Conquering the Trails: Top 6 Cross-Training Ideas for Ultrarunners
Conquering the Trails: Top 6 Cross-Training Ideas for Ultrarunners

Conquering the Trails: Top 6 Cross-Training Ideas for Ultrarunners

As an ultrarunner, you know the demanding dance between pushing your limits and protecting your body. While conquering miles brings immense satisfaction, repetitive impact can lead to injury and burnout. Enter the world of cross-training, your secret weapon for building strength, resilience, and mental clarity, all while adding a dash of fun to your training routine.

But with so many options, where do you start?

Here are 6 top-notch cross-training ideas specifically tailored for ultrarunners:

1. Hike it Up:

Think of hiking as running's rugged cousin. It builds endurance, strengthens leg muscles, and hones your mental focus on uneven terrain. Add a weighted pack to mimic race conditions and target specific muscle groups. Remember, uphill climbs are your cardio powerhouses, while descents teach downhill control and core engagement. Working on race day nutrition is another great idea when hiking!

Bonus: Explore new trails, embrace the scenery, and reconnect with nature.

2. Become a Cycling Dynamo:

Ok, dynamo might be aggressive... Cycling offers a low-impact cardio boost, engaging similar leg muscles while providing a different movement pattern. Choose road cycling for speed work or mountain biking for technical skills and core activation. Take a cycling class at your local gym, or find one of the amazing online class offerings on your favorite viewing platform. Indoor cycling can help build that mental game while still raining your heart rate. Interval training on hills mimics the demands of your next ultra, while longer rides build endurance.

Bonus: Enjoy the wind in your hair, discover scenic bike paths, and join group rides for motivation.

3. Dive into the Deep End:

Swimming is a zero-impact haven for runners. It strengthens your entire body, improves flexibility, and enhances lung capacity. Focus on drills targeting core, shoulders, and legs to maximize benefits. Take it up a notch with treading water for a low impact endurance workout. 

Bonus: Experience weightlessness, improve coordination, and enjoy a refreshing escape from the heat.

4. Aqua Jog Your Way to Fitness:

Aqua jogging is like running in a pool, minus the pounding. It's perfect for recovery days, injury prevention, or cross-training during bad weather. Adjust the water depth and speed to target different muscle groups. Use a flotation belt for support and vary your movements to keep it interesting.

Bonus: Cool down after a hard run, enjoy the social atmosphere of group aqua classes, and soak up the poolside sunshine.

5. Embrace the Power of Strength Training:

Don't underestimate the power of weights! Strength training builds muscle mass, improves bone density, and enhances running economy. Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, targeting your core, glutes, legs, and upper body. Start light and gradually increase weight and repetitions.

Bonus: Reduce your risk of injury, boost your metabolism, and feel the confidence of a stronger physique.

6. Find Your Flow with Yoga:

Yoga isn't just for flexibility. It improves balance, core strength, and mental focus, all crucial for ultrarunning. Vinyasa flows mimic the running motion, while restorative poses promote recovery and relaxation. Explore different styles to find what resonates with you. In person offerings bring the shared experience while online offerings allow for greater time management. 

Bonus: Reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and cultivate inner peace for long days on the trails.


  • Specificity matters: Choose activities that mimic running movements or target specific weaknesses.
  • Listen to your body: Rest when needed and don't push through pain.
  • Variety is key: Mix and match activities to keep things interesting and avoid plateaus.
  • Make it fun: Find activities you enjoy to stay motivated and consistent.

Bonus tip: Incorporate cross-training into your weekly running routine, aiming for 2-3 sessions per week. Adjust the intensity and duration based on your training plan and goals.

With these ideas, you're ready to cross-train your way to a stronger, healthier, and happier ultrarunning experience!