These Strength And Cross-Training Workouts Will Improve Your Running

Are you really ready for that race?


Ondela Mlandu |

The first quarter of the year is generally a busy one for runners across South Africa. Some of the biggest running events are on the horizon, so you’ll most likely have your head in the game already. Prep is key. So, are you ready to level up your game with these running workouts?

Strength and cross-training are essential for most runners to ensure a steady progression. We sourced some great workout tips from running technique coach Sean Tait on the best way to improve your running time.

Cardio, in the form of cross-training, is more beneficial to beginner runners than more advanced runners. “Beginner runners won’t be at a point where they can train on a high running mileage, so it’s worthwhile to supplement other cross-training activities that develop the cardiovascular system but don’t provide the impact stress on the body to add to their running programme. More experienced runners who can run a lot more may not have the space or the need to supplement their training with other activities,” says Sean.

If you’re a time-crunched runner, Sean advises only doing three sessions per week and not involving any cross-training activities.

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Running workouts: cross-training

Cross-training includes a variety of exercises that helps improve your performance.

1/ Cycling

Cycling is often better than swimming for runners, as it requires a similar combination of muscle groups. Having said that, a swim might just be what your body needs if your legs are really tired and/or sore. “Cycling targets muscle groups more closely related to running than most cross-training activities,” says Sean. Around 45 to 60 minutes of easy cycling or spinning is a great way to recover on your non-running days, while still reaping cardiovascular rewards.

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2/ Swimming

If you’re comfortable in the water, swimming stimulates upper-body development to give you more whole-body fitness. “It’s also fluid, smooth and non-weight-bearing, which means you recover from a swim really quickly,” says Sean. About 45 minutes (including some short rests) is adequate. If you’re new to swimming, Sean doesn’t recommend this method for you – you’ll likely be uncomfortable and experience high heart rates in what is supposed to be a recovery session.

3/ Strength training

Strength training is a staple in a runner’s training programme. For those who aren’t comfortable in the water or on a bike, opt for a cardio-based circuit that includes low weights and consistent exertion at medium-low heart rates, says Sean.

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And strength training

Do these moves:

1/ Rotational crunches

As a change-up to the standard crunch, reach with your right hand to 45 degrees across to the left side your body. Uncoil and lower yourself down slowly. Repeat with the left hand to the right side.

Reps: 3 x 20 (alternating sides)

2/ Plank circuit

To break away from the standard plank, try to lift each one of your four limbs off the ground every 10 seconds. Start with your right arm and go counter-clockwise.

Reps: 2

3/ Hip flexor stretch/lunge

This doubles as a strength and stretch drill. Start on one knee with the hips forward. Go into a lunge position, but keep your hips forward (you should feel a stretch in your hip flexor). Lower yourself back down onto the knee, slow and steady.

Reps: 3 x 5 (on each side)

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