As gyms open up again, now is a great time to take a look at your cross-training. But what exactly should we be doing in the gym to help our running?
Running can sometimes cause issues like muscular imbalances and overuse/overtraining twinges, so it’s important to mix up your training. Cross-training allows you to move your body in ways that mimic running, but gives you a break from running all the miles and pounding the pavements. It strengthens your muscles and helps iron out any issues you may have with niggles.
“As a regular and long distance runner (10K+), I’m a strong advocate for runners incorporating gym days and cross training into their running routine; it’s definitely something that I try to emphasise with people I train or go running with,” says Lolly Campbell, a combat HIIT instructor at Digme Fitness (digmefitness.com).
“My running journey started just over three and a half years ago and it’s something I’m very passionate about. Running helps me in so many ways like building my stamina, endurance, focus and just general overall fitness. It’s also a great way for me to clear my mind on a stressful day. Making sure I maximise my running ability to its full potential and train to allow me to enjoy that me-time is super important,” she says.
Lolly suggests adding a few HIIT sessions into your training programme every week. “The fast and furious Combat HIIT workouts at Digme are a brilliant way to fire up your metabolism while combining intense conditioning training with speed, power and explosive movements,” she explains. “Not only does this allow a runner to improve overall performance, it highlights areas to work on, which reduces the risk of picking up injuries in the future.”
Spin classes are one of Lolly’s top recommendations for cross training sports for a runner, as they mimic the running movement with the use of the lower body, but are low impact, making it easier on your knees. “If you haven’t tried one of Digme’s signature Ride classes yet, you’re missing out,” she says.
Remember that cross training supplements running, it doesn’t replace it. Also, cross training doesn’t have to be long or complicated; it can simply be for 15-20 minutes, like cycling to and from the gym rather than catching a bus or train.
“My top recommendations for the gym are doing free weight functional strength training or circuits. Running is a unilateral sport so it’s important to incorporate unilateral exercises, such as lunges, because runners tend to be weaker on one side than the other,” advises Lolly.Strengthening the hips and glutes is a must. “Adding functional weight circuits will increase power and strength.”
Lolly also recommends joining a yoga class, to help improve your flexibility, mobility and conditioning. “While strength work is really good for in-between-run sessions, it’s also important not to forget flexibility and mobility when running, so that we have a full range of motion and no tightness.”
You may also find that yoga will enable you to slow down the pace of your body and mind, so you can focus on your body alignment, form and technique while stretching out any tight muscles – like hamstrings.
“I have a pretty full-on training schedule each week, because I love getting up and exercising first thing in the morning, giving me that endorphin boost before I’ve even started my day,” says Lolly. “Each week, I try and get in one long run, one speed run, one free run (where I set no distance or time limit and just see where my legs take me), two to three HIIT or cross training sessions in the gym, one spin, and one yoga session on my recovery day. Balance is definitely key,” she says.