How to Add Cross Training to GAIN Fitness (Rather than Lose it!)

You saw the cross training I have in my training through that, but I thought today I could share more specifics, and how you can incorporate cross training into your schedule to make you a stronger, fitter runner.

Yes, even you who is “not fast” as I am told by almost every person I meet!

I am gonna write about that one of these days; STOP PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN!

Yes, you!

Anyyyyway, yes, so I wanted to share how you can add cross training to your week, without sacrificing your fitness, you may actually get fitter!

Okay, so when I say cross training, what am I talking about?

Well, for me, this means my strength training with Drew, which you can hear all about in my podcast episode with him and some extra hours of cardio.

Now, in my opinion, the ElliptiGO is the best form of cross training to mimic the running motion, and get cardio in without the impact of the pounding.

elliptigo elite

If you have the finances to be able to do so, and really want the best form of cross training, I really would recommend looking into one….unless you are doing REALLY well with your finances and can purchase an Alter G or underwater treadmill that is 😉

If that is the case, can I come live at your house? 🙂

Steve and I bought Apollo (yes, he is named after a character in a Rocky movie) just under two years ago, and I could not be happier with it.

We absolutely love it, and it was well worth the money, especially when you think that most gyms charge $10 for a daily pass. I have almost already paid mine off.

But it’s not just that, so far I have been lucky and have avoided any injuries that would have caused me to stop running and cross train only, but if I had, this would be my number one tool.

Even though studies have found that pool running is the best form of cross training to mimic running, I found that pool running every day was NOT good for my mental health, and I quickly would slip into a real negative mindset that made me very unpleasant to be around. Ways to help with this negativity can be to listen to my Coming Back From Injury Podcast Series.

The ElliptiGO 8C doesn’t seem like cross training as it just fun to do AND it mimics the running action…and it was not around when the study above was completed.


This is NOT an ElliptiGO post, this is about cross training, right?

So yes, for me, most of my cross training comes from my ElliptiGO, and some of those will be replaced by swimming.

In addition to the strength training, cross training is one of the main reasons I have avoided the bigger injuries the last few years.

I use cross training in one of two ways:

2 x 60 minutes per week

I like to cross train on Monday afternoons, as I do my long run on Sunday, and this helps to get the junk out.

The second cross training session is on a Thursday or Saturday afternoon.

I keep one day per week as just one run and nothing else that day, and the other day becomes this cross training day.


1 x 60 minutes, 2 x 30-40 minutes

We will be testing this one out over the coming months.

Keeping the Monday afternoon junk removal 60 minutes, but having 30-40 minutes in the afternoon of my hard workout of the week (typically Wednesday), and then another 30-40 minutes on one other day of the week of my choosing. This depends on the double runs I have that week.

These cross training sessions replace additional double runs that other elite runners would do.

As I said on Monday, my mileage typically sits around 85-90, but most people I race against are around 100-120.

I basically switch out 10-20 miles of additional easy running with 2 hours of cross training, and this is where you can do the same.

So how can you add cross training to your schedule?

If you are a 7 day per week runner:

Consider adding in 30-60 minutes once or twice a week of cross training.

You do not have to purchase an ElliptiGO, you do not have to pool run, just take some kind of cardio of choice and add it to your week.

Make sure you leave at LEAST four hours between your run and that cardio.

If you are a 5-7 day per week runner:

Only you will know if you would rather add 30-60 minutes once or twice a week on your running days or your off days.

Unfortunately, I cannot make that decision for you.

Some runners like to spread it out evenly, adding cross training in on those running rest days, and that way, you do not get out of the habit, and it just keeps it interesting….and makes for less long days.

Or if you prefer, you could add the cross training to days you already run, and then have 1-2 days per week of complete rest.

If you are a 2-4 days per week runner:

This becomes a little more tricky, as if you are running 3-5 days, chances are you either do not have the time to run more, in which case, cross training is not going to be realistic either OR you are injury prone and can’t run more than 4 days a week.

If you fall into the second category, cross training will be perfect for you, and will help with your fitness more than you realize! I would definitely consider adding in up to 4 cross training sessions a week, but keeping your runs as your harder workouts or long runs.

Important considerations for cross training as a runner

Now, if you are following a marathon training schedule, or you are training hard for a race, adding in this cross training will be a way of boosting your fitness, and helping your body adapt to training without risking injury through pounding the pavement.

This is important:

You need to make sure that unless you are only running a few days a week, you keep this cross training EASY.

I am not a huge fan of using heart rate, but when I ElliptiGO I noticed to keep it easy enough, my heart rate usually falls around 130bpm (about 70% of my max HR). This feels VERY easy.

You should not be breathing hard at all.

In fact, that is actually why my ElliptiGO resides on the trainer most of the time, because my competitive side does not allow me to go easy enough up the hills and around the area to keep it easy enough.

Besides, this is a great time to catch up on gossip girl 😉

tina muir elliptigo

Remember, the priority here is not to tire yourself out, the running workouts are for that. The goal of this type of cross training is to build your aerobic fitness and help your body with recovery.

So whether you swim, bike, pool run, ElliptiGO, or something else, just make sure it is easy.

No spin classes here!

As for when, again, this will come down to your own personal preference.

I find this helps to get the junk out of my legs, which is why I like to do it on a Monday after a long run on Sunday, but we are also testing out the idea of doing one a week on my hard run day to get rid of the junk.

But we are still in the testing phase.

In the past, I always liked to do my cross training on other days where I did not have anything else but a single run.

I realize this post has not been ultra specific, but it needs to be based on what helps you to feel the best.

But if you do add cross training to your week, you WILL make HUGE jumps in fitness (I am confident this was a big part of why I raced well earlier this year), and it will help your body to recover, but you MUUUUSSSTTTT keep it easy to do this.

If you are injured, I am afraid these rules do not really apply to you, as you will need to make some cross training workouts quite tough. In which case, I would recommend trying out one of these 7 workouts Jeff created.

If you need even more convincing that cross training is for you, take a listen to this podcast episode 🙂

Cross training? How do you fit it in?



cross training, injuries

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  • OMG I love that you have an indoor trainer for the ElliptiGo!!! I was thinking I cannot justify getting another bike (I already have two for triathlon) but I have wanted an ElliptiGo ever since I knew they existed. Maybe for Christmas? I’ll have to ask my coach 🙂 Love this and so completely agree about cross training to GAIN fitness!

  • I wish I cross trained more and it’s something (along with strength) I’m actively working on. I’ve found, like you mentioned, that 1-2X per week is my sweet spot to flush out junk from my legs. Great post Tina!

  • I didn’t know that the ElliptiGO can go on a trainer?!?! I’ve wanted one but didn’t really think it was feasible for the area I live in. Hmmmm… I do love cross training. I can’t run more than 4-5 days before injuries start to pop up. Cross training helps a ton with that!

  • I was always very skeptical of the ElliptiGo but I think it’s because I never did enough research on them—they just look funny! But you’ve convinced me to find my nearest retailer so I can test ride…run…ride (?) one 🙂 Great tips here!

  • Dani Steinbacher
    October 12, 2016 9:48 am

    After breaking down under running based programs as a teenager/collegiate athlete, I found cross training to be KEY for my running success once I was finally able to “build a runner.”
    In fact, I made it through my first Boston marathon before I could even run two days in a row w/o risking injury! I’ll never forget waiting for the red [wave 1] corral to open with all these guys talking about their 70mpw schedules and workouts while I had only done 3-4X weekly runs with no workouts.
    Even now, though I am finally strong enough to run every day, I’ve found I do better to balance my running with cross training vs. do everything running like most of my competitors do. Similar to you, I find myself running 20-40mpw less than most who I race with…
    The difference for me is how I have/do use cross training: with an endurance background, I find it is hardest for me to run workouts without getting injured. Thus, I use cross training to supplement intensity as I gradddduually build in running workouts closer to the pace I run a marathon.
    I am both grateful and amazed at how cross training has not only enabled me to run without getting hurt, but also to run much faster in races than I ever train at!

  • One of my friends is handicapped and can’t run (he used to be a runner and also played baseball in school), and he uses an Ellipti-go. He was the first person I ever knew to use one when I met him 4.5 years ago and now a lot of runners use them to cross train. I like how you can use it outside or inside on a trainer, as opposed to an elliptical (workout equipment) which HAS to be inside.

    Personally… I try to cross train twice a week. I do a class called BodyFlow which is like a yoga class and is really helpful for my tight hips! Besides that I do strength training another day during the week.

  • I’m with you – I don’t think I could handle the mental monotony of pool running. I did not know that the ElliptiGO had an indoor trainer but that makes me like it as an option even more!

  • Christine @ Love, Life, Surf
    October 14, 2016 10:37 am

    I need to be better about incorporating cross-training back into my schedule. It seems to have fallen off for me recently although I do try to do my strength training and stretching.

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