A Case for Cross Fit

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Source: gethellthy: “Neyxi Barraza by Pedro Matute ”

I should be enjoying some downtime. Ideally, freeing myself up from training for any long-distance event should see me enjoying some kickback time, a snooze fest or two and some down right lazy days, no doubt designed to get me just that- lazy. Only, I haven’t really gotten round to breathing much since getting back from that Ragnar event two weekends ago far less to get lazy. Sure I haven’t been running as much, but that only means I’m doing a hundred other things. In fact, I’ve been so elbow-deep in a project, I haven’t even had time to write on here; it didn’t help that the project was sort of writing-related. Thankfully it’s over and I can get down to some fun, i.e., exercise fun. I mean, my body really knows no other way and I don’t do lazy; what I do is get antsy, anxious and a tad crazy.

So I’m changing things up a bit and because I can, I’ve decided to explore my limits and push my boundaries, well kind of, with CrossFit training. If you’re wondering, why CrossFit?  Well, aside from the fact that I love a challenge, I’ve been slowly building a curiosity about it for some time and it’s not so far out of the left field given my passion for exercise and fitness. In addition, it is on my new year resolution list this year inspired by the stories I’ve been reading and hearing from others who have dived into this sport/lifestyle.

CrossFit, according to Stacie Tovar, CrossFit athlete and co-owner of CrossFit Omaha, is varied, functional high intensity movements meant to help people become more physically prepared for anything. Many people hear CrossFit and think weightlifting and more weight training but according to Stacie and others like her, who enjoy the sport, CrossFit is so much more and its participants exist along a wide spectrum from the curious, young, adventurous and self-motivated to the student, business owner, competitive athlete and everywhere in-between. Many, while touting its biggest challenge, that it’s hard, have talked about the benefits of getting you to a fitter and stronger level, if not your fittest and strongest. It goes without saying that this does not happen overnight, as with any sport it requires commitment, motivation, a desire to succeed and the ability to stick with it.  Beyond that, it encourages a healthy lifestyle as exercise is wont to do and, if anything, even more so than other forms as persons become aware real quick of the time, effort and sacrifice that is being applied to achieve the success they desire. Then it becomes a matter of course to pursue a lifestyle in keeping with that goal.

I am beyond inspired by the determination, commitment and pure mettle of those who pursue this course to achieve their desired results. While I can promise I won’t ever be a pro, let’s just say faint-hearted I’m not.

Running Benefits to having a Strong Core

The muscles involved in the side plank. Theagonist (active) muscles are highlighted.

Most of us when we think “core,” we think abs (abdominal muscles) and envision the ideal six-pack and harbor dreams of tone, ripped, lean stomach muscles that make us proud and others jealous. I mean who doesn’t want that? I’ll tell you who..no. one. ever. And while I’m super crazy about ripped abs, core muscles are much more than that and I’m more crazy about what they can do; what amazing powers or secrets do they hold. Word on the street is that they’re magic to your running and really that’s all a runner girl needs to hear.

Before we dive into the magic stuff, let’s get rid of any misinformation as it pertains to your core muscles. The core consists of the abdominal, hamstrings, quads, hips, glutes, hip flexors, obliques and lower back (active.com). I know! I wasn’t quite aware it was all that but the truth is you can see how it makes sense, since all these muscles can work together to make you stronger and faster. The aesthetics is purely a pleasant by-product of paying attention to these areas.
Thus, the main benefit of having a strong core is a stronger body with less potential for injuries.  Workouts targeting the core areas outlined above strengthen the muscles, which translates into better performance or running efficiency. The concept of a well-oiled machine can be applied here as the body, tried and tested, continuously strives for optimal performance. A number of the injuries that runners fall prone to such as : Achilles problems, Hamstring issues and lower-back pain, result from bad pelvic alignment (runnersworld.com). Additionally, there are issues of over and under pronation and inefficient cadence; a strong core can help to greatly reduce your risks, if not eliminate these issues altogether resulting in increased running economy.
So enough already with trying to get you on board, if you’re not there by now.. let’s just say you’re missing out on some sexy summer pics 😉 . On the other hand, if you’re sold, here are five of my favorite core exercises that you can include in your daily workout:
Planks – Basic and Side Planks can be done in separate workouts or can be alternated. On your toes, legs a few inches apart and elbows resting on the floor (below shoulders) hold position. Start small and work your way up increasing reps and duration. For example, from reps of 20 seconds to 1 minute with rest intervals in-between from 10-30 seconds depending on length of rep.
Abdominal Crunches – The basic crunch with feet planted on the floor or hyper-extended at right angles to the floor with a twist to do what is termed the bicycle twist gives you two options. You can start with 4 reps of 15 with 30 second rest intervals, gradually increasing reps each workout.
The Superman Pose – Lying stomach to the floor extend arms and legs full out raising first one leg and opposite arm about 4 inches off the floor, hold for an initial 10 seconds and rest, alternating sides and increasing the hold position slightly each workout.
The Bridge – Lie on the floor, hands extended in a cross position with feet planted on the floor right below knees. Slowly lift torso and upper legs until it’s in a straight line and you’re resting on shoulders and pressing down with feet. Extend left leg straight while keeping back straight, so it’s off the floor and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat with right leg. Do 5 or six reps with the option to increase duration and reps each workout.
Russian Twists – Using a ball or weights, I use 10-15 pound weight, sit  straight up on the floor with legs extended and slightly raised, lean back until abs are engaged and twist and pick up weight, keep twisting right to left with weight and reaching as far behind you on the twists as you can. Do 4 reps of 10-15 to start.
What’s super cool about these is that you can work them into any workout, on any given day, and they can be done indoors or outdoors with minimum fuss. You can also combine as few as or as much of these core exercises as you like. Pretty flexible right? Feel no pressure to get a crunch on..only that summer in all its bikini-clad glory will soon be here. 😜
Sources: active.com, competitor.com, runnersworld.com

Gyming and Running Fun Workouts

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The new year appears well underway while some of us are still struggling to get out of the Christmas mindset, if I had my way it would be three months from now, but of course time runs along and rightfully so should we. There, that’s my bit of pep talk.  Seriously though, the arctic weather we’ve been having around the country doesn’t help to put us in a get-up-and-out frame of mind either so I figure I’ll share my secret, which is really no secret at all, on how to get those new ambitious goals on stream and have some fun while you’re at it.

I try to keep a gym membership year round but in the beautiful, late Spring to early Fall months, it’s hard. Sunshine, trees, flowers and birds are the sounds of nature calling and I’m a sucker so I rarely go the gym them and when I do, it’s mostly because I must have some type of cross training for a run. On the other hand, Winter sends me literally running to the gym and there the treadmill and I tough it out. You guys know my history with that piece of equipment… so anyway, I figure I have a good thing going this time around; always running, but coupled with either a class, weights or stretches and, what I call, tummy time. This variety keeps my workouts interesting but more importantly, keeps me interested. I try for three to four times a week these days and really with these conditions, it’s as much as I can make, as well as 10-12 miles being the maximum I can handle on there. If you can handle more, I say run with it.  On any given day, here’s what I came up with:

  • 8-10 miles of increased speed and incline beginning with 7 and flat respectively, increasing in increments of .5 followed by complete body stretches to include some yoga poses, squats, crunches, planks, push ups etc… add some bonus jump ropes
  • 45 mins of a high intensity Spin class followed by 8-10 miles of varying speed and incline as above with some light stretching thereafter
  • 8 miles per above and by 2 miles on the elliptical with incremental incline and speed as well followed by a yoga class and some crunch time either freehand or machine-assisted
  • Kickboxing Class followed by 10 miles, 5 of those flat and fast-paced and 5 at a level 3 incline with medium pace and light stretching afterwards
  • Boxing Class followed by a tempo-paced 5 mile with slight incline, light stretching then leg weight training and some bonus crunches
  • 8-10 miles of incrementally increased incline and speed followed by light stretching, kettle bell squats and an arm and chest weight workout
  • Belly Dance or Zumba class followed by 10-12 miles at set pace and incline level and light stretching
  • Total Body workout class: includes cardio, weights, floor exercises & stretches followed by 8 miles at medium pace with incline at level 3 and light stretching
  • 5 mile easy run followed by an interval run or hill test set by the machine followed by a Pilate’s class
  • 10-12 miles at half-marathon pace with varying incline levels simulating that of a road run followed by a long deep stretch
  • 8-10 miles with pace and incline of your choice followed by light stretching and a back and shoulder weight workout

I’ts possible your gym may not have all these classes so you may have to adjust here and there to suit your situation and your needs but hey.. who ever said you couldn’t go out there and have a blast of a workout, even in winter. Winter 2015 presents the ideal challenge and opportunity to kickstart your new year goals and if the suggestions above help just a little in that regard, I’ll be totally tickled. So while the ideas are mine, it’s up to you to make the workout suggestions yours. As always, Happy Running!

Cross Training for Runners

Recently there has been a surge in the idea that Cross Training can benefit runners, increasing strength, endurance and building muscle. It is suggested that Cross Training can be supplemental to running, providing variety while strengthening and building muscles that normally atrophy with overuse and helping with speed and endurance to make you run longer, faster and better.

According to Dr. Vonda Wright, in her power play video above, what one needs to be a great racer goes beyond good sneakers and great nutrition. She claims, that what makes one a great racer is metabolic efficiency, balanced muscles and total body fitness. I believe she’s right on target with her attempt to get us to question and stretch ourselves.

There exist a ton of information on the best exercises to optimize your running potential, so much so, that it can be difficult to decide where your best results lie. Most trainers and runners agree that exercises, which target core areas and strengthen those that you use for running, which would pretty much mean your total body, are the ones you need to focus on. Some are: Swimming, Biking, Gym Workouts to include core work such as planks and squats; Yoga and Pilates are great for this, and Light Weights. Biking is great for strength training and targets your quads, gluts and legs without the impact of pavement pounding. Swimming is no impact and great for upper body and shoulder strengthening. It helps with stability and control and helps you stay in line when running because it builds core strength. Also, as with biking, runner’s knee and other susceptible injuries are a misnomer. Finally, there is so much to do at the gym..where to begin? Kettle bells! I love the feel and result. They have the advantage of giving your muscles and gluts a good workout-great butt booster girls-but lower the risk of injuries associated with heavier weights. Kettle bells can be included in a circuit workout that may include butt kicks, burpees, jumping jacks, planks and high knees. Remember the idea here is to be lean and fit so the focus should be on less weights and more reps. This will keep you in good stead, strengthening those muscles that will help you to be a more efficient and effective runner.

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Happy Cross Training guys.

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