Psst: we’ve got a secret to share: running isn’t just about running.
We know it sounds counterintuitive, but take it from us: shaking up your exercise routine can do wonders for your running performance. And it has other benefits, too: if you’re already sticking to a training plan for a 5k, 10k or half marathon, building in some other types of exercise can stop you getting bored, exhausted or risking injury.
Taking the occasional break from high-impact running and engaging in another type of activity also gives your joints a rest and works different muscle groups to the ones you use when you’re out pounding the streets. It’s called cross-training – adding different types of exercise into your routine to develop a more balanced set of skills that your body can draw on when needed.
Read on for our top tips for finding your new favourite complementary exercise.
1) Mix it up at the gym.
We all have our favourite gym routines and habits – and we all have those machines we avoid. So if you’re a treadmill and cross trainer kind of person, why not give the running machine and exercise bike a shot? Get off autopilot and try something different – and if you’re aching the next day, you know you’ve done some good.
2) Try a class.
From aqua aerobics to Zumba, there are countless exercise classes to try. Get out of your comfort zone and do something you’d never normally do; maybe even challenge yourself to test out a new class a week for a whole month. If you’re nervous, bring a friend – but if you’re flying solo, remember classes are a great way to meet like-minded people.
3) Less intense exercise still counts.
Swimming? Brilliant idea – it’s low-impact but still aerobic and works the whole body. Yoga? Yes please – increases flexibility, mobility, focus and core strength. Running gives you plenty of cardio, so experiment with lower impact exercise to complement your regime without exhausting yourself.
4) Give HIIT a go.
If you’re short on time, you could try HIIT – short bursts of high-intensity exercise designed to maximise your workout. It’s perfect for busy types as you can do it anywhere – even in your own front room.
5) Make sure it works for you.
Whatever you decide, though, it needs to fit with you, your fitness goals and your routine. Think about what you’re trying to achieve with cross training: are you chasing a personal best? Looking to improve your overall fitness? Or do you want to boost your flexibility? And be realistic. How much time do you have? Are you the kind of person who gets bored easily, or will you beat yourself up if you miss a session? What’s available locally? The answers to these questions will lead you to your answer – and help you hit your running goals, too.