Welcome back to Tuesdays on the Run. Every week my co-hosts Patty from My No-Guilt Life, and Erika from MCM Mama Runs and I pick a topic and invite you to link up with us. Today’s topic is cross training.
There are some lucky souls who can run every day without getting injured. I am not one of those gifted individuals. I have discovered through trial and error that I cannot run on back to back days without my tendons getting all riled up and complaining. Because I can’t run more than three times a week, I need to fill in those other days with workouts that help support my running efforts without straining my running muscles/tendons.
I still haven’t found a perfect cross training routine that helps me lose weight, strengthen my whole body, relieve stress, prevent injuries and isn’t totally boring. I’ve liked almost everything I’ve tried and I think switching up the cross training is a good idea to keep things interesting.
Here’s a list of all the things I have tried for cross training in the last couple of years:
- Walk Away the Pounds – I like the 4 mile express workout, it is an hour long and doesn’t require anything except for some open floor space, a dvd and a tv (or a laptop if you’re on the go). The moves are also very basic (marching in place, side steps, knee lift, kicks and kickbacks) so there are no complicated dance moves which is great for uncoordinated people like me.
- Speed – This workout starts at a moderate pace but increases to a fairly rapid marching pace within the first 20 minutes. I think the fast pace has helped me get used to the feel of a faster footfall. My recent running reading has emphasized that the way to get faster is to increase your steps per minute. A common beginner mistake is to try to improve your speed by increasing your stride length instead which can lead to injuries. A shorter stride, but faster steps lets you speed up much more efficiently. This workout lets you get used to the feel of a faster step pattern.
- Injury prevention – Running strengthens certain muscles, but there are a lot of leg, hip and core muscles that are not engaged by running. Strengthening those stabilizing muscles with lateral movements and knee lifts, etc helps reduce the likelihood of injury from inefficient form or muscle imbalance.
- The FIRM – I primarily use the Cardio Sculpt workout. It is an hour long DVD that uses weights and a set of steps to combine strength training and cardio in intervals to keep your heart rate up while toning your muscles.
- Injury prevention – There are a lot of lower body exercises in this workout, squats, stepping up on the step (ok they call it a fanny lifter, but I am not going to call it that because it is ridiculous) while holding a set of weights. There is also a great exercise for your glutes which is important because runners can get a host of injuries from weak butt muscles. Crazy but true.
- Circuit Training – I am incredibly lucky that my workplace values fitness and health. Part of our health insurance premiums pay for a small gym with showers and a locker room plus a full time trainer. He offers circuit training sessions twice a week in the gym that are very popular. He mixes it up so that you’re doing a different set of exercises each week, but basically you rotate between 10-12 exercises every two minutes. Some examples are sprinting on the treadmill, burpees, squats with weights, jump rope, push ups and wood choppers.
- Injury prevention – Again, same story, strengthen not only your running muscles, but your core and stabilizing muscles and you significantly reduce your risk of injury. Especially with distance running, when you get tired your form deteriorates. When your form deteriorates, your injury risk gets higher. The stronger you are the longer you are able to run with good form, even when you’re tired.
- Bike Riding– I haven’t actually done this in a while because I took my bike to the beach last summer for a week and it got all rusty and junky so it still works, but not very well anymore. Before that, I did try to do a long bike ride at least a week. I did stationary bike interval work for a couple of months to help with speed training but I just hate it!
- Cardio – Bike riding lets you get your heart rate up for an extended period of time without all that pounding on your joints.
- Speed – If you keep your cadence up in the 90-100 rpm range, it helps your legs get used to the sensation of a faster turnover and theoretically will help you run faster.
- Heavy Weight Lifting – I did about two months of the workouts in the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women and really liked it. I could see new definition and just felt stronger. I learned to do full pushups (no knees on the ground) which felt pretty awesome. Lifting Eli was easier. On the downside, I did not see any weight loss and the workouts started getting really long. And I hate planks. A lot. I will probably start this up again at some point, maybe modified to keep the workouts at 30-45 minutes.
- Injury Prevention – A strong core helps with running form and strengthening muscles and tendons reduces injury risk as well.
- PiYo – I just started this so I don’t have a real review yet. Based on my first couