Cross training to make you a stronger runner

Jan 19, 2021 | Jenni Ashford

Running…it’s convenient, free and proven to significantly improve your health and well-being quickly. Here’s how cross training with Les Mills Barre, BodyBalance and GRIT will help you run more efficiently and help prevent injuries. Each of these classes targets different energy systems and muscle fibres.

From reducing stress to improving heart and lung health, to boosting weight loss (most beginners lose around 1lb a week), running can make us healthier and happier.

Whether you are new to running or a committed runner with marathons under your belt, there is nothing worse than injury disrupting your progress. Piriformis syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, IT band strains, hamstring tears…all common running injuries and all easily avoidable by cross training.

Often weak or inactive glutes and tight hips are often responsible for the strains on smaller muscles that lead to injury. This is very common amongst runners especially those with a desk job who stay seated for most of the day.

Les Mills GRIT is a great once-a-week addition to your training plan. With a choice of Cardio or Strength, GRIT is scientifically designed to shift your fitness to the next level. GRIT works by using explosive movements which will fire up fast twitch muscle fibres which will directly help to increase potential running speed.

The HIIT training effect means you also increase aerobic fitness and grow lean muscle tissue whilst burning fat. As there is little or no rest in GRIT, the heart rate is kept in a high but not maximal state – the lactic threshold. If you find it tough getting up hills, GRIT is a power boost to your cardio that will help you power through the harder runs.

The benefit of working to and improving our lactic threshold is to continue at a higher intensity for a longer period of time, before exhaustion and fatigue set in. When applied to running, this means you will be able to keep running strong for longer.

Focusing on the posterior muscle chain, Les Mills BARRE builds strength in the muscles responsible for forward movement, including the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, trapezius and posterior deltoids.

The high repetition, isometric exercise sequences of BARRE will catch you unaware. It may look easy but those small movements ignite often untouched muscles which are vital in supporting bigger muscle groups. Les Mills calls it the ‘beautiful burn’ – and burn it does.


BARRE focuses on strengthening and lengthening the posterior muscle groups, releasing hip flexors, increasing flexibility, aligning the spine and improving posture. Combined, this will benefit your stride and gait when running.

Core engagement and control is intrinsic to BARRE and without realising it, you work your core through every movement in the programme. Ultimately, a strong core makes for efficient running.

BARRE is a low impact way to stay limber and boost endurance. Time under tension, range of motion and varying rep tempos help to increase stamina. Because both small and large muscle groups are targeted, BARRE can help correct muscular imbalances which means stronger muscles no longer have to over-compensate for weaker ones while you run.

Muscle groups from your toes, feet, ankles and calves are strengthened to increase stability and balance. BARRE is an excellent way to build strength in these areas which ultimately support your entire kinetic chain and alignment.

Having better balance makes you more agile, meaning you waste less energy while running. Feet and ankles deserve much more attention when it comes to running fitness. Weak feet and ankles will inevitably lead to stress on other areas, muscle tightness and back pain. Exercising the muscles in your feet creates a solid base for the rest of your body.

BARRE also works within the aerobic to anaerobic range. BARRE will work you aerobically and will then push into the lactic threshold. Working aerobically effectively means that your body will use oxygen to produce energy, which is then used for steady state activity. Whilst an improved aerobic energy system will not help you much in a 100m sprint, it will certainly help you a lot in longer distance running.

Increased stability, balance and agility also comes from yoga or Les Mills BODYBALANCE, which is a fusion of yoga, pilates and Tai Chi. Controlled breathing, concentration and a carefully structured series of stretches, moves and poses to music create a holistic workout that brings your body into a state of harmony and balance.

As a runner it is vital to keep hip flexor muscles supple. Malfunctioning hips will slow you down, make you tire more quickly and put strain on other parts of the body which can lead to injury.

BODYBALANCE has over 100 yoga sessions with some specifically designed for runners and hip flexibility. Some sessions are 10 minutes whilst others are an hour, so they can be used during running rest days or after a run as a stretch off.

For injury-free running and improved speed and endurance, it is so important to vary fitness training and include alternatives to running that help create a strong physical framework, with long, lean, supple muscles, from the feet up to the core.

Our Personal Trainers are always happy to help create a fitness programme specific for you or take a look at Les Mills On Demand to get started during lockdown.

Members can get the Les Mills On Demand app for free for 60 days – see Online Classes in the member app.

Contact the gym

More Latest News