Sometimes just running isn’t enough. If you want to improve your times, you should be supplementing your miles with strength training. Integrating cross-training into your running routine will decrease injury risk and increase muscle flexibility. Below are exercises recommended by Garmin Fitness Ambassador Gregg Bard (@nycsweat).
Pilates: Of course, increased core strength is at the top of the list. Pilates isn’t just about getting great abs though… it’s about learning to stabilize with your core (abdominals and back) while your extremities move. This leads to more efficient and more effective movement, which will help improve time and keep the body in top working condition. One of my Pilates instructors has a client who started regular classes at while prepping for her 4th marathon. She shaved 20 minutes off her time from her 3rd to her 4th (and it actually qualified her for Boston). She has since run 3 more marathons and her times have improved with each. A stronger mind/body connection and awareness of form and alignment are also huge benefits. Understanding the mechanics of the body is so important for everyone, but especially runners. Pilates is a great way to discover and learn to correct imbalances and muscle weakness. You get so much feedback from the equipment that you can feel and tune into habits you may not otherwise even know you have, which could potentially lead to injury down the road. Repetitive movement can be very tricky if it’s being repeated in the wrong way. Alignment is so important for runners because so many runners end up forgetting about their postural muscles since the sport takes place in a very forward space which can lead to major postural issues with rounded shoulders and tight hips, etc. Pilates is all about learning about your body. There is nothing more powerful than being tuned into your own body and understanding how the parts move and work together. Breath control is also a big one. Learn to use your breath to fuel your movement.
TRX: TRX is a training method with straps and leverages your own body weight to help improve strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. No matter what exercise you're doing on the TRX, you're engaging your core muscles. Increased core strength allows for greater power through movements and enables you to perform activities more efficiently while simultaneously reducing risk of injury. Along with strengthening your core, it is very important for runners to exercise their hips/leg muscles as running alone doesn't equally engage and recruit all muscle groups. You can also perform single leg movements on the TRX, which helps to train muscular imbalances --- this is helpful for runners that run on uneven terrain, trails, or urban sidewalks.
Spinning: I actually trained for my first half marathon on the bike. You can push cardio limits without pounding the pavement every day. Of course, long runs are crucial at some point, but most of my race training was SoulCycle. I also found that riding to the rhythm of the music helped me to be in more in tune to my running pace and my breathing. And of course the mental component is a huge factor for race training. All the things I talk about in (and hear) in class really do come to mind when you hit a wall - which does happen from time to time. Things like setting an intention from the first step, sending your focus to your breath, visualizing the finish line and the person waiting for you helped me tremendously when I hit mile 22!
Rowing: Classes consist of intervals on the rower with strengthening moves on the floor utilizing the rower and weights. You switch between the rower and the floor workout for 45 minutes. You focus on the legs, core, arms and thus a perfect class for runners as it provides a total body strength and cardio workout without being high impact.
Yoga from Runners: This is definitely something to recommend to any runner. The idea is incorporating yoga poses to both put an emphasis on stretching areas we neglect to do as runners, as well as strengthening our core and muscles in our legs. You feel like you are getting a massage, a tune up and also working out all at the same time.