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Add running to your cross-training with this 8-week training plan

Two runners go up and down a set of stairs, respectively, in an urban environment.
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All too often, athletes and fitness enthusiasts suffer from tunnel vision when designing their workout routines. "I want to be stronger, so I will only do strength training." "I want better endurance, so I will run long distances and nothing else." While this super-focused approach does make sense on paper, it's woefully limited. To make steady improvements and enjoy all of the benefits of a well-designed workout routine, some form of cross-training is key.

New to running or think it's the last possible thing you'd want to do instead of hitting the weights? Well, you're in luck, because Ryan Wooderson, PT, DPT, OCS, Brooks ambassador and owner of Long Run Physiotherapy in Denver, Colorado, has crafted an eight-week training plan that will give you no excuse to skip out on running when it comes to your weekly exercise plans.

Why cross-training?

Before diving into the details of the routine, though, it's worth taking a closer look at cross-training and what it has to offer. Put simply, cross-training involves bringing a complementary form of exercise into your normal routine. For this particular eight-week program, we'll be combining high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with different types of running. But why?

All sports and training modes are specialized to various degrees — which makes sense. Strength training should make you stronger. Endurance training should increase your endurance. Unfortunately, only focusing on one type of training can quickly lead to imbalances in your health and fitness, which can, in turn, increase your risk of injury.

Traditional strength training, for example, does not adequately challenge your muscular or cardiovascular endurance. This means that, while you may see #crazygains, your heart and lungs are being neglected. Cross-training, though, will balance things out and increase your overall efficiency of movement. It's also important to remember fitness is multifaceted, consisting of strength, endurance, and flexibility. If any of these elements are neglected, we are in danger of the aforementioned imbalances.

With this in mind, this training plan has been designed to incorporate various forms of strength and endurance training so that no part of your overall fitness lags behind.

What about HIIT?

When it comes to HIIT, as the highly descriptive name suggests, this type of workout involves short bursts of near-maximum effort with short periods of rest in between. Apart from just being a ton of fun, HIIT is an incredibly effective way to increase strength and endurance in a relatively short period of time. Also, since HIIT is more about the timing of your workout, many different types of exercise can fit into this structure. As a result, HIIT can be exactly what you need it to be.

What to expect over the 8-week plan

Now that we've covered some background information on this routine, let's talk about the program itself.

Throughout the routine, you'll be exercising four days each week. Two of those days will actually have you working out twice: once in the morning and once in the evening. On average, this program will take a total of 30 to 60 minutes on workout days.

As the program progresses, you'll be asked to work with a variety of intervals and intensities. Pay attention to the different details ahead of time so you can give these workouts your full focus during the session and won't have to constantly check back to see what exactly you're supposed to be doing.

As far as equipment, you'll need access to a bike and a stair machine (or just an old-fashioned staircase). Since some of the workouts require you to run specific distances, it's best to utilize a track or treadmill for these or map out your run distances with an online tool ahead of time.

The cross-training running plan

Level up your exercise routine

This cross-training program is a great way to make rapid progress in all aspects of your fitness. Not only will this program help you become a better runner, but you'll also become a better athlete.

As you progress, though, you'll need to make sure you have the best equipment to maximize your performance and minimize your injury risk. And for both running and cross-training, shoes are a vital tool. Use our Shoe Finder to find the best footwear for you and your training goals.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Jonathan Thompson

Fitness Nerd

Jonathan with a dog in the snow

My interest in fitness started young, primarily as the survival strategy of a scrawny asthmatic. After receiving my certifications as a personal trainer and nutritionist, I started writing fitness articles. At this point, running is a non-negotiable part of my life.