A rainy day can be a blessing in disguise for a runner. For one thing, it’s an opportunity to take a day off. (Yes, you probably do need a day off.) For those who need to get in a workout on a dreary, chilly, or wet day, it is the perfect opportunity to cross train indoors.
"Cross training is the key to performance improvement and injury prevention," says John Vasudevan, MD, a Penn Medicine physician in the department of Sports Medicine and Medical Co-Director of the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. “If we only concentrate on running during our training, we can miss making adjustments along the way to stay healthy on our feet."
Let's talk about the three components of performance: cardio, strength, and agility.
According to the CDC, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Runners may need up to 300 moderate intensity exercise minutes, doubling our time commitment for the week.
Even if we’re stuck inside, as long as we get to that moderate-intensity level of exercise, it’s going to help train our heart and lungs.
Unless you have a treadmill, elliptical bike, Peloton, or something similar, think of cross training indoors as your chance to do one of three things:
Use videos to guide you. They can take you step by step through your full indoor workout.
Create your own circuit. Indoor circuit training may involve some walking, marching, running in place, stairs, jumping jacks, or jumping rope if you have the space.
This is where high-intensity interval training (HIIT) comes in.
"Seven minutes of intense exercise, what we’d say is an eight out of 10 in terms of perceived exertion, can benefit us as much as a half hour on the elliptical,” says Dr. Vasudevan. “We can knock it out fast, and by doing so, we work other muscle groups, too."
Finally, you can always dance. There are Zumba courses you can take, of course, but putting on your favorite dance music and going hard for 15-20 minutes will get your heart rate up for a sustained period of time—and you’ll have fun.
If you’re not hitting the gym and you don't have a lot of space or equipment, there's plenty you can do with body weight, such as lunges, squats, and pushups.
You want to have two days of your week dedicated to some level of strength. You should pick enough exercises to hit a good variety of muscle groups—some top arm, shoulders, back, thighs, glutes—or you can also just focus on your core.
Resistance bands are cheap, easy, and don’t take a lot of space. There are plenty of exercises you can find that target a lot of major muscle groups and it's a low-cost investment to get a lot of strength in.
Try to have six-to-10 exercises and average around 10 reps and two-to-three sets for each exercise. You want to get to the point where, at the end of that last rep, your muscles are deeply tired, but you’re not overdoing it and hurting them.
"Agility can be overlooked in favor of cardio or strength, but improving our agility can help to prevent injury," says Dr. Vasudevan. "There are great options available that sometimes runners don’t consider, including yoga, Pilates, barre and even just a good cool-down period of stretches after your cardio or strength training."
Share Your Results, Successes and Struggles
Remember to share your success and your struggles with others. We're not seeing people in the gym, and we're not in running clubs the way we used to be. There are apps out there, like Strava, that connect people who are exercising.
Finding Additional Resources
A lot of times if you're looking for a solution, a running coach probably has thought this through ahead of you and can help.
"Anyone can look up and Google different exercises, but you can also look to an experienced runner who is part of your running club, who has seen and done it," Dr. Vasudevan suggests. “They may be able to provide recommendations that are appropriate for you and where you are in your training."