A Week in Cross-Training

Varied, logistically feasible and requiring a consistent moderate effort. The concepts that underpin a successful cross-training programme are the same as those that underpin a successful run programme. If you already have non-run training (strength & conditioning, yoga, alternate cardio) as part of your programme, when you pick up a niggle the transition can be largely seamless. Some of your week won’t change which is a relief and you can actually set performance targets in terms of improving the non-running related aspects of your training.

This mindset allows you to view yourself as an athlete in training toward future goals rather than a runner who has seen all progress derailed.

If you only have running as part of your normal programme it can be more challenging but still provides a fabulous opportunity to learn.

The Week in Training

A typical week of my cross-training looks like this. I will provide the rationale for each session below but please remember this is as much about convenience as it is about training. It is psychologically demanding enough to train hard whilst carrying a niggle without writing a programme that requires an hour long drive across town to use a piece of kit. As always, the head-space is all.

Rehab Exercises Every Morning (Get Up Earlier)
20 x 30 sec
(30 sec rest)
60 minutes
Cross Trainer
Gym Session
60 minutes
60 minutes
Cross Trainer
4 x 2km
Rowing Erg
(2 min rest)
Bike or
Cross Trainer
Rehab Exercises Every Evening (Last Thing Before Bed)

The first bottom line is making time to perform the necessary rehabilitation exercises twice a day. Without those, you don’t get better. Make it a priority, even if it has to be at the expense of training.

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Video 1: Focused rehab is required twice daily.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday feature sessions I used when running sub-35 and sub-34-minute 10km pace. Granted, if I was in race mode right now, I wouldn’t be quite as deep in the drudgery of heavy lifts and circuit training (although maintenance elements & plyometrics would still feature) but injury is a great excuse to go back for a top up.

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Video 2: Strength and conditioning improves running performance. If you’ve never done it before, find someone to coach you.

The reasons I perform Yoga, Strength and Conditioning and Cross-Training have all been written about on this blog and can be accessed by clicking the links. That in mind, let’s look at the rest:

Monday: The aim here, after a short warm-up, is to pedal at a resistance that allows a cadence >110RPM. This allows you to work hard while spinning your legs at top speed. The aim of this session is to challenge your physiology somewhere near run session pace, it is not to develop strong quads, hence the RPM needs to be kept high. You can pedal as low as 70-80RPM at a lower resistance for the 30-second recovery period. The beauty of this session is that it allows me to maintain an average heart rate >160BPM for a solid 20-minutes straight whilst only psychologically really concentrating for a combined total of 10-minutes. Add the session to a warm up and you are done in 30-minutes. This is a great session because it balances physical effort with psychological torture. It’s long enough to disturb your physiology and short enough not to lose your mind. Remember, we are not aiming to match running pound for pound, this is unrealistic and largely unsustainable. I also do this session because there are spin bikes that register RPM in the downstairs gym where I work (convenience).

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Video 3: Cross-training is all about quality rather than quantity.

Saturday: If Monday is session day. Saturday is tempo day. In this session, I hold a tempo effort on the rowing machine covering the 2-km in ~7-minutes 45-seconds. I take two minutes rest between each one. Strokes per minutes are usually 28-30. I like this session because it adds variety to the bike and allows me to get a good workout done in less than 40-minutes. I can access a rowing machine at the Rugby club where I do physio on a Saturday (convenience).

Sunday: At this point, with a considerable amount of strength & conditioning, aerobic work, a session and a tempo in the bag; the only thing left is LSD (long slow distance). You can choose your poison on this. I’ve done a couple on the cross-trainer where I can replicate the running action. Both times, I made sure to have a good podcast to get me through. This can be the most soul-destroying session of the week, which is partly why I recommend it only once a week. Getting outside on a bike is also a good option.

Where to Now

On Wednesday, it’ll have been a month since I decided to engage in a full month of rehab and cross-training. I have been in Portugal since Saturday where I can rehab and cross-train twice per day. The result of this is that I have jogged 10 – 15-minutes the last 3 days. I’m in no rush to accelerate the running because I feel like an athlete in a good training programme rather than a runner in need of a fix. Till next blog! Peter