How to Incorporate Supplemental Training into Your Running Plan

How to Incorporate Supplemental Training into Your Running Plan

We all know that, in order to be a better runner, you need to run more. However, a runner is not built by miles alone. In order to be a better runner, you must also become a better athlete. Strength training, yoga/pilates, and cross-training can all be part of your training to improve general athleticism. But just how do you balance those with running? 

How to Incorporate Supplemental Training into Your Running Plan

Strength Training

Is It Necessary?

Absolutely. Strength training improves your running by preventing injury, increasing force output, and building fatigue-resistant muscles. The benefits of strength training extend beyond running: bone health, increased muscle mass as you age, and reduction of pain. 

How to Incorporate: 

You do not need to follow a split strength training routine or spend hours per day at the gym. One to two sessions of weight lifting plus one to two sessions of core/injury prevention work will yield tremendous gains. Weight lifting sessions will be approximately 30-60 minutes in length; injury prevention sessions only 10-20 minutes. However, if you are short on time, even 15-20 minutes of lifting weights will improve your running. 

Unless your schedule dictates otherwise, avoid lifting on the day before a quality workout (intervals, tempo, and in some cases long runs). Weight lifting will temporarily decrease muscle function; you do not want sore legs hindering your track workout. 

Ideally, lift on the same day as your quality workout, after the run. This approach is especially ideal if your training plan includes two quality sessions. Otherwise, you can lift any other day (except before your quality session).

If you are new to lifting or deliberately increasing your load, you may temporarily opt to scale back the intensity and/or volume of your running. 

Yoga/Pilates

Is It Necessary?

Yoga and Pilates are not necessary for performance. However, they certainly can enhance both your running and your overall well-being. Both emphasize breathing, mindfulness, and mobility. Runners tend to stress their bodies heavily and too much stress can hinder recovery. If you are in a heavy training cycle, experiencing a stressful time, or simply want to have better mental health, yoga and Pilates should be part of your training routine. 

How to Incorporate: 

If you are training at a high intensity or high volume (and that includes strength training), then opt for gentler routines. If you are using Pilates or yoga as strength training, opt for a more challenging routine. 

The frequency depends upon the approach. If you are doing gentle yoga for mind-body benefits, you can do it as often as daily if your schedule permits. Higher intensity yoga and Pilates are best done two to four times per week. 

Cross-Training

Is It Necessary? 

Cross-training is not necessary, yet many runners benefit from it. If you are injury-prone, cross-training on the elliptical, bike, or other equipment allows you to develop your aerobic fitness with less impact. Some high mileage runners, however, may not need cross-training for aerobic training. 

For injured athletes, cross-training maintains running fitness (and mental health). Even if your injury restricts many activities, most runners can swim or pool run during an injury. 

Cross-training can be fun and unstructured, though. If you enjoy cycling or walking, you can make it part of your routine even if if you do not need it from a training perspective. 

How to Incorporate: 

How often you cross-train will depend on your reason for using it. For someone running three to four days per week, you may supplement with one to three days of cross-training (allowing one complete rest day). Higher mileage runners may cross-train less often at once or twice per week.  If you are including hard workouts in your running, stick to an easy to moderate intensity for cross-training. If most of your runs are easy, then you can cross-train at a higher intensity. 

For injured runners, cross-training is best done at the same frequency and duration as your runs during a normal base-building or maintenance phase. 

Walks can be done daily, even on rest days. For optimal use of walks, time them after runs to encourage recovery. Walks can be as long or as short as desired; even 10 minutes promotes healthy circulation. 

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How often do you cross-train, do yoga/Pilates, or strength train?

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11 Responses

  1. I strength train 4 times a week and stretch/foam roll 5 days a week. I don’t do enough yoga or Pilates, I should really try to incorporate that more.
    I usually complement my running with cycling. However, right now I don’t have access to a bike – something I need to look into!

  2. I definitely prioritize including strength training in my routine, but I don’t regularly do yoga/pilates or cross-train right now. I do try to go for walks. I was walking alot more when the weather was nicer!

  3. You know I’m a huge fan of strength training and I do that 2x per week. Part of my CrossFit class is a HIIT-like workout and that’s been really helpful. I have really been slacking on yoga, tho and need to get back to it!

  4. I love my strength training days as much as my running days. I have moved leg days to the same days as running bc I was too sore from them. I do core daily and overall some kind of strength 4 days a week. I love to see improvement in my strength. Great tips

  5. I definitely cross-train, sometimes even on days when I have scheduled runs. I strength-train usually once a week, but often times I can get two workouts in. Now that I’ve been rehabbing my foot, I’m realizing I need to work in more stretching/yoga…stay tuned.

  6. Yoga is just so good in so many ways. I wish I liked at-home yoga more. I get motivated to do it, and then distracted, but I’m really not at all comfortable being in a studio with people right now. It’s really hard to make everything work these days 🙁

  7. I’m on the opinion that strength training is just as important for cardio as it is for building strength in general. When your muscles are trained, running becomes easier, as it results in a lesser likelihood of fatigue and injury.

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