As is the nature of the business, Personal Trainers get asked numerous questions and the most common question is the classic “What is the quickest way to lose weight?”.  It’s a fair question and the simple answered may be “interval training as a good way of weight loss relatively quickly”. But (and there is always a but), it is not always the best way to achieve optimum results!  

Your goal shouldn’t be solely to lose weight; it also needs to include what happens after the weight has come off. This is why I find it refreshing when asked questions more specific to a goal, for example a client at a local gym asked me recently “How Does Cross Training benefit my marathon preparation?”

Finally, a question we can really get our teeth into, something with substance and a question which (as a keen runner and completer of numerous marathons) is close to my heart. so let’s explore this further and ask:

Why Cross Training could help your marathon progress (and other sports)?

Simply put, Cross Training refers to combining the training of two or more disciplines, which is different than the original sport being targeted. For example, someone training for cycling may also train for swimming, running and weights. This allows you to train neglected muscle that cycling does not use.

Running is such a unique sport in that anyone can do it, and pretty much everyone CAN do it. You don’t need any specialist equipment other than a pair of trainers and some open space. However, training for a Marathon takes casual running and moves it to a more advance level.

Running 26.2 miles takes serious attention and requires serious training, just turning up does not quite cut it at this level. I can tell you through experience that by adding Cross Training to your training plan it will give you a real boost in your performance.

Why, does cross training give you a boost

The boost from cross training comes by building strength and flexibility in your muscles that running does not necessarily utilise. It also helps reduce injury by dealing with muscular imbalance, which can be critical in regards to your recovery times over long distance training.

There are a number of ways in which you can improve your marathon training performance by cross training, some top tips are: -

  • Ensure you are selecting exercises that are actually relevant to running (or your sport), for example use the AMT (adaptive motion trainer) or Ski Machine, which effectively forces you to use upper body and lower body combined; which you should be doing in your running.


  • Try and keep your heart rate above 70% of your max, this will ensure you work hard but are able to maintain that level which is critical to adapt your body to running a full marathon.


  • Do not go crazy with Cross Training, running is still the ultimate goal so take your heart rate each morning, if you notice an elevated heart rate regularly it is a sign of over-training, so get on the bike and take it easier for a week.

 Written by Ian Waterhouse

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