Cross Training Workouts: A Guide To Cross Training Workouts For Runners

Cross training workouts running

Cross Training Workouts: A Guide To Cross-Training Workouts For Runners

Pro-Image Event Photography, Boise, Idaho

Cross Training Workouts should be a part of any runners training program. Cross Training Workouts for Runners provide a more holistic approach to training. By holistic, I mean that we learn to use different muscles, different combinations of muscles and ligaments, different patterns of movement (biomechanics), different mental proprioception, and challenge the body in different ways. Essentially, we keep it interesting and I believe that the athlete becomes more well-rounded. 

It is really tempting to simply want to run as the sole activity of training. It makes sense right? You are a runner, and to get better at running, we have to run. However, cross training workouts are the difference between what we want and what we need. 

This is about listening to your body. Whilst engaging in various forms of cross training does not use the same biomechanical patterning as running (as in a running ‘stride’ or form), the heart is still beating, and therefore you are still improving the amazing engine that is your body. 

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” 

– Ryan Sandes (Pro Salomon Trail Runner) 

Trying a new form of training can be daunting. You can feel vulnerable from the feeling of ‘newness’ after being comfortable in one or a few sports for a while. I personally hadn’t been on a mountain bike or road biking (other than commuting) for a while. Today I decided to take what is a very dodgy, extremely old model mountain bike that I use as transport in Boise and go for my first mountain/road bike ride. Why? I felt like it and I had a curiosity to explore the contagious stoke that the biking community of Boise and Idaho have. I am having a small break from running for physical and mental health purposes. I also wanted to challenge myself a little bit. 

It was a blast. I caught the bug, and I will be trying it again. All it took was one ride. I truly believe this is the same for others, so I encourage you to try a cross training workout next time you are unmotivated to run, feel a little niggle occurring or simply want to experience something else (and still keep the heart beating). I even got to experience the beautiful golden hour in the Foothills of Boise. See my photo below.

 

cross training workouts for runners

This is my favourite photo I have ever taken. I’m not entirely sure why, and it was a bit rushed honestly. My hands were freezing and my heart rate was through the roof after climbing a hill in the cold air. It was exhilarating though. I think it is the colours and obscurities of the sunlight.

Cross Training Benefits

cross training benefits

Pro-Image Event Photography, Boise, Idaho

Cross training benefits are numerous, particularly the benefits of cross training for runners. 

 

“The Struggle was real, but every second was worth it” 

-Nouria Newman (French Slalom Canoeist, Red Bull)

 

When runners get injured (and I am speaking for myself here too), it can be quite amusing to observe their habits of self-diagnosis before they actually get a diagnosis. Often they’ll use Dr. Google, the usual rehab methods involving tape and ice, maybe they’ll even be wise and take a few days off. However, we can prevent injury often by cross training, and learning to move our body in many different ways, utilizing many different muscles, in different coordination and patterns of movement. 

To put it simply, we allow our body and mind a break from the repetitive movement of running. Often this allows the muscles, ligaments and tendons to heal a bit so you’re better prepared for your next run. 

My mum who is a sports medicine physician in Australia once shared with me some very wise words about cross training for running. The heart is still beating. It doesn’t know the difference between a long swim, long run or long ride. She explained this to me whilst I was recovering from one of many sprained ankles. Whilst our musculoskeletal patterning may differ, we are still getting a very valuable training effect. 

We are also training our mind differently. We are building mental toughness. For example, when I choose swimming as a cross training workout, I am inflicting myself (or am I actually benefiting myself?! That’s the paradox!) staring at some pool tiles and a black line for a significant amount of time. This is difficult when I have the privilege of looking at stunning mountain or seaside landscapes when I run outside. 

Personally, my biggest cross training benefit has been the comfort I have in knowing that if I get injured, I am fully capable of throwing myself into a variety of other sports. In these sports I am distracted from my running injury, yet finding joy in a new and refreshing activity. Again, this is why I’d encourage you to integrate cross training workouts into your running schedule.

Cross Training Examples

cross training examples

Pro-Image Event Photography, Boise, Idaho

Below is a list of cross training examples I can think of. Maybe you could integrate a cross training session in instead of a second run, or even in replacement for a recovery run. Looking to increase endurance training load? Why not pop in a cross training workout.

