In this discussion, we explore the significance of cross-training for marathon and ultra-marathon runners. 

Without delving into specifics, the focus remains on the benefits of incorporating cross-training activities into one’s regimen, particularly in the context of preparing for events like the Comrades Marathon.

Enhancing Performance Through Diversity

Cross-training emerges as a valuable complement to traditional running workouts, especially for individuals seeking to optimize their performance potential. It serves as a means to diversify training modalities, improve cardiovascular fitness, and enhance muscular strength, thereby contributing to overall athletic development.

Activities such as spinning classes, swimming, or cycling offer unique physiological benefits that may not be fully attained through running alone. For instance, cycling can significantly strengthen muscles used in uphill running, thereby improving overall running efficiency and resilience.

A Supplementary Approach, Not a Substitute

While cross-training offers numerous advantages, it should not serve as a substitute for essential components of training, such as long runs. Long-distance events like the Comrades Marathon demand both physical and psychological preparation, with long runs playing a pivotal role in building endurance and mental resilience.

Although cross-training can provide valuable supplementary conditioning, particularly on rest days or during periods of reduced running volume, it cannot fully replicate the physiological and psychological demands of long-distance running. Hence, runners are encouraged to prioritize long runs while incorporating cross-training activities as supplementary components of their training regimen.

Striking a Balance

The key lies in striking a balance between running and cross-training activities, ensuring that both contribute synergistically to the runner’s overall fitness and performance goals. While cross-training can offer valuable benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength, it should complement rather than replace essential running workouts, especially long runs.

Ultimately, successful marathon and ultra-marathon training programs embrace diversity, incorporating a blend of running and cross-training activities to enhance overall athleticism and prepare runners for the unique challenges of endurance events.

In conclusion, cross-training represents a valuable tool for marathon and ultra-marathon runners seeking to maximize their performance potential. By diversifying training modalities and enhancing overall fitness, cross-training activities can supplement traditional running workouts and contribute to holistic athletic development.

However, runners must approach cross-training with a balanced perspective, ensuring that it complements rather than replaces essential running components, such as long runs. By striking a harmonious balance between running and cross-training activities, runners can optimize their preparation for challenging events like the Comrades Marathon, ultimately enhancing their performance and enjoyment of the sport.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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