Q&A: How Much Cross-Training is Equal to a Running Workout?

When I’m cross-training, how much biking or swimming equates to running? Should I base my cross-training workout on distance or time?

Cross-training is an integral part of any training program. It is used to work muscles in different coordinated patterns than running does, and has great potential to increase efficiency of running form and improve muscular strength and endurance.

Biking or swimming as cross-training is meant to give your body a break from running while still stressing the cardiovascular system. Therefore, it shouldn’t equate to running. When cross-training for the cardiovascular system, consider going for time, but don’t stop there. Cross-training puts less stress through your joints than running does, and is a great time to experiment with speed and intervals to augment your cardio workout.

It’s important to remember that one mile biking is easier than one mile running is easier than one mile swimming. Therefore, distances of cross-training workouts are not equal. Think of your cross-training as a moderate-level workout, and time is based on a typical moderate run time.

It is also important to remember that cross-training is not always about cardiovascular exercise. Runners should always strengthen their hip extensors and abductors, as well as their core stability, with exercises such as foam rolling, resisted sidesteps with Thera-Bands, bridges, and front and side planks. In order to get a personalized program, visit a physical therapist who can assess your strengths and weaknesses and assign exercises as needed for you.


Lauren Alix

Lauren Alix, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a doctor of physical therapy at Hospital for Special Surgery. She has run two marathons and numerous other road races, and enjoys helping runners become better at their sport through running analysis, training, and rehabilitation when needed. Lauren is passionate about injury prevention in athletes, and specializes in treating orthopedic injuries. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Springfield College in Massachusetts.

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