 

“This is your life, live it with passion” 

-Thabang Madiba (Salomon Trail Runner, South Africa)

 

Cycling as Cross Training For Running

Road Cycling

The hardest part about going for a road bike is simply getting on the bike in the first place and starting (at least I find). Whether it’s the cold, the heat, or preparing the bike for the ride. As always, be cautious of vehicles, animals, pedestrians, weather conditions etc. I suggest doing a hilly route and sprinting up the hills, floating the flats, and relaxing on the downs for a solid endurance workout. 

Spin Biking

Spin biking can be a blast, especially with music. I like to create playlists where each song/track has a specific workout purpose allocated to it. For example, there is a mix of sprint songs, high RPM (revolutions per minute) songs, out of the saddle climbing songs, and in the saddle climbing songs, plus recovery songs. It can make for a great workout. If you have the option, you could even try a spin class for some extra motivation. 

 

Mountain Biking as Cross Training For Running

Mountain biking as cross training for running is great as it challenges your proprioception and reaction time, along with continual changes in leg and body movement to navigate the natural changes/variations on the trails. The uphill climbs can really challenge you, as often you’ll be navigating around rocks, facing patches of sand or mud, or avoiding other cyclists and pedestrians (if you’re unlucky). The downhills are simply a hoot. 

 

“I think the mountains have helped keep me alive, keep me going, and keep me focused on this is what I’m doing right now” 

– Jim Morrison (The North Face Mountaineer and Brand Ambassador)

 

Swimming as Cross Training For Running

Swimming is one of my favourite forms of cross training for running. I feel like it works every part of your body, and challenges you to control your oxygen capacity and therefore the breath. To work with the breath when physically exerting yourself is very humbling, and in its own unique way, grounding. The silence of being underwater, and swimming being a solo activity, is also quite meditative. There are so many swim workouts searchable online. I like doing a warm up, cool down, sprint and distance mixed sets, and in the pool fartlek style workouts. 

 

Elliptical as Cross Training For Running

The elliptical trainer is one of the simplest forms of cross training for runners as almost every gym has one, and it doesn’t require you to own any extra equipment. It’s also quite similar to the action of running, without the impact. Many runners I know and train with will supplement running with a session on the elliptical. 

 

Nordic Skiing as Cross Training For Running

This is a challenging cross training activity but the benefit is the miraculous fitness benefits you’ll receive from investing time into skate or classic cross country skiing. It is truly a total body workout. Some of the highest recorded VO2 max levels come from nordic skiers. They have to use both their arms and legs uphill, ski downhill without edges, sidestep corners and maintain a very good sense of balance. Also, altitude is often involved, which means altitude training benefits as an extra. 

 

Cross training running

Pro-Image Event Photography, Boise, Idaho

I guess what I am trying to communicate, or the moral of this post if you like, is don’t be afraid to try something new, or take some time off if you need it. Running will always be there for the most part. We don’t want to be risk-averse, as this doesn’t equal an enriched and life fully lived. If we don’t take a risk here and now, we can’t expect to learn new things about ourselves.

Best Ultramarathon Shoes

 best ultramarathon shoes

Best Ultramarathon Shoes

 

When you think ultramarathon, what often comes to mind is crazy long distances, rugged terrain, ascents and descents (elevation gain, maybe?), varied weather, aid stations, camaraderie, and a massive sense of accomplishment. An ultramarathon shoe is a tool and a very important one at that, that must be tried and tested in training so the runner can rely on it on race day. It has to endure the weather, terrain, and distances. Trail-running is a sport is becoming increasingly popular (especially in light of recent world events), so I thought this may be a good post to explore as the running community expands. In no particular order, I’ve looked at a few popular long-distance, ultra-marathon running specific footwear (trail ultras) – the tech, the fit, and the cost-point. 

Consider what terrain you’ll be spending a significant amount of time on, the distance covered, and potential weather conditions. Why? Because you’ll need to consider the sole and materials of the shoe, so they best suit the conditions. Personally, I like a shoe that works well in mud, on rocks and sandstone escarpments (where I run in Australia has a ton of this) and sand. I also like a sole where I don’t feel sharper surfaces or rocks putting pressure on the bottom of my feet and metatarsals. 

