A lot of runners don’t want to waste time diversifying their workouts when they could be logging miles. (After all, practice makes perfect, and you’ve got a marathon to train for.) But that sort of aerobic single-mindedness comes with drawbacks.
“If you’re supporting musculature isn’t strong enough to maintain proper running position, your form collapses as you grow tired, and you end up with injuries,” says Jeff Horowitz, a certified running coach and author of Quick Strength For Runners. Not only that, but your performance suffers, Horowitz says.
Here, he offers six cross-training exercises that will help every runner maintain form, sidestep injury, and perform his best.
Starting in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, step sideways with one foot and crouch down over it while keeping the leg of your stationary foot straight. Be sure to always keep your toes pointing forward. Come back up to your starting position. Your goal is to do 20 repetitions with each leg.
You’re working your gluteus medius, a small but important stabilizing muscle in your hips, Horowitz says. Also, any movement that requires balance activates the deep core muscles that help you maintain your form during a run.
Start by lying on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the ground near your butt. Raise your hips in the air as high as you can without arching your back. Do 20 repetitions.
You’ll work both your gluteus maximus and gluteus mediu hip muscles, Horowitz says.
Start by lying on your side with one leg on top of other and your knees bent. Raise your top knee until it’s nearly vertical while keeping your feet together. Do 20 repetitions with each leg. You can add a resistance band if this doesn’t seem to engage muscles.
This activates your outer hip and helps prevent “IT band” injuries.
Squat down, keeping your legs bent a little less than 90 degrees. Now walk sideways, sidestepping out with one foot then bringing your other foot over, all the while staying in a crouch. Move 20 or 30 feet in one direction, and then walk back the same way to your starting position.
This builds up strength and stability in both your quads and outer hips.
Standing with your weight on one leg and your hands against a wall for support, swing your free leg in a big arc from side to side. Your goal is a large range of motion. Do two sets of 20 repetitions with each leg.
This is loosening your hip joints, as well as the muscles in your inner and outer thigh.
While standing with your weight on one leg, bend forward and lift your free leg behind you, trying to keep your back and free leg in a straight line. The toes on the foot you lift should be pointing down, which keeps your hips closed. Do 20 repetitions with each leg.
This works both your outer hip and your lower back.
Horowitz says cycling should always be a go-to exercise for runners because it directly targets a lot of the big muscles running neglects. “Runners often have weaker quad muscles and kneecaps that slide around,” he says. Cycling helps strengthen these muscles. “Cycling is also non-impact, which makes it great for recovery after long runs.”