Cross country running isn’t just about miles logged on rugged trails or long intervals on the track; it’s a dynamic interplay of endurance, speed, strength, and injury resilience. Cross-training is often viewed as a mere supplement or a compromise in training due to injury. Parker Valby’s recent success as the 2023 Cross Country National champion and the new NCAA record holder in the 5000m indoors (14:56), have ignited discussions about a possible paradigm shift in distance training. Cross-training may soon become a standard training component for competitive distance runners… even healthy ones.

Reimagining Cross-Training

Parker Valby, the University of Florida‘s rising star in the running world, has captivated attention not just for her stellar athletic achievements but for her unconventional training methods. Prior to winning the 2023 NCAA Cross Country Championships, Valby astonished the running community by revealing her training regimen: running merely 2-3 days a week (what?!) while extensively incorporating cross-training. Her strategic blend of limited running days paired with cross-training sessions has spurred discussions and interest, challenging conventional training norms in the running world.

This revelation led many to wrongly assume that she was training with less intensity than some of her peers. Wrong! The kind of sessions she did were gut-wrenching workouts that left pools of sweat on the floor. On ‘non-running’ days, Valby used the elliptical trainer for up to two hours, sometimes doubling or combining with aqua jogging. In her words, the cross-training sessions made running feel easy by comparison. There are no short-cuts.

Performance Enhancement

Amplifying Training Volume

For athletes that want to boost their volume of mileage while mitigating injury risks, a morning run followed by an afternoon cross-training session can be a smart approach. This approach not only elevates aerobic capacity but also minimizes the risk associated with excessively long runs and overuse injuries.

Active Recovery

Some runners require a shift towards recovery-focused regimens. Integrating cross-training as an active recovery tool after intense workouts serves as a strategy to limit injury while preserving fitness gains. For example, a runner may go out for 45-minute run on a Monday and follow that up with 45 minutes of aqua jogging the next day.


The off-season becomes a critical juncture for high school athletes, where intentional cross-training sessions can mitigate injury risk and bolster confidence for the upcoming season. Here in the northeast, where the roads are often slippery and the sun sets in the late afternoon, cross training offers a safer alternative to running on the roads.

Enhancing Cadence and Turnover

Strategically structured cross-training sessions can mirror running patterns, offering a pathway for athletes aiming to improve turnover and reinforce specific movement mechanics. It is necessary for athletes to have a plan, run with purpose, and understand that cross-training should be every bit as demanding as the regular running workouts.

Mental Rejuvenation

A deliberate shift to cross-training infuses a sense of playfulness and variety, revitalizing the athlete’s mindset towards training. How many times have you heard your athlete’s say, “Let me guess. More running today?”

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Navigating through injuries, athletes can hold on to their sanity by cross-training. It not only maintains aerobic fitness but also enables a coach to plot a course for recovery without compromising progress.

Cross-training is more than just a tool for injured athletes; it amplifies training volume, aids recovery, and revitalizes an athlete’s passion for the sport. Now, the challenge lies in persuading the school board to invest in new equipment.






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