Is cross-training important when training for a half marathon?

Yes, it sure is. Cross training helps to prevent injury. 
Great question! Cross-training can help strengthen your core, upper and lower body to prevent injury. Incorporating resistance bands, free weights, swimming and cycling can provide a much needed break from the high-impact of running. I hope this helps and have fun!

Cross training is an essential part of a marathon training routine. Introducing lower impact cardio will decrease the stress on your joints while allowing you to maintain and progress your fitness training. Cross training is also a great way to keep your exercise routine interesting for body and mind. Having run several marathons myself, it can be easy to over train for a race when focusing solely on running. Cross training will assist you in achieving great results in your race, good luck.

Yes, it is important to cross-train. First, use non-weight bearing cardio equipment such as a bike or elliptical to help reduce the impact on the legs. You can also use circuit training to work both a cardiovascular and strength training session into a short time frame. When designing a running program, the strength training is also important. Circuit training is a good way to get the strength you will need while continuing to build on your cardiovascular fitness. Because of the already high demands on the legs while running, the circuit programs should have limited lower body exercises. The upper-body exercises should focus on the larger muscle groups with exercises that will keep you in good form. The circuit should be short with limited rest and high repetitions. Using medicine balls, exercise bands, and dumbbells allows for creativity in the exercises while enabling you to move from one exercise to the next quickly. By moving from one exercise to the next with low weights, you can keep your heart rate up. This allows you to reduce some of your running time but still get the cardiovascular benefits. In a half marathon training program some type of cross-training is recommended several times a week.

Cross training has its place while gearing up for a half marathon, but the best way to prepare for covering 13.1 miles is to run!   Choose a solid training plan that focuses on one long run per week and three runs of varying tempos and mileage.  Add in a day or two of biking, swimming or elliptical training and one to two days of complete rest and your body will be well equipped to handle the upcoming challenge.  Happy running!



I view cross training as performing differing activities to maintain overall fitness and health. In respect to marathon training, most athletes hit the trails and run, run, run and typically try to throw some stretching and core work in there. I rarely see marathon athletes perform too much weight work due to the fact that the body adapts to the imposed demands of endurance running (which is to keep the body light and lean). I have been in some of the elite cycling gyms in the Colorado region and while the biking equipment is beautiful, the weights are hardly touched.

However, I fully believe that all athletes can benefit from changing it up and keeping the body guessing. Therefore, I highly recommend cross training for marathon athletes. The following training methods are what each marathon athlete should include in their training regimen:

* Distance running (both on uneven terrain and smooth surface)
* Flexibility training
* Core work
* Balance training
* Speed, agility, quickness
* Strength endurance training
* Power/explosive training (including plyometrics)

The previous bullet points can be achieved through a number of different training methods (including weight room work and sports activities). They are obviously high level topics, but I'd love to talk with you further about specific regimens if you're interested?

Hope this helps!

As a distance coach (and runner myself), I am a firm believer of cross training; regardless of the distance that you are training for. The repeated pounding of distance running on hard, paved surfaces beats you up. Cross training, be it on a bike, elliptical, or in a pool allows you to continue to improve your cardio while sparing your legs.

When training for an endurance event (such as a half to full marathon) cross training is extremely important, as it will help develop overall strength and conditioning. The repetitive motion of running, coupled with the joints providing some shock absorption when the feet strike the ground, can lead to overuse of certain muscles and/or tendons and ligaments.

Plan to cross train at least once per week with an activity that will provide a slightly different range of motion to the joints and muscles, as well as a slightly different challenge. This will help the body to build greater over balance to each muscle group.

Some activities to consider when planning cross training days are:

  • Cycling/Spinning
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Power Yoga
  • Dance
  • Pilates

Note that cross training differs from your weight training days, which are designed to increase strength for your chosen sport. By implementing 1-2 cross training activities per week you are sure to notice an overall balance and better range of motion through the entire body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.