Cross-training: An Umph Element to your Marathon Training

Source: wiserunning.com

Source: wiserunning.com

Never one to settle for just doing it, I’m always game for doing it better. By “it” I am of course referring to running that much coveted 26.2 miles. Being a runner and a bit of a “gym girl” have had its advantages: I’m in pretty decent shape, I’m told I look way yonger than my age and I could run with many in that category too, I manage to stay pretty healthy and I keep up with on-going trends, research and data as it pertains to being fit and healthy. All of this I credit with my passion for running though I’m pretty sure my gym workouts as well as other random physical exercise have helped in shaping this 3:29:24 PR marathon girl.

What is Cross-training
That form of exercise, pertaining to runners, whereby runners train utilizing other modes of fitness training to supplement their running. For example; cycling, swimming, a fitness/aerobic class or strength training.

The Cross-Training Debate
There has been may debates of the benefits or not of cross-training for runners. Conventional wisdom says runners should run, as you perfect what you practice while there are others that argue cross-training can inmprove running performance and reduce workout boredom and burnout. Current school of thought seems to be leaning toward the way of cross training to improve the all-round performance of runners with an emphasis on low-impact workouts that complement your running without the same impact of running.

Using Cross-Training to better your marathon time
The focus of the marathoner is on increasing speed, endurance and fitness level. Cross training improves your endurance base without adding unnecessary stress on your body. It can
help you improve your race-day goal while reducing the risk of injury assosiated with intense high-impact training (Jeff Horowitz, certified personal trainer, running & triatholon coach and runner of 150 marathons across 6 continents). Jeff highlights three considerations in choosing the cross training mode that is right for you:

(1) It should be an aerobic exercise that you can engage in for hours at a time, at a moderate intensity level (at an RPE of 6-7)
(2) Is it low-impact ir no-impact? While high-impact exercises is necessary for training as it prepares ypur body for the stress of the day..you need only so much and no more or it increases your risk of injury. The idea is that lower impact workouts as identified in cross training provides you with the means of strengthening supporting muscles and lowering your risk of injury.
(3) Does this option complement your running? Aerobic cross-training will help you become a better endurance athlete, afterall you’re working with breathing, muscle-building and endurance, but to get the most out of it you need to choose a mode that works different muscle groups in support of your running, and thus becoming a more balanced, injury-resistant athlete.

What works for me
Cycling/Spin: Cycling is touted as maybe the best mode of cross-training as it complements your running training by working supporting muscle groups such as the quadriceps, which are super important in supporting the knees and are not effectively worked by running. Strengthening them can reduce the risk of knee, IT Band and patella problems.

Spin classes are something special; they encourage comraderiere, motivate, the hell out of you, kick your butt and pushes you to discover the badass within, all without the continuous pounding of the feet, providing necessary rest for the knees.

Strength Training/ Weights
Because of my small frame, I’m always mindful of weight-lifting. I can get really muscular without even trying and so I often limit my reps dependending on the muscles I’m working on to 4 sets of moderate to heavy, increasing weight as I decrease reps. Weight training is so versatile and there are so much variety to work on any one area – I tend to usually work my legs, calves & thighs together, then back and shoulders, or chest and arms and do core exercises separate; employing a yoga or pilates class to assist in this area. The benefit with weights is that you get to utilize & build muscles that are not necessarily in primary use while running, but again supports your running by providing strength & support to those secondary areas, which decreases your chances of injury and helps you develop power and ultimately your best physical self.

Swimming
As an aerobic exercise it’s on par with developing power, performance and efficiency. For my part, the focus here is on breathing and strengthening leg and arm muscles. Although I don’t go often, when I do I spend 1 & 1/2 to 2 hours in the pool, half as much time as a cycling workout as recommended by Horowitz.

Finallly, Cardio Classes
To me these are the real test of any mettle. An hour per class of constant movement: jumping, punching, swinging running, crawling and everything in between is geared to condition you into the finest athlete; build stamina, test endurance, defy limits and leave you fit and hurting and enhances and supports running training. Classes such as cardio kickboxing, mentally strips me and burns calories like crazy but it mentally and physically challenges and develops me for long term, which for me means race day.

I can’t promise that I’ve peaked or that I’m even performing at my best now, I believe that is still ahead but I continue to improve race by race so I know that I’m doing some things right most times. For the times I bum out, I remind myself that I’m a work-in-progress and I shake it off and try again – always with hope and the training as outlined above – pushing for a better race next time.

Sources: Active.com, Competitor.com, Runners World, Runnersconnect.com, Healthland.time.com

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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!

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