Cross training means undertaking exercise not specific to race walking. Many theories about the effectiveness of cross training exist. But remember, specificity of exercise remains the overriding rule. If you do not race walk fast when you train, you will not race walk fast enough at a race. Likewise, if you do not put enough time on your feet race walking, you will face difficulties trying to complete longer distance races.
So, why cross train? In many circumstances, cross training provides great benefits. For example, the dynamic flexibility drills or the strength training are two forms of cross training. You undertake each one because it enhances your workout routine in a particular way that race walking alone cannot accomplish.
You might employ other forms of cross training for the simple reason that your body only handles so much of a specific stress, in this case race walking, without breaking down. Whether because of injury or to prevent it, we utilize cross training to increase the amount of work the body accomplishes over time without risking overuse problems. In the case of injury, cross training allows you to maintain your fitness level while your body repairs itself or heals. In the past I swam for this purpose. A mile in the pool does wonders for your body without stressing strained or abused joints.
Which activities you select for cross training depend upon your background and goals. Right now I race walk with the sole goal of maintaining fitness, so I cross train with activities I enjoy, like hiking and kayaking. I choose to avoid running. Its destructive impact on my body led me to become a race walker in the first place. However, if your running background is strong, without a history of injuries, running may be an excellent way to add a few miles and build your cardiovascular system. Many coaches start their race walkers with a running routine and then switch over to race walking. They typically use this approach with walkers who train for much longer than the three-month cycles I present above. Indeed, you could spend an entire cycle running before switching over to one of my programs.