Cross-Training for Runners: Strength, Stability and Agility for Trails AND Pavement!

It’s no secret: cross-training is crucial support for your running goals. However, life often gets in the way. What’s more, in the crunch for time that can happen as training for your event gets more demanding, other kinds of workouts can take the back seat to the actual running/walking! And if you’re one of us getting dirty this year and signing up for some trail events, the stability, agility, and strength benefits of cross-training for runners will be even more important.

Written by Coach K (email: coachkaren1964(AT)
Edited by Pavlína Marek

To start us off, let’s break down a few ways you can begin to incorporate cross-training into your schedule. As always, find an approach that works best for you in regards to time, the equipment you may have on hand (more on that below), and the fun factor. Aside from the suggestions below, adding other forms of exercise that you enjoy will help your body adapt to the rigors of training and give your brain a break.


Strength training is a crucial part of cross-training for runners. It helps support your running form and endurance and prevent injury. Do you have a gym membership or access to equipment? Great! If not, don’t fret; there are many ways you can use your own body with the help of minimal equipment such as a mat, bands, or light dumbbells. (Heck, I’ve even used cans of tomatoes in a pinch. Our editor used a bag filled with books.) When you’re short on time, even 15 minutes of exercises such as planks or ankle strengthening will help your running and recovery.

It can be challenging to get consistent access to trails this time of year. There may be too much snow or you may not be able to take advantage of the few short hours of daylight. Luckily, there are a lot of options that will help set you up for success once you are able to hit the dirt!


Agility training will help improve your balance, reaction times, and flexibility. (Reaction time is important as you start navigating the not-so-smooth nature of trails compared to pavement.) It can be enjoyable, and just 10 minutes three times a week will help you deal with anything the trail—or road—throws at you! I particularly enjoy balance boards. Try setting a timer for 30 seconds and see how it feels. Balance on both legs, then just the right, then the left. For bonus points, use it for some pushups! All the small supporting muscles that otherwise don’t get much action will thank you by helping you stay healthy and uninjured.


Warm-ups and stretching might not be the first things to come to mind when you think about cross-training for runners. However, both things are crucial to the typical runner’s overall wellness. Doing dynamic warmups before your runs—particularly your long runs—will help warm up and prime your muscles, stimulate blood flow, and prepare your body for the miles ahead. Dynamic warm-ups can be particularly fun at group runs; there’s nothing like seeing a bunch of people doing synchronous grapevining! 


These exercises will help regulate blood flow to your muscles, reduce the risk of injury, help your heart rate return to normal, and ease the post-run soreness. They also make for a great time to reflect on your run, feel gratitude for your healthy body, and take stock of your fitness journey!

Fitting in cross-training can feel like a lot. However, if you manage to do it, it will go a long way in keeping your body healthy and happy as your training ramps up. Keep in mind that what works for you at your age, experience, and physiology can look very different from what works for others. Find what’s fun and motivates you! If you’d like further guidance please reach out via the “Ask a Coach” feature in the RUN365 app or email me at Happy trails!

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