Cross Training | 80/20 Endurance

Cross Training

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    Have any of you found effective forms of cross-training for non-running days, or while you’re recovering from an injury?

    After messing up my left foot (bad case of plantar fasciitis) a couple of months ago, the PT is having me run 4 times a week. It’s not a ton of volume. Basically I started around 20 minutes per run and have added 5 minutes (per run) when I can tell that I’m starting to recover more quickly. Right now, I’m at around 40 minutes per run and should be able increase again in the next week or two.

    Prior to the injury, I was running 6 days per week and it felt like my running fitness was improving more quickly as a result. With 4 days of running, I was still improving, but at a slower rate. However, I started doing aqua jogging twice a week (on non-running days) and this seemed to make a big difference. Within just a few days, my resting heart rate started dropping back to where it was before the injury. Also, my running heart rate has been noticeably lower, while my easy pace is getting faster. It feels like the aerobic stimulus is comparable to running, while giving the foot a chance to recover.

    If any of you have been in this situation, what has worked for you?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    I’ve written extensively on this subject. Here’s my ranked order top five:

    1. Antigravity treadmill running
    2. Outdoor elliptical biking
    3. Uphill treadmill walking
    4. Indoor/outdoor cycling
    5. Pool running

    Obviously, #1 and #2 are not practical for most runners, but #3 is still a great option.


    While it is not the typical cross training by definition, I prefer the treadmill to aerobic machines or swimming.

    I take my recovery days to the gym and set the treadmill for a couple of percent incline so I can jog at a Zone 1/2 heart rate effort. I do this for about 30/40 minutes. From there I immediately go to about an equal duration circuit training of the weights/machines – no rest, going station to station for a whole body workout.

    None of this is difficult. I consider these days remedial, looking for running gait issues and muscle imbalances.


    3. Uphill treadmill walking

    This is the one for me.

    If you can tolerate pool running then that’s a nice option but it’s almost intolerable for me for more than 30min.


    I hear you on pool running It’s not much fun. I’ll break it up into different intervals or set an alarm to beep every 5 minutes, just to keep from losing my mind. I’ve never tried uphill treadmill walking, but I’ll have to try it out on one of my non-running days.


    Matt has a great breakdown of the pros/cons in his 80/20 book of all cross training forms but from what I recall here are some of the pros for uphill tread walking:

    – similar physiologically to running
    – low(er) impact
    – easily accessible (almost all treadmills will incline to 14-15%)
    – you can even read while doing it because you’re not bouncing like when running

    Personally I find it a lot less boring than an elliptical or stationary bike. For some reason I find it even less boring than running on a treadmill, haven’t quite figured out why that is yet though.


    I did my first uphill treadmill walking workout the other day. 15 percent incline. It was definitely interesting. Couldn’t zone out like I do on the stationary bike, otherwise I would probably have fallen off!

    Even though I was going fairly slow, my heart rate was about the same as an easy run. And legs felt it more than with other forms of cross-training. Good workout and one I’ll have to do again.


    That’s great. I’m curious what kind of pace you were doing that was equivalent to an easy run heartrate wise?

    There are some conversion tables online where you can estimate the effort, and you can use the Stryd Workout CIQ app and enter the incline % and it will give you the appropriate wattage. When I do that it comes in pretty close to the following estimates of pace conversion:

    15% Grade:
    3mph (20:00min/mile) = 10:06min/mile
    3.5mph (17:30min/mile) = 8:40min/mile
    4mph (15:00min/mile) = 7:33min/mile


    Very interesting. I had no point of reference, but set it to 3 mph. The last couple of weeks, my easy run pace has averaged around 10:04/mile. So that’s really close.

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