Six cross-training sports for (injured) trail runners

Author:  Bodil

Five weeks ago I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in one of my metatarsals (foot bones). A minimum of six weeks off running – and that in spring! I am seriously addicted to trail and fell running, and injuries feel like the most frustrating thing. The gym is great for keeping up your strength and fitness, but the main thing I tend to miss when injured is being out in the Peak District. Over the last couple of weeks I have therefore been trying out lots of different sports. So here are my six favourite sports that get you out in the hills when you are injured, tired, tapering or you just fancy a change!

Open water swimming

Swimming is a great all-body and low impact sport – which your battered-from-running joints will probably thank you for. That said, open water swimming is a lot more exciting than pool swimming; prepare for cold waters, fish and slimy vegetation! In exchange you get great scenery, a strong core and an unique experience..

Main muscles used: Depends on swimming stroke; glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs and shoulders.
Check out The Outdoor swimming Society for tips on getting into open water swimming.

Lisa open water swimming

Open water swimming can take you to beautiful locations

Road cycling

I love getting out on my road bike because it is so fast! Depending on where you live, you can probably ride from home and clock a lot more miles than you normally do in a run. It is great for keeping up your fitness and a real workout for your legs.

Main muscles used: Glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles.


Road cycling allows you to travel far

Kayaking and canoeing

Kayaking an canoeing can get you to the most beautiful places. When on a river, the fast flowing water will get the adrenaline going, or you could opt for longer distances in a sea kayak for example. And, as an added bonus, these sports come with very little leg involvement!

Main muscles used: Abs, back, shoulders and arms. Really good core work-out!
Check out British Canoeing for tips on getting into canoeing and kayaking.

Cross-training: Canoeing in the river Derwent

Canoeing in the river Derwent

Mountain biking

Fast, technical downhills, and lung bursting  ups – mountain biking is similar to trail running on a lot of ways! Personally, I love it as a cross training sport. Next to that, you get to ride on similar trails that you normally run on and you get equally muddy! If renting, make sure you get a good quality mountain bike – it really makes a difference.

Main muscles used: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, calf muscles, abs and biceps.


Riding your mountain bike in the hills will get you just as muddy as a trail run!


Walking is easily overlooked as a cross training sports, but can be a very rewarding activity. Because of the slower pace you can take in more of your surroundings and you’ll be more likely to spot your local wildlife! It is also a lot easier to navigate when walking, so this is the perfect chance to try out some new trails when you might need your map and compass a bit more often. Good for when you are tapering or as an active recovery; and don’t forget to invite the non-running friends and family too!

Main muscles used: Similar to running

Walking as cross-training / injured activity

Libby, Corin & dog Luna walking up Winhill during sunset


Although it might not be the best sport for injured runners, and is not a traditionally endurance sport, I do love climbing for how it really gets me into the hills and mountains. If my feet can stand the climbing shoes, I love hanging around at the crag and climbing a couple of routes the day after a race – when I am too tired to run, but can hopefully just about haul myself up some rock!

Main muscles used: Too many to list them all! Climbing is a full-body workout and will definitely help you develop a strong core.
Check out The BMC for how to get into climbing.


View from my belay-point in the Lake District

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