Cross-training is any sport or exercise that supplements your main sport – in this case, running. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced marathoner, you can benefit from cross-training.

Running is a high impact activity, which means that at least three and a half times your body weight is absorbed by the joints as you run. When you look at it this way, you can see why giving your body a break from time to time is a good idea. That said, you don’t have to have rest days. Cross-training is a good way to maintain your fitness while not putting any stress on the body.

Good types of cross-training include cycling, using the rower or the cross-trainer in the gym or brisk walking. Anything that raises your heart rate without the impact of running. Here are some other reasons why it’s a good idea to cross-train…

It helps balance your muscle groups

Cross-training helps strengthen your non-running muscles and rests your running muscles. You can focus on specific muscles, such as your inner thighs, that don’t get worked as much while running and may be weaker than your running muscles. You’ll maintain or even improve your cardiovascular fitness. Many cross-training activities are great cardiovascular workouts, so they build on the benefits of running.

It reduces your chance of injury

By balancing your weaker muscles with your stronger ones, you’ll help reduce your chance of injury. Participating in low-impact cross-training activities, such as swimming or water running, will also lessen the stress on your joints, which are often a sore spot for runners.

You’ll avoid getting bored

Running day after day will eventually burn out even the most hard-core running enthusiast. Cross-training gives runners a much-needed mental break from their sport, which is especially important for those training for long-distance events, such as marathons.

Niggles can heal

You can continue to train with certain injuries while giving them proper time to heal. Runners suffering from injuries are sometimes told by their doctor to take a break from running during their recovery. But, with certain injuries, it is possible to continue with cross-training. Cross-training can help injured runners maintain their fitness and deal better with the frustration of being sidelined from running.