Why You Should Stop Running to Cross Train

Here’s the truth: I hate to run.

When people that like to run ask me to train them, I feel like I’m aiding and abetting a criminal. That’s how much I hate running.

I would consider aiding and abetting a criminal BEFORE I would consider running.

No of those words are necessary. My eyes will tell you how much I hate running.

None of those words are necessary. Let us never mention running again.

But do you know how much I’ve run in my life? More than I would have liked. More than I ever wanted to. More than was necessary. (As in there was no one and nothing physically chasing me that might make it necessary to run.)

Why?” I imagine you asking me, “If you hate running so much, why did you do it?

Because it was the thing to do at the time.

Now, I’ve never been one of those people to jump off of a cliff just because all my friends are jumping off. But I AM one of those people that occasionally thinks about becoming healthier or more fit and tries to find minimally invasive ways to do that.

Enter running.

Before I discovered roller derby, I used to run. And I hated every second of it. My forays into running often lasted only a few weeks before I’d give up. I always attributed it to the following reasons:

  1. Running just sucks.
  2. It’s probably raining. (Which, when you live in the Pacific Northwest, is a pretty consistent possible reason.)
  3. There are too many cars on my road.
  4. I’ve only watched every season of “It’s Always Sunny…” 3 times.
  5. I’ve been meaning to learn how to weld.
  6. I can’t take my dogs with me (because of the cars) and I don’t want to make them jealous.
  7. Literally a million other things besides running.

It seems that whenever someone mentions getting fit or wanting to get into shape, running is the automatic answer.

  • Just do the “Couch to 5K”.
  • Oh, there’s a 1-mile jogging trail next door, we’ll go there.
  • Hey, this gym has a thousand treadmills!

Running isn’t the answer.

You think running is the answer because everyone can do it. You’ve been running pretty much since the moment you learned to walk and there’s a low barrier to entry. I mean, you just walk — but faster. Right?

If you want to get better at roller derby, running on the side isn’t going to do it.

Stop. Stop writing that hate mail. Let me finish.

What I really meant to say was that using running as your sole form of cross training for roller derby isn’t helping you.

Wait. Wait. Wait. There’s more.

If you like running, that’s great. Then run your little heart out. But don’t substitute running for things that will have more carryover to improving your derby game.

The same goes for other things. Not just shit that I hate. Like, I LOOOOOOVE hiking. Love, love, love it. And if I could do it everyday, I would try. But, while hiking may help me improve in some aspects of derby, just hiking ain’t gonna cut it.

If you’re serious about preventing injury, gaining strength, and increasing your jam endurance you’re going to have to do more than just run. Or hike. Or do yoga. Or foam roll. Or lift weights.


Intelligent cross training is all about finding a balance between the things that you like to do and the things that you need to do to unwind all the damage derby does to your body.

So you like to run? Great. First off, we can’t be friends anymore. And secondly, you can keep running. You just have to do other things too.


Maybe Monday is your run day. Maybe it’s not. For the purposes of this, we’re going to assume that it is.

Take a long run and finish it off with a combination of stretching and derby specific yoga (Hey, I know a gal.) or some derby specific foam rolling. It doesn’t have to take an hour, but it will pair well with your long run and it will challenge you on your muscle imbalances.


Tuesday you have practice? Alright, so no run. This is a good day to JUST PRACTICE. If that’s not your style, you might consider some strength training. Don’t hit your legs too hard if you plan on a rough practice.


Rest. Active Recovery. If you ran, then practiced (and *maybe* strength trained), you need to take some time to recover. You can take a full rest, but if you want to keep blood flow to your muscles — and you do — this is another great day for gentle yoga, foam rolling, or leisure walking.


Practice. And/or interval run. You can set up your intervals however you’d like, but you’ll get the most derby carryover if you go like hell for 60 to 90 seconds and then rest for 2 to 3 minutes. As you build up your short term endurance, you can increase the amount of time you’re going like hell for until it is slightly longer than 2 minutes. But keep your rest at 2 to 3 minutes. Your rest should be long enough that you can actually put the pedal to the floor every time you go fast.


Strength train. Yes, you need it. It will help your running, too.


Practice. Only. If you’ve hit a long run, an interval run, and 2 strength training days, you’re probably right where you need to be. However, you can always sneak in active recovery: gentle yoga, foam rolling, or leisure walking.


This day is kind of up to you. If you want another long run and feel good, go for it. If you’re tired and want to rest. Do it.

That was just in case you forgot how much I hate running.

So this fictional person isn’t you. BUUUUUT, this fictional person is getting to focus on something they love to do {shudder} and making strides toward preventing injury, gaining strength, and building jam endurance for derby.

Maybe you’re like me and running’s not your thing. This all still applies.

Sure I want to spend all day throwing heavy things around, but if I don’t spend time doing some interval training, yoga, foam rolling, and active recovery I’m not going to see much improvement in my derby game.

The moral of the story?

Do what you like. But don’t avoid the things that challenge you just because they’re hard.

To go all #fitspo on you: If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.


I wanted to end this article on that note, but there’s one more clarification that I want to make.

  • You don’t have to run.
  • You don’t have to lift barbells.
  • You don’t have to do hot yoga.
  • You don’t need to use a PVC pipe as a foam roller.

The best workout is the one you’ll do. So, if you aren’t into running, do interval training with jump ropes or on a bicycle. If you don’t want to lift barbells, start with bodyweight or check out kettlebells or resistance bands. Don’t like hot yoga, find another type. Foam rolling too intense for you, do some deep static stretching post-workout.

Just find a balance. {And do what you love.}

Want more?

If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.


About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.


  • Anonymous says:

    Hello !

    I like to run since like forever. But I reckon that sometimes it is fucking useless. I have been runnig for like 2 years at the same fucking pace, so it is pretty much useless. You’re doing exercise, it is good for the heart but you’re not improving anything really. So I reduced the miles run per week and start doing other stuff … And I improved, including… I run faster …

    So that’s pretty true only Cardio (including light to medium) is good but at some point you really have to more stuff !

    • IronOctopusFitness IronOctopusFitness says:

      Also, if you love running, you can start trying variable paces. Sprint for 100m, walk for 100m, etc. I agree that working out your body in different ways can make you better at the thing you really like to do!

Leave a Reply