What is the right cross-training exercise for you?

Presented by Run Coach’s Sam Calderon

There are almost unlimited ways to get an enjoyable workout when you are in a recovery cycle, need to give a running-related sore body part a rest, or when you are hoping to add activity without additional running mileage. In the chart below, we focus primarily on activities which function as running replacements in terms of cardiovascular stimulation vs. activities like yoga, which may have other helpful primary benefits such as flexibility, etc.


Cycling: Riding a bike outdoors or a traditional stationary bike indoors

Pros: If outdoors, scenery similar or better to running. Low weight bearing

Cons: If outdoors, You will need a bike. Potential safety issue if unaccustomed to riding in traffic. May require longer time frame for running equivalent calorie burn

Indoor Spinning: Riding a bike indoors usually in a group format and with intervals of varying intensity, while being pumped up by music

Pros: Group format can help maintain motivation intervals. Provides excellent cardiovascular workout

Cons: If not a convenient group time or ability to join a class it would be hard to recreate atmosphere on one’s own


Swimming: Dive in and follow black line at the bottom of the pool or find if you’re fortunate enough to have a lake nearby, bring a floating device for safety and take advantage of the refreshing water.

Pros: No weight bearing, intervals can be a real cardiovascular workout.

Cons: Requires time for change + shower. Hours and lanes may provide limited opportunities in schedule.

Water Running: With belt or no belt, mimic the running motion in the deep end of the pool. 

Pros: Pretty decent at replicating the running motion. No weight bearing. Can construct interval workouts to mirror running effort.

Cons: Not as easy to elevate heart rate, need time to change + shower. Can be unappreciated by nearby swimmers.


Elliptical: Tune the tube to your favourite reality show and get working on this low impact trainer with foot platforms which rotate in an elliptical – shaped loop.

Pros: Feels more like running than cycling, can incorporate intervals to mimic running workouts, common apparatus at gyms/health clubs.

Cons: Stationary, slightly separated foot paths can put pressure on pelvis overtime if overused.

ElliptiGO: Elliptical trainer bike for indoor or outdoor (with a trainer stand) use.

Pros: If you like to move outside, but would rather not bike, standing position much more like running than cycling.

Cons: Not yet widespread use (costs similar to a good road bike ( although more and more bike shops have them for rent).

ERG Machine: Essentially a stationary rowing machine.

Pros: Great cardiovascular workout possible, upper and lower body in use. Every stroke requires the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, obliques, pecs, biceps, triceps, deltoids, upper back, and lats to engage in the activity.

Cons: Can feel unfamiliar if not used to rowing, may not be appropriate if dynamic upper + lower body movement is not desired while rehabbing or recovering.

ARC Trainer: Newer machine style that moves footpath in an arc rather than the ellipse shape found on an Elliptical or ElliptiGO.

Pros: Great cardiovascular workout possible with footpath similar to running, but with minimal impact.

Cons: Still growing in popularity + availability, so may not be as easily accessible.

Walking: Left right, left right

Pros: Less impact than running, can be used in combination with running very easily.

Cons: Harder to generate elevated heart rates than other exercises listed.

Stair Climber: Fitness machine that mimics the motion of repetitive stair climbing.

Pros: Great cardiovascular workout and calorie burn possible.

Cons: Very quad-intensive does not replicate running motion as well as other machines.

Alter-G: Still growing wide spread use, can be found in physical therapy offices or college training rooms.

Pros: Excellent rehab tool as is completely adjustable and actually permits the running motion with less of the joint stress.

Cons: Still growing wide spread use, can be found in physical therapy offices or college training rooms.