Cross-training For Endurance Athletes


Cross training can be defined as a supplementary style of fitness training that is different from ones sport. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the term “cross-training.” Cross-training is meant to target a specific energy system in the body, i.e. endurance/long duration activities target the aerobic system; therefore the style of cross training you would want to choose would not be exercises that continue to tax the aerobic system. This is how over-training and overuse injuries occur.  You want to continue to excel in your sport, right? Well, this is where including a resistance training routine comes in to play, as it utilizes the other systems ATP-PC, alactic, and lactic systems (depending on how you use resistance training) (Plowman, & Smith, 2013). I won’t go into a breakdown because that would be a whole other post, but each of these systems are for shorter duration activities, i.e. a squat, capping each set at a max of around 2 minutes give or take. Not only will resistance training allow you to train within the other energy systems, but it will also aid in strengthening your muscles, connective tissues and bones, as well as allowing for greater communication within the central nervous system.

Sport Specificity

The style of cross training that you utilize should be specific to your sport. As mentioned above, this is a supplementary style of workout used in order to see improvements, it should be well planned and structured in order to see optimal results and to avoid injury. For running you will want to utilize resistance training in order to strengthen the muscles that are commonly weak (i.e. glutes), work on mobility, loosening tight muscles and improve range of motion. Supplementing running with another aerobic activity like cycling, swimming or an elliptical for example isn’t going to cross over into increasing running performance (Perks of Cross-Training, 2011). This is because these activities do not train the muscles the same way as running would, yet you still end up taxing the aerobic system (Perks of Cross-Training, 2011). Resistance training can be imperative for producing a strong functioning body that allows you to continue performing in your sport. A recent study has shown that weight lifting could help to increase performance in runners because it trains supporting muscle fibers (Storen, Helgerud, Stoa, & Hoff, 2008). What this could mean is that these muscles will get recruited and utilized when fatigue starts to set in (Storen, et. al, 2008). This could reduce the risk of overuse injuries, as having a strong base of supportive muscular will be key, not just for runners but for other sports as well.

The Plan

Develop a plan, this part is crucial, whether you out source a professional or you do your own research. Having a plan to follow will help guide you so that you know what to do while performing your cross-training. It is important to work on musculature that is often seen as weaker than the dominating muscles surrounding it. You do not need to go into the gym and crush 3-4 resistance training workouts a week where you are isolating specific muscle groups, all the while pounding the pavement with kilometers. You likely will be achy and sore and not be able to put on the same amount of kilometers that you desire. That is why the plan needs to be specific. Spend 30+ minutes a few times a week working on your weak points, as well as rolling and stretching to help you not only achieve your goals, but help push you further to set and reach even bigger ones. If you enjoy other activities such as cycling, swimming or swimming you can still do them! The only way to one hundred percent avoid a sports injury is to not do that sport, but the training you supplement that sport with can help reduce the risks.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions shoot me an email at!


Perks of Cross-Training May End Before Finish Line (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2016, from

Plowman, S. A., & Smith, D. L. (2013). Exercise physiology for health fitness and performance. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Storen, O., Helgerud, J., Stoa, E. M., & Hoff, J. (2008). Maximal strength training improves running economy in distance runners. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 40(6), 1087.


Related posts:

Share your thoughts