15 Summer Cross-Training Ideas for Runners

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Every runner knows how important cross-training is. After all, running is a physically intense exercise than can harm your body if you never slow down and rest. But at the same time, elite runners love to take advantage of every minute of the summer weather and get some great training sessions in. Instead of overworking your body this summer, take a look at these 15 cross-training ideas that keep up your fitness while also giving your body a break from the strain of running. 

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash


1. Canoeing. A great arm workout, canoeing gives your legs some time to rest while your eyes enjoy the beautiful, peaceful scenery of a creek. 

2. Hiking. The best part about hiking is that you have the power to choose the intensity of your course; for a rest day, pick a short, flat trail. If you want to amp it up, try going on a long, steep hike. 

3. Swimming. It’s a full-body workout without much stress on your joints–perfect for runners. More on swimming for runners here.

4. Outdoor CrossFit. During the summer, many CrossFit gyms take their workouts outside for the public. Check with your local gym to see if they have any upcoming sessions. 

5. Rental Bike. This is perfect if you live in a big city. Places the size of Cincinnati or Nashville often have a rental bike service, where you can check your bike in and out with a key card at different places around town. 

6. Yoga. A huge part of injury prevention is flexibility, and the summer is a perfect time to work on that. Many parks offer free beginner yoga sessions during the summer months. If you are an advanced yogi, you can take your practice outside (More on Yoga for runners here).

7. Kayaking. Similar to canoeing, kayaking works both sides of your body evenly, perfect for beach-worthy shoulders. 

8. Parkour Trail. Take your hike to the next level with parkour obstacles that challenge every part of your body. Most public parks and nature preserves offer this type of trail. 

9. Triathlons. Yes, this does include running. But most triathlons are only five to seven miles of running anyway, so you won’t need to train for that part. Instead, you can work on your biking and swimming, both of which are great cross-training activities. 

10. Walking. It may seem simple, but walking is a great way to keep up with your cardio while reducing the stress on your joints that running causes. 

11. Water sports. Going on vacation? Try jet skiing, water tubing, or another water sport. They are excellent for your abdominal muscles and can be a lot of fun. 

12. Bodyweight exercises. Cross-training doesn’t need to be complicated. Take a yoga mat out to your yard and enjoy the summer weather while you do push ups, sit ups, planks, and squats. 

13. Pickup Sports. In the summer, everyone is outdoors and interacting. Meet a few friends and start up a game of basketball, soccer, or baseball. Even as an adult, you can have fun playing the sports from your childhood. 

14. Fitness Resort. This is by far the priciest option on the list, but if you are already planning a vacation, consider finding a fitness resort. It’s just like a regular all-inclusive resort, but with an emphasis on–you guessed it–fitness. 

15. Geocaching. If you aren’t familiar with the term, geocaching is a game where you go hiking and try to find “hidden treasure”. When you find a capsule, you simply leave a small trinket for the next person who comes by. Geocaching while hiking can be an exciting way to get some fresh air and exercise. 

Working one or more of these options into your weekly routine can do so much for your body. Not only do you let your legs rest from your long runs, but you also strengthen parts of your body that running doesn’t even touch, like your shoulders or your chest. The bottom line is, no matter how you choose to do it, cross-training is essential for your body. Just don’t miss out on these summertime opportunities!