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3 Low Impact Cross Training Exercises For Marathon Training

All of the running during marathon training can get boring so here are some Cross Training Exercises For Marathon Training!


With just a short 4 weeks to go for marathon training, I have been extra careful with my training by working hard to prevent injuries (read: laying on my couch when not training) and also by doing some of my favorite cross training activities. One of my biggest mistakes last year was my lack of strength training during marathon training.

This week’s theme as a TCS NYC Marathon Social Media Ambassador is Cross Training. This year I have made it a huge priority to cross train, even sacrificing a week day of running here and there. To see more themes from the past weeks, check out my Facebook page!

Here are my top three favorite ways to cross train:

Indoor Cycling: This is definitely one of my favorite ways to exercise. From the pumping music to the awesome people all pushing towards the same goal, indoor cycling is my preferred way to workout when I am not running. Plus you can get a pretty great cardio workout for your heart without pounding the pavement!


Yoga: I love a good yoga class! Whether I am practicing yoga right in the privacy of my own home or if I got to $5 bikram hot yoga class in Midtown, Yoga brings sweet relief to my body after running so many miles. It’s also a great way to stop and really pay attention to the tightness and less flexible parts of your body.

Strength Training: Resistance training is my all time favorite way to exercise. It is easy to get into and with hard work you can advance at it pretty quickly. It is a low impact way to strengthen all the muscles you use to run (which is pretty much ALL your muscles) and it will only help you get faster in the end. I’ve spent a lot of time strength training this marathon cycle and it’s made a really huge difference in my long runs and hopefully will on race day too! Runner’s World has a great section on Strength Training that details how to use weights in detail when it comes to running.

Understanding the Importance of Low-Impact Exercises in Marathon Training

When training for a marathon, the focus is often on running long distances to build endurance and stamina. While this is crucial, it’s also important to incorporate low-impact exercises into your training regimen. These types of exercises put less stress on the joints and ligaments, providing a break from the repetitive, high-impact nature of running. They can help in reducing the risk of injury, improving muscle balance, and contributing to overall athletic development. Here are some effective low-impact exercises that can significantly enhance your marathon training.

Swimming for Cardiovascular Fitness

Swimming is a fantastic low-impact exercise that works out your entire body. The buoyancy of water supports your weight, reducing the strain on your joints. Swimming laps can help improve cardiovascular fitness, lung capacity, and muscle endurance—all essential for marathon running. Plus, swimming helps in active recovery by allowing your leg muscles to relax while still getting a good workout. Depending on your fitness level, you can start with 20-30 minutes of swimming and gradually increase the time and intensity.

Cycling to Build Leg Strength

Cycling is another low-impact exercise that’s excellent for building leg strength without putting too much stress on your joints. Whether it’s on a stationary bike or out on the road, cycling can be tailored to your training needs. Long, steady rides are excellent for building aerobic capacity, while high-intensity intervals can improve your anaerobic fitness. Incorporating cycling one or two days a week can be a great supplement to your running schedule, giving your legs a bit of a break while still contributing to your overall fitness.

Yoga for Flexibility and Mental Focus

Many runners underestimate the importance of flexibility and mental focus in marathon training. Yoga not only helps you become more flexible, but it also improves your breathing and helps you center your mind. The various poses and stretches can help loosen tight muscles and improve your range of motion. The meditative aspect of yoga is equally beneficial, helping you build mental resilience that will be crucial during the actual marathon. Aim for at least one yoga session per week to enjoy these benefits.

Elliptical Training for Non-Running Cardio

The elliptical trainer is a gym staple for a reason—it offers a great cardiovascular workout without the high impact of running. It’s an excellent choice for cross-training days when you want to give your joints a rest. You can adjust the resistance and speed to mimic the conditions of your marathon course, making your training more specific. Like cycling, the elliptical can be used for both steady-state cardio and interval training.

Pilates for Core Strength and Stability

A strong core is vital for maintaining good running posture, especially during the later stages of a marathon when fatigue sets in. Pilates is a low-impact exercise focused on core strength, flexibility, and overall body awareness. While it may not seem directly related to running, a strong core can significantly improve your running efficiency and reduce the risk of injury. Pilates exercises also target smaller, stabilizing muscles that are often overlooked in traditional strength training but are essential for balanced muscle development.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating low-impact exercises into your marathon training can offer a host of benefits, from injury prevention to improved overall fitness. While running will always be the cornerstone of any marathon training program, these low-impact options provide valuable support, helping you become a more well-rounded and resilient athlete. So, don’t underestimate the power of low-impact exercises; they could be the key to your marathon success.

How do you cross train when marathon training? If you don’t train for marathons what is your second favorite form of exercise?


Sunday 16th of October 2016

Regular strength training and yin or flow yoga are my go to's! I've been thinking about getting back into spinning again (now that the weather is turning a little gross). It's always a great workout!

Janine Huldie

Friday 14th of October 2016

Sounds like you got the training covered and totally think you got this!! Seriously, cannot wait now for the big race for you and most definitely think you are going to kick butt!! :)