13 At-Home Cross-Training Exercises for Runners

Running can be an amazing way to support your mind, body, overall health, and even community. But like any other exercise, running comes with a cost. Like other aerobic exercises, it is catabolic, which means it requires more oxygen and destroys your muscles. Over time, a lot of catabolic exercise reduces muscle mass, lowers your metabolic rate, and can even lead to injury.

If you want to reduce your risk of injury, improve your endurance and speed, and even boost your metabolism, don't give up! Instead, increase your health. The most straightforward solution is for runners to perform strength-based cross-training.

If you have access to a gym, check out our Strength Cross Training:Gym Edition. But if you don't have access to a gym, that's no problem either. Follow along as we share a version of upper-body lower-body and core-strengthening exercises you can do anywhere - no special equipment required.

13 essential cross-training exercises for runners
Muscle Group:Gluteus Maximus
The gluteus maximus is your main source of power for running and a protector for your lower back and knees. Choose from the following exercises to strengthen it:

Stepping bench or park bench stepping
Luggage squats (hold a heavy object in one hand and squat down)
Hip thrusts (upper back on a chair)
Muscle Tissue:Hamstrings
The hamstrings are the assistants of the gluteus maximus. They are critical to running speed. Choose one of the following exercises to strengthen the exercise:

Bridge to the glutes
Single leg stiff lifts (any weighted object)
Kettlebell swings (with water bottle)
Muscle Tissue:Quadriceps
Strong quads are needed for repetitive running in order to reduce stress on the knees. Choose from the following exercises:

Heel-Elevated Squats (Place a book or other similar object on your heels.)
Sitting on the wall (stick with it for a while, rather than repeating the exercise)
Goblet squats (place a water can in the center of your chest)
Muscle groups:Lower back
Your lower back is the link between your core muscles and your legs. Here, strength and efficiency can improve speed, power and stability. Try the following exercises:

Straight leg hip bridge with feet elevated (using a sturdy chair)
Bird Dog
Muscle groups:Lateral core
Your obliques and gluteus medius connect the front and back of your core. In fact, you can target both in one do-anywhere exercise:

Side hip bridges (aka double knee side plank support)

When you do this exercise, the goal is to hold time rather than repetitions. Start with 10 seconds and gradually increase to 90 seconds over the course of a few weeks or months.

Next steps
Now that you have the best cross-training exercises for runners, you need a program!

Follow these steps to build your program:
Choose one exercise from each muscle category.
If the exercise is new to you, don't start with weights. Do a maximum of 3 sets of 20 reps each.
Once you can do 20 reps with good form, find some home stuff to increase the load until you feel muscle fatigue by the time you do 12-15 reps. Then challenge yourself to complete 3 sets of 15 reps each.
After completing step 3, add more external load. The goal is to do 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Once you've completed step 4, you're ready to start a new program!
Repeat the process, choosing different exercises. Changing cross-training exercises each month will allow you to get stronger while reducing wear and tear on your joints, ligaments and tendons.