Fun Summer Cross Training Ideas for Runners
On Minnesota streets and lakeside trails, flocks of runners are building mileage in preparation for fall marathons, engaging in speed workouts for summer 5Ks or tackling trail races, triathlons and relay races. Other runners are foregoing a rigorous training plan to embrace the season when Minnesota comes alive, instead diving headfirst into lake life, cabin weekends and patio seating.
Whether you’re overcoming an injury, between training plans or looking for workouts to supplement your running, cross training is an integral part of any fitness plan. Incorporating cross training into your running routine can build muscle, provide low-impact alternatives and add variety in training.
Unlike the sometimes dreadful winter cross training on stationary bikes and ellipticals in dingy apartment exercise rooms, the (mostly) fabulous weather of summer provides plenty of fun opportunities for outdoor cross training. The cross training ideas below include something for everyone: in-season runners looking to enhance their training plans and off-season “weekend warriors” looking for active adventures that meld exercise with seasonal fun.
On the Bike
As the second most bike friendly state, Minnesota makes cross training on a bike an easy option, with trails and bike lanes galore. Don’t worry about your equipment: a fancy road bike isn’t required to get a good cross training workout on wheels. Use whatever bike you have available, and focus on effort instead of distance covered.
Interval Workout: Bike intervals elevate your heart rate and replicate a track workout without the impact. Use Hennepin County’s bike route map to find a trail long enough to complete intervals without needing to slow down for street crossings. Then take a page from triathlete Linsey Corbin’s training plan with this speedy workout, great for revving up your fast-twitch muscles for shorter summer races:
Short warm-up, 10x1min all-out with 2min easy recovery, 10-15min cooldown
Recovery Workout: A leisurely 60-90min bike ride is the perfect opportunity to acclimate your body to summer heat, test out a new flavor of gel or gently recover from a speed workout.
Off-Season: Incorporate biking into your weekend plans: bike to brunch, a Twins’ game, a farmer’s market or the plethora of local breweries popping up in Minnesota. Grab a friend and explore the robust web of Twin Cities trails (and ice cream shops.) Bikeless? Rent a bike or borrow a friend’s.
In the Water
When the heat’s in full throttle, cross training in a lake or pool is a refreshing change of pace. In addition to a cardiovascular workout, swimming and pool running workouts will challenge your upper body more than running.
Interval Workout: Seasonal heavy thunderstorms can sometimes force runners inside. Get your money out of your gym membership during a pool running workout (aka water jogging). See if your gym has Aqua Joggers or another buoyancy belt to help your running form. Regardless, focus on running relaxed and naturally, and pump your arms against the water resistance. Much like on the bike, you can adjust your workout to your desired time or effort goal.
Swim or “run” a 10 minute warm-up, 6-10 intervals of 2-4min at what feels like threshold pace with 1-2min recovery, short 5-10min swim or “run” cooldown.
Recovery Workout: Hop in a lake for an easy 30-minute swim, breaking it up with short rests as needed. Know your limits, and practice swimmer safety. Have a friend accompany you via kayak, paddleboard or boat, or stick to “laps” closer to shore.
Off-Season: Rent a paddleboard or kayak for core work and strength building. Build muscles you didn’t know you had during an adrenaline-filled day of tubing, kneeboarding or water-skiing, guaranteed to keep you sore for days.
There are countless other ways to build strength, gain flexibility and change up your running routine this summer. Take your sun salutations outside at free morning yoga classes at Lake Harriet or jump into a November Project workout for strength building (and a dose of running too!).
Interval Workout: Download the 7 Minute Workout app for a quick session of strength building with bursts of cardio. Repeat the workout or substitute 8-10 jump rope intervals of 1 minute with equal rest. Cool down with a thorough foam rolling.
Recovery Workout: During marathon training, long runs help your body prepare for hours on your feet. Maximize your summer cross training by gently introducing your legs to prolonged workout time while hiking in a state park.
Off-Season: Embark on an active vacation to the Boundary Waters, paddling and portaging your way to lasting summer memories. Organize a “Cabin Olympics” with your friends, incorporating wheelbarrow races and hula hoop challenges guaranteed to at least make your abs sore from laughing.
What are your go-to summer cross training ideas for runners? Let us know in the comments below!