Tag Archives: Cross-training

The art of sucking (and mixing) it up

I’ve got about two months until the 1-mile Bay Bridge Challenge, an open-water swim in the Chesapeake Bay I signed up for back in January as a way to force myself to cross-train.

I did the swim last year, too, so I know I ought to be in the pool for a 3,000-yard workout about three days a week at this point. Non-swimmers: The 3,000-yard swim is kinda like a 30-minute run in that if you make it any shorter, it’s barely worth the effort.

Problem is, just when I need to start amping up my workouts, I’m just totally not feeling the whole swimming thing.

I mean, this is why I signed up for a race: to coerce myself into getting into the pool rather than pounding the pavement every day. Still, getting in the pool yesterday for my standard Wednesday workout was really, really rough. I actually had a sad little daydream that the pool would be closed, forcing me to go home and abandon my workout for the day. This, after driving across town to the pool, not to mention putting on my suit, cap and goggles.

Earlier in the week, I attempted to combat my swimming apathy by sucking it up and kicking my own butt with a hard set of 10 X 100 butterfly in the middle of the workout. Non-swimmers: Butterfly is like doing a tough hill workout, in that even when your heart isn’t in it, it’s hard to slack off. I left the pool with a good workout, but feeling very much like I’d been beaten with sticks.

So yesterday, I decided to try to trick myself into having a little bit of fun by mixing things up instead. I’m too cheap to sign up for a master’s team and too much of a stroke swimmer to do much in the way of freestyle intervals, so I typically do a semi-hard 1,650 or 2,000 “warm-up,” followed by 200 or 400 IMs, or 200s free, until I reach 3,000 yards. Here’s how I mixed it up:

Warm-up: 1X100 free, followed by 1X50 stroke, in IM order. In other words, swim 100 free, 50 fly, 100 free, 50 back, etc., etc. I intended to do two full IM cycles, but was having so much fun (honestly!), I stuck with it for three, totaling 1,800 yards. Something about breaking up the freestyle with quick bursts of stroke really made the yards fly by.

Monster set: 4X400 IM

Got any swim workouts that are rocking your world, or any thoughts that might motivate me? If so, for the love of God, post them below to save me from boring myself to death in the pool.


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More yoga for runners

I’m always skeptical when health and fitness magazines pitch “toning” yoga workouts, and this month’s SHAPE magazine feature — Jenny McCarthy’s bikram yoga poses — was no exception.

I gave the five poses she suggests a try this morning, though, and am happy to admit I was wrong. Not only was it legitimately difficult, the moves happen to mimic a lot of the exercises physical therapists recommend for runners to stabilize ankle and hip muscles.

SHAPE mag doesn’t publish its content online. But I put together a sequence called Yoga for Runners on Yoga Journal’s nifty sequence builder that includes McCarthy’s recommended poses, plus a few of my favorite core-builders, like the plank and bridge positions. Give it a try after your next run.

Keep your fingers crossed for decent weather this evening on my behalf — I’m hoping to make tonight’s Pacers run after missing Tuesday.


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Coping with running injuries

When my friend Lisa tore her meniscus skiing recently, she “bawled (her) eyes out for three whole minutes,” she said. Who wouldn’t? That just sounds painful.

“Not because of the pain, but because of the thought that I may not be able to participate in the TRI I’ve been training for,” she continued.

Oh. That’s something different, and is almost tougher to deal with.

As I prepare to see the doctor tomorrow thanks to a cranky ankle, I thought I’d remind myself (and share with you) some tips for coping with an injury-forced running hiatus.

  • First, get yourself in the right mindset by reading this helpful Runner’s World story. When I first read this, I was sidelined with a minor injury that kept me from running, and felt like my whole identity had been stripped away. When I read that Kara Goucher had felt the same way and overcome those feelings by reminding herself that she is not just a runner, but “a person who loves to run,” it was like that scene in “Fever Pitch” where Jimmy Fallon can’t get over a Red Sox loss until he sees the actual players out on the town, carrying on just fine. In other words: If Kara Goucher can suck it up and deal, I certainly can, too. The take-aways: Stay positive. Focus on recovery. If it helps, hang out with your running buddies off the road.
  • Get stronger. Physical therapy can help you learn which muscle groups are weirdly weak, and what to do to strengthen them so you don’t injure yourself again. It can also provide a heckuva stregth workout, if you get the right physical therapist. I can honestly say I was in better shape after taking a break from running than before, thanks to more lifting and cross-training.
  • Remember that this happens to pros all the time — and that they come back better and faster after.
  • Focus on other athletic pursuits. I used my last rehab period to get back into swimming, which I did competitively in high school. I trained for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge 1-Mile Challenge last year, and I’m doing it again on June 14. No matter what the doctor says tomorrow, I ought to get my butt in gear and take training for it seriously. It’s a nice reminder that I’m more than a runner — I’m a multi-sport athlete.
  • Oh, and — I’m more than a runner. Like Kara Goucher, I’m a person who loves to run. I’ll leave you with one more tip from my girl Kara, who also happens to be a fellow CU alum: “When you’re injured, it feels like you’re missing out on the biggest opportunities, but when you step back, you realize there’s plenty of time to run and race,” she told Runner’s World.

