The 5 Best Cross-Training Options for Runners in Winter

Shot of a young athlete getting ready for exercising outdoors.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “The best way to improve your running is to run.” And there is a lot of truth to this: If you want to boost your running performance, you have to put in the mileage.

But don’t make the mistake of basing your training solely on running: Try to include some cross-training activities into your training plan. Otherwise, you might quickly hit a plateau.

Hiking in winter

Plus, focusing on only one activity can lead to muscle imbalances. These are often the cause of many common running injuries like runner´s knee, shin splints and Achilles tendinitis. Runners who do not engage in any other types of exercise often have weak abdominal and back muscles. This contributes to an inefficient running form and thus negatively impacts your running performance.

Good news: There are several cross-training options during the cold time of the year, too!

Our five suggestions for effective cross-training for runners:

1. Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is a complex exercise that works your entire body.

It engages far more muscle groups than running does. It strengthens your core and builds your upper body. Plus, long cardio workouts of more than two hours are doable on cross-country skis.

2. Skiing

Person skiing

Skiing works nearly every muscle group in your body. The complex sequence of movements not only requires strong legs but sturdy abdominal and back muscles (core) for stabilization.

Stamina is also a crucial component due to the high intensity of the interval-like activity. It also improves your balance and coordination.

3. Ski touring

Ski touring really tests the muscular endurance of your legs and upper body.

The technical challenges of the sport also improve your coordination. Plus, the combination of mountain climbing and downhill skiing is a lot of fun.

4. Swimming

Athletic man swimming.

Swimming gives your entire body a great workout. It improves your flexibility, endurance, coordination and strength.

Plus, it is easy on your joints. The water carries your body weight, so you can do intense cardio workouts without stressing your joints.

Another alternative to normal swim training is aqua jogging. The nice thing about this activity is that you can incorporate everything you normally would do as part of your running training.

5. Runtastic Results

Man and woman looking at bodyweight exercises list for their workout

Training with your own body weight (like with the Results app) is an effective method for improving your overall fitness.

Complex total-body exercises enhance your coordination, strength and endurance. It is also perfect for runners to build up those all-too-important abdominal and back muscles.

The main thing is that you choose a cross-training option that works as many muscle groups as possible. The best exercises are those that require a lot of coordination and core stability. That way you can be sure to train those areas that help you improve your running performance.



Herwig Natmessnig As a former professional athlete (whitewater slalom), Herwig lives for fitness. Whether in competition or just for fun, he can never turn down a challenge. View all posts by Herwig Natmessnig