My Cross Training 101

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

That’s what Jillian Michaels told me tonight while we did yoga together in my living room. (Okay, so it was to her $10 yoga DVD that I got at Target.)

I’ve heard that a few times over the past few weeks and I don’t think it’s by mistake. How often do we shy away from a challenge or miss out on realizing our complete potential because we got “uncomfortable.”

“It was hard.”

“I don’t like to get up early.”

“I’m sore.”

“I don’t feel like it.”

Those self-defeating phrases and thoughts can keep us from truly discovering our dreams and what’s possible!

So back to main topic of the blog: cross training.

Tonight I picked yoga as my “cross training” activity even though I had an easy 5k run this morning. What can I say, even the light Mexican food I had at lunch made me feel a little guilty!

I picked up the Jillian Michaels DVD to do when my son is in bed and my husband is at work. Workout DVDs add a little extra challenge and excitement to my routine, which can get a little too “routine.” It’s dangerous territory for marathon training, too.

If you’re training for anything or simply building up your endurance (albeit with weights, cardio or anything), you need to vary your routine as an injury preventative measure. (It’ also super important to do if you’re going after weight loss as well, I’ve found.)

With marathon training, if you’re always in that constant forward motion without any variance, you’re in danger of creating an imbalance in your muscles, which can throw off your bio-mechanics.

Translation: One set of muscles are strong while others are weak and that means you don’t run right. Hello, injuries!

So here are some things I do and what I’ve learned over the years regarding cross-training to help with injury prevention:

  1. Try Something New. By getting out there and doing a different activity, you’ll challenge muscles that often get neglected by doing your normal routine. If you feel a little soreness (note: not pain!), then you know you’re on the right track. Try rollerblading, running hills, yoga or circuit training with weights.
  2. Resistance = Good. Also a good principle when applied to any junk food, you want to grab a resistance band or use your own body weight to stretch and strengthen your muscles. If you’re a runner like me, you especially want to focus on your hamstrings, hips and glutes, which often are the weakest due to the forward motion runners are used to. Dumbbells are another great tool to have in your arsenal of home equipment. A set of 5 lbs and 10 lbs and you’re good to go.
  3. Get Fast. It’s easy to slip into a routine of going a certain pace, but if you stick with the same pace, you’re not likely to create a whole lot of change. Try a workout at your local track. Figure out what your normal pace is per mile on your 3-mile run or so on and then cut that back by a minute. Do mile repeats (4 laps in a row) with an 800-meter (2 lap) recovery time in between. If you’re marathon training, try doing that four times, which should equal a 6-mile run. Rigorous, but it’ll help those fast-twitch muscles get revved up!
  4. Be Flexible. Stretching and warming up before a run is one of the most important things you can do, but it’s often the first thing to go when you’re in a hurry to get your run in. Take a few minutes before each run or workout to warm up your knee joints and stretch your leg muscles especially. For your knees, stand with your feet together and stretch your arms down to the floor. Then, slightly bend your knees several times while still touching the floor. You can even do a slight circular motion to the left and then to the right to really get your knees warmed up. Try grabbing a yoga DVD, a class at a local Bikram (hot yoga) or yoga studio nearby to really strengthen and stretch.
  5. Repeat Your Non-Running Activities 2-3x Per Week. If you run three times a week, you should ideally be cross training the other three with one full day of rest. Doing something for your body nearly every day will only help it to grow stronger. But remember to listen to your body! If you’re in pain or dealing with an injury, back off and give it a few days before returning to your normal activities.

Ultimately, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and challenge your body in new ways every day. No one is perfect with their routine and I definitely am not there either. It’s all about “failing forward.”

And I leave you with my final cliché for the night. 🙂

Happy cross training!

Want to support me as I raise money for an organization that aids abused and neglected children? I’m on my way to the Boston Marathon and need to raise $5,000 for Childhelp. Donate if you feel lead by going to my “Donate” page.

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