 

Shoe 1: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

bestultramarathonshoes

In the trail and ultra community, this is a well-loved shoe. Having taken a pair for a spin myself, I really enjoyed how it felt like a true ‘race’ trail shoe. Lightweight, well-cushioned, and responsive. The sole isn’t overly aggressive either, so you can run a variety of trail terrain in them. However, the mid-sole of the shoe is particularly thick, so if you like that close to ground contact, and to really feel the heel-to-toe push off, this may not be the shoe for you. After all, Hoka are known for their cushioned shoes, with the rocker feature. If you know your trail shoes, you shouldn’t be surprised about this! The sole is Vibram, with excellent traction/grip- so it does work well on the trails. 

The stability is more on the neutral side, as to be expected from a trail shoe. This allows for better traction and responsiveness on uneven ground and reduces the risk of a dreaded sprained ankle. One thing I did notice about this shoe, is it is better suited for a narrow foot, such as my own. I struggled to find a trail shoe that fits as well as the Speedgoat did. It does fit true to size and width, from the description. 

This shoe has a heel drop of 4mm and weighs around 9.2 ounces for women, 10.8 for men.

 It prices around $145.

Shoe 2: Salomon S Lab Ultra 2

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This is also a highly-discussed and popular shoe in the trail-running world. Salomon promotes this as their ultramarathon specific shoe. Being the 2nd generation model, Salomon has had some time to up the game on the technical features. According to their website, they have improved the weight of the shoe, the durability and kept all the comfort features onboard. The shoe, in essence, retains its speedy trail race purpose. Salomon is known for making shoes that are durable and can deal with almost all terrain. Mud, snow, sand, tree-roots, wood-chips – you name it. The midsole is made of long-lasting polyurethane foam, which Salomon describes as ideal for ultra-running. Their outsole is made of what they term their ‘premium Wet Traction Contragrip’. Since it is a trail-racing designed shoe, I have read from reviews that it generally doesn’t last as long as others, especially if it has been put through the trials of an ultramarathon, or training for one.

This shoe weighs in at 285g (men), and an 8mm heel drop. It prices at $180, however, Salomon is offering it for $135 currently.

 

Shoe 3: Saucony Peregrine 10 

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Saucony promotes this as one of their best trail-running shoes, perfect for uneven and varied terrain, climbing, and descending. It is a neutral shoe, as per most trail running shoes, and is cushioned so they have comfort but still retain that responsive edge. This shoe is great for rocky terrain. Saucony has integrated a rock plate into the sole of the shoe, so you’ll be right on sharper stone surfaces. Further, the outsole has been made to work well in tough conditions that promote wear and tear. Some reviews have said the shoe is quite flexible and therefore is very responsive. Make sure to break this shoe in before you use it for longer runs, including an ultramarathon. 

This shoe weighs 10.7 ounces for men (303g) and 9.3oz for women (264g), and has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. It currently retails for $120 as per Saucony’s website.

 

Shoe 4: Salomon Sense Ride 2

bestultramarathonshoes 2

Different from the S Lab Ultra discussed above, this shoe is perfect for both training and racing and works well on most terrain. This is the perfect shoe if you’re new to ultramarathon training and don’t want to invest in a specific racing shoe just yet. Salomon discusses their technologies for each part of the shoe. The outsole is what they label, ‘Contagrip MA’, which is a sole that is composed of different compounds of varied densities. In utilizing this material, different parts of the sole of the shoe can be harder or softer, as required for the style of shoe Salomon are designing. This ensures that the shoe will likely last longer on varied surfaces. Where the shoe is more likely to wear down (the edge of the heel, as an example), the compound will be higher density and more rigid as a result. The Midsole of the shoe uses ‘Vibe’ technology (it is written on the side of the shoe) – to which Salomon explains “attenuates vibrations” to optimize shoe responsiveness in contact with the ground. To put it more simply, the shoe is designed to absorb shock and adapt appropriately for the comfort of the wearer. The Chassis (the framework or membrane of the shoe to put it in other words, i.e, the insole board or structure), is designed to prevent feeling rocks or sharp surfaces on foot.

 

I do like how they used a quick-lace system for this shoe. It makes life a little easier. If you’re not a fan of this, you could buy laces to lace the shoe normally. I also like the rigid toe box so if you hit large rocks with the front of your foot, or trip up, you don’t get a nasty bloody toenail as a result. This is a big must for me when buying a durable trail shoe. 

The Sense Ride 2 has an 8mm heel drop, and weighs This shoe won’t break the bank, at $84, down from $120 as per Salomon’s website.

 

Shoe 5: Asics Gel-Fujitrabuco 8

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I have personally used these shoes and really enjoyed them. My feet feel supported for a trail shoe, and I don’t feel the rocks underfoot. For me, this is a big bother if the trail has a lot of stones and I know I’ll be out there for a while. The shoe has a rock protection plate in it, which is great. Asics praise this trail-running shoe for its comfort and durability, alongside excellent traction on the sole. I can confirm that the sole grip on this shoe is great, I’ve tested it out in some pretty muddy conditions, such as Boise’s wet, muddy foothills sand. It makes for a whole lot nicer of a run. 

In terms of shoe tech, Asics claim that their ASICSGRIP outsole has bettered the traction on the shoe for wet and slippery surfaces, and uneven terrain. Stability is also an important factor for those who require or desire a bit more support, especially over the ultra-distance. Asics explains that they have improved this on the latest model of the Fujitrabuco, compared to the 7. The shoes also have reflectors on them, great for racing or running at night (in which most ultra’s you will be!)

One thing I did notice was the shoe isn’t too heavy, even though it looks it from the photos online. I was quite surprised when it arrived and felt how light it was compared to my expectations. It weighs around 12.2oz or 346grams, with an 8mm heel drop. These shoes won’t hurt the wallet too much, coming in at around $130. 

What shoes do ultra-marathon runners wear?

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Ultramarathoners wear shoes that are going to last a few tough training sessions, race day, and perform optimally on trails which vary in terrain, incline and can last in unpredictable weather conditions. There isn’t one specific shoe that is going to work better than another as it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Also, most people are looking to spend within a range to suit their budget. I recommend trying shoes on in-store if this is possible, or ordering a few pairs and returning the ones that aren’t suitable. Most places allow for this, especially in these times. Otherwise, read up as much as you can on shoes, and get the advice of teammates, friends, or family in the sport (this is where this post can help out as well!) You’ll assist yourself on the path to achieving your best and being the best ultramarathon runner you can be in a pair of shoes which you feel the best in and are right for your foot type. Which leads perfectly into the next question….

 

What are the best shoes for running ultramarathons?

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Any one of the shoes discussed above may be right for you and your goals, training load, foot type, and injury history (if any, hopefully not too much). There are a few more brands that I didn’t discuss which do good ultramarathon running shoes. Here are some you can check out:

  • Altra
  • Innov
  • Merrel 
  • Nike Trail Running collection (Did you know they have a Nike Pegasus Trail? I love to jog in my Peg 36’s, and it was cool to learn there’s a trail shoe version of this model) I also hear the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 6 isn’t a bad choice either)

As I always stress, take into account your foot type. For example, I have narrow feet, one foot is half a size bigger, and I pronate slightly more. So I’m going to look for a shoe that is slim fitting, doesn’t irritate the heel or Achilles of my bigger foot, and has slightly more stability or a stability piece integrated into the model of the shoe. Most ultramarathon shoes are neutral in design, as this is best for varied terrain and prevention of ankle sprains. The shoe is more flexible and your foot can adapt to the changes in terrain easier with this type of fit.

It’s also important to consider cushioning and heel-to-toe drop, as the higher the shoe is off the ground, the more likely you are to sprain an ankle. For me, this is a no-go, particularly when fatigue hits, and my step or stride is prone to becoming more clumsy in a race or session. 

 

What shoes do elite ultramarathoners train in?

The best wear the shoes they feel most comfortable and confident in. They definitely trial and test their shoes before race day, whether it’s in speed specific, race-specific or base-building training sessions. Know the shoe and how it works. I know of elite ultramarathoners who swear by Salomon and others who love Saucony. It really is about personal preference. Often companies that align better with the outdoors scene, trail running specifically and are known for durable, reliable gear, will draw in the ultramarathon crowd on a larger scale. 

 Keep in mind, most elites have a sponsorship of some sort, so it is likely they’ll be sporting a specific model of their sponsorship line of shoes. They’ll probably promote them too, on social media and on race day. Also, to end on a nice note, I saw plenty of these beautiful wildflowers which have just started to bloom on the trails today. What a beautiful time of year to be clocking in mileage….

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