Cross training is a benefit to any sport to avoid burnout and overuse of certain muscle groups. I quickly learned how much my running ability could improve when I started biking more. When Mark and I first started getting to know each other we did so on mountain biking dates. We had a great time exploring different parks and revisiting the ones we enjoyed the most. As we started to ride more consistently I noticed that my endurance and speed improved. I was then a believer that cross training was a great benefit to my running goals.
Cross-training not only helps your body but also your mind. When you try to focus on other activities you enjoy it tends to keep things more fun. If you ran day after day you have a higher chance of getting bored and losing the desire to run that brings us all to the sport. I have had days when I just did not have the desire to go out and do a training run. Depending on the time of year and my time frame I would go do another physical activity that could also help keep me in shape and my mind at peace.
Here are a few activities I like to do for cross training:
Pole Fitness: It is so much fun to take a pole fitness class or practice at home on my fitness pole when I get the urge. It’s a great core work out and doesn’t even feel like work most of the time. My mother-in-law wanted to take lessons and asked if I wanted to take them with her. I agreed and it was so much fun learning the different moves and getting stronger each week. We both still enjoy learning new moves these days and have noticed our core and strength improve because of it.
Kayaking: Mark and I love to go to a nearby lake early in the morning to go kayaking. He also kayaks next to me while I do an open water swim to keep me safe from boats. A couple years ago we both bought inflatable kayaks and they have held up very well. We take my nephew Brandon on them also to get him exposed to outdoor fun and exercise too. He loves it and we all enjoy the time together.
Road biking: I started getting serious about road biking when I signed up for the Ironman competitions. Road biking with a meet-up bike group was always a lot of fun but having a goal made me train harder and do some solo rides to get ready for the race. I’ve done 6-century rides at this point and look forward to bike riding closer to Ironman Chattanooga in 2017.
Swimming: Swimming is one discipline I have never really enjoyed. My Mom and Sister Melissa are natural fish in the water and truly love to experience but I have never found that joy. It’s such a great total body workout but not one I look forward to at all. Cold water and the boredom get to me and I do not look forward to it. I have ordered and used a waterproof MP3 player and that significantly helps but the time still cannot go by fast enough. Swimming is the first leg of an Ironman competition so it’s important to train and be ready for it. I have had some fun times with a swimming group and with Mark kayaking with me so it is not completely dreaded. I do what I can to make it fun and go by quickly. It’s great for cross training so I focus on what I can achieve from the experience.
Hiking: This is a lot of fun to do to explore the areas around you and have a lighter workout day. I have a few friends that I go hike with and find it to be fun to be outside and still be able to maintain a conversation. I try to make the hiking days a time to spend time with friends and family and get them moving as well. This is also a good opportunity to scope out some new trail running places to train on. Many of the ultra-races are all on trails so it is essential to do some training on them and hiking out a few routes helps add variety to places you can go to train.
Gym: I like going to the gym and have a fun routine I like to typically do. My usual routine is to start out with an hour on the treadmill, do an hour and a half on the stationary bike, do some ab work, and finish with some strength training arm exercises on a machine I like that focuses on the back and triceps. Closer to Ironman time I will add a pool swim in there. Then I will take a hot shower and start my day. I prefer to work out in the morning before I get too tired from the day but sometimes I don’t get a choice and need to make it work when I have time. On the treadmill, I watch YouTube videos which I find entertaining. On the bike, I’ll check emails and to research for one thing or another most of the time. So the gym is a nice place to get in a good workout but still get a few things done.
Walking: My Mom and I use to meet at the gym near her house and go for walks as we would talk each other’s ear off. I like staying in motion so chatting and walking is fun. I like to go on walks with Mark or Matt too as we try to talk out things that are going on in our lives. Some of the best plans and ideas we have had have been while we were walking. They don’t have to be long walks either. 20 minutes to work something out is better than fussing at each other at home staring at one another.
Weights at the station: I work 24-hour shifts and we are fortunate to have a small gym at our station. When I can I try to get in a quick workout. I’ll do lunges with a 10-15 lbs. weight in each hand, a few bench press sets, and then sit ups. These can be quick little workouts in-between calls. I make more of an effort to work out there closer to race time but it’s nice to have the option to use the equipment if I want to.
Cards: I think that down time also should include something that stimulates your mind and is not physical. I have a great time playing cards with Matt, Mark, or both of them. Helps us all bond and spend time together. I have noticed that I am more motivated to train when I feel happy and connected in my relationships. Spending time together doing something fun helps that to happen.
Down Time: I think it’s a good idea to have some downtime at some point during the year to give your mind and body a break. My last race was Tunnel Hill this past November and I don’t have another 100-mile race until mid-February so I have been taking it easy lately. I still run and go to the gym but not at the same intensity as I typically do. It’s been nice to not be so focused on getting my training in for a few weeks so that when I get more focused on the races in January I am excited about them and ready to get back to work. I know that some people need to workout as a stress reliever and that’s great but still think a little down time is beneficial to your overall performance.