Got any tips for coping with injuries? Share ’em by posting a comment below.


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Row, row, row for cross-training

Something funny happened when I got to the gym for what I’d intended to be a swimming day yesterday.

I just. Couldn’t. Do it.

I procrastinated by lifting for a while, hoping that would get me in the mood. Eventually, realized I’d have to just suck it up, and I decided to do one last set of calf raises before heading to the pool.

When I hit up the little stretching room where the steps and Bosu balls are kept, I got a surprise: A line of shiny, new rowing machines.

This came about a week after a recommendation from the good people at FIRST, not to mention my runner-friend Sarah, that rowing is one of the best cross-training activities for runners. It’s an all-body cardio workout that’s extremely easy on your joints. The rowing machines before me had to be a sign, right?

I alternated five- and 10-minute blasts on the rower with my physical therapy exercises — squats on a balance board, single-leg squats on a step, calf raises, etc — to equal 30 minutes of rowing. As usual, the FIRST guys weren’t kidding — rowing’s no joke! I broke into a serious sweat after the first five minutes, and was more than ready to be done when I hit 30 minutes.

I’ve avoided rowing in the past because I just wasn’t sure about form – do you lean forward and backwards, or keep your torso pretty stationary and let your arms do the work? To what extent do you use your legs? Do you look as silly as you feel? As luck would have it, SELF magazine’s most recent issue provides some pointers. I tried to find the blurb online without any luck. But this about.com tutorial echoes the SELF mag personal trainer, plus adds some helpful tips about the “catch” and “drive” phases.

I’ll definitely be adding this to the mix for my cross-training workouts. Though I’m back to running today and back to swimming on Wednesday, it’s nice to know I have another boredom-blaster in my arsenal.


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Shake your rump

On account of my iPod’s convalescence, I borrowed Steve’s iPod for today’s lifting workout. When I sat down at the leg-press machine, I cycled through the list of artists, desperately searching for my standard pump-up tunes. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Wu-Tang Clan.

But then, I found something even better.

There it was, for the first time since that dance in seventh grade: Rump Shaker, by Wrecks-N-Effect. It was like meeting up with a skanky but encouraging old friend, and it powered me through not only the leg presses, but several sets of walking lunges with 25-pound dumbells — a big upgrade from my usual 20-pounders, which are typically more than enough to get me huffing and puffing.

Download this (or dig it up off some mixed tape) before your next workout. I promise you won’t regret it.


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Snow day = the world’s funnest cross-training

A few pictures from our favorite form of cross-training: skiing! We hit the road to Whitetail as soon as we woke up to fresh snow outside (and heard the snow-day declaration from Steve’s work). We volunteer there on the Mountain Safety Team every other weekend, and while we truly have fun every time we work, it was also cool to be on the mountain without any responsibilities at all. We left around 8:30 a.m., skied all day — including at least a dozen bump runs — and got home around 7:30 p.m., sore, tired … and exhilarated.

Next up: a Pacers run tomorrow night. Let’s hope the snow we enjoyed on the slopes has been cleared from the roads by then!

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A lesson in cross-training (and humility)

Wednesdays are cross-training days, which has come to mean a post-work date at the pool for me and Steve.

This week, our pool is closed for repairs, leaving me scrambling for a quick but efficient way to cross-train.

Steve recently started doing P90X videos with some people at work, so I decided to try my own plyometrics workout at home. Mine involved most of the exercises described here, plus some sets of push ups and regular, non-jumping lunges, broken up by two-minute spurts of running up the stairwell of our apartment building. I only ran into one neighbor on the stairs, making this not nearly as humiliating a venture as it could have been.

Here’s what was humiliating about this workout: I started out scoffing at the 6-inch cone suggested for use with jumps. Clearly, I thought, I could jump higher than 6 inches. Where’s the challenge here? I found a 5-inch tall tissue box and got to work. Roughly 30 seconds into the workout, I nearly fell flat on my face during the front-to-back jumps, completely crushing the tissue box in the process.

Here’s what was great about this workout: Keeping your heart rate up so high makes it really, truly possible to fit in a killer workout in 30 minutes, a claim I’m always skeptical about when I see it on workout videos and the like. I was literally dizzy at some points. I would definitely recommend this workout for days when you truly don’t have time for a workout, but want to do one anyway. A word of caution: Those nursing running injuries may want to proceed with caution, as my hip is feeling awfully creaky today.

I have a 10-mile run today, followed by an off day on Friday and a 10K in Alexandria on Saturday morning. I’m hoping to see some awesome Valentine’s Day costumes to make me forget about the blistering cold forecast for race day.

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