

1. Find something you will enjoy and have fun with it.  If you’re not going to enjoy it, or it’s going to feel like a chore every time, then it’s probably not the workout for you.

2. It should supplement your running and make you a better runner.  How is the cross-training you choose going to benefit you in your running?  Here are some things that work for me:

  • Strength training (lower & upper body) at least twice a week (lower body: exercises to strengthen the hips, glutes, quads
  • and upper body: biceps, triceps, and back with dumbbells & machines). 
  • Yoga/Pilates for stretching, flexibility, and to relieve tension.  Before my short runs, I try to do a few poses to work out the stiffness before heading out for a 5am run.  The day before & the morning of my long runs, I try to do at least 30 minutes of my 10-Minute Solutions DVD.
  • Abdominal workouts for core strength.  My favorite is Ab RipperX in the P90X series.
  • During my rehab, I tried many alternatives to at least keep the cardio part up:  rode my bike, swam laps & tried aqua jogging, used the elliptical trainer, stationary bike, and walked.

3. Listen to your body.  Don’t do an activity that’s going to do more harm than good.  You don’t want to do anything too difficult that will lead to injury.

4. Find activities that fit into your schedule. Most of us have busy lives, but you still need to make time for cross-training.  Ask yourself…do I want to continue my main activity, or do I want to risk being side-lined due to injury?

5. Keep at it…don’t give up! Try to make cross-training a normal part of your weekly routine.

If there’s one thing I hope you take away from reading this, it’s that “variety is the spice of life”!  Don’t be a “one-trick” pony!  Cross-training is so important if you want to continue your passion.

Read more stories from the inspirational Jennifer Marcum aka Teacher in Training here:! You can also find Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter



Just answer our question: What is your favorite cross training activity? Tell us by leaving a comment below and you’ll be entered to WIN some Bani Bands schwag!


  • Swimming! Works everything without impact.

    Barbara Chartier
  • My favorite cross training is weight lifting! :D

    Lindsay M.
  • My favorite cross training activity is biking. Gets me outside and works different muscles. Bonus points: My husband will actually bike with me (he won’t run with me).

    Jacqui Neal
  • Yoga is my favorite cross training activity.

    Tersa M.
  • I love to bike w/ my husband we pull our little ones when weather is not too horrible until snow comes or weekends, otherwise I do Fit mom’s for life work outs, when not running!

    Jennevieve Anderson

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