Smart (and Safe!) Ways to Cross-Train for the Broad Street Run

No. 1: Don't do a demanding workout the day before a difficult run.

cross-training classes

Bored of your monotonous running workouts during Broad Street Run training? Try incorporating cross-training classes. / Photograph courtesy Getty Images

Each week leading up to the Broad Street Run on May 5th, local running coach Cory Smith shares his training tips and tricks for the epic 10-miler. Here are some of them.

Running is a high-impact (and often monotonous) activity. You forcefully grind one foot and then the other into the ground over and over again, sometimes for hours. This style of repetitive activity tends to put runners at higher risk for injury, and it can be boring.

So how do you break up that monotony — without making your body even more injury-prone? Enter cross-training classes.

Cross-training classes offer a variety of movements in a motivating social atmosphere that’s entirely different from the isolation of your own mind (unless you’re in a running group — see our complete guide to Philly-area ones here). But haphazardly adding classes to your running plan, without proper placement within your week, can tire you out and, in turn, make running more difficult.

My general rule is to never do lower body strength or HIIT classes the day before a long or a difficult run such as a tempo or a speed session. I’ll tell my clients that if the class leaves your brain exhausted and your legs sore, it’s good to budget at least one rest day before you head back out to pound the pavement. Strength-focused classes such as CrossFit are best to take on the day after a long or taxing run. This allows one or two days of easy running before your next hard running workout, and you’ll go into it on fresher legs.

Low-impact cross training classes, such as yoga or Pilates, can be done at any point during your training. Pro tip: They make for great recovery activities after a long run or a speed session. Be careful with spin classes; depending on the session, they can be considered either low-impact or more of a HIIT style that’s heavy on the legs. If you’ve already been taking indoor cycling classes for a while, you can probably spin whenever you want.

Intense running classes, including the treadmill-based workouts you’d find at Orangetheory Fitness or EverybodyFights, should be considered tough running workouts and can replace the midweek speed session. In general, training plans aren’t built with the additional load of an OTF class in mind; know that adding that stress without modifying your schedule can increase the risk of injury and will affect your ability to recover properly between runs.

If you’re curious about what a sample training week would look like with cross-training classes added in, good! We’ve drawn a plan up here:

Monday: Easy running, leg strength/HIIT classes, or low impact cross training

Tuesday: Easy/moderate running and/or low impact cross training

Wednesday: Hard running

Thursday: Easy running, leg strength/HIIT classes, or low impact cross training

Friday: Easy/moderate running and/or low to moderate impact cross training

Saturday: Easy/moderate running and/or low impact cross training

Sunday: Long run

Don’t be afraid to check in with your body throughout the process. Cross-training classes can serve as a wonderful change of pace. But, if your running performance is declining from week to week, it might be worth reevaluating your goals and removing the intense cross-training classes until Broad Street is over. Remember, you can do it all, but you can’t do it all at once.

Cory Smith is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners achieve personal bests in distances ranging from 800 meters to 100 miles. He is a multiple-time NCAA Division One Regional qualifier and two-time National Championship qualifier while at Villanova University. Along with his work for Philadelphia magazine, Cory serves as a running editor for Gear Institute and is a regular contributor for Outside Magazine, Trail Runner, Gear Patrol, and Gear Junkie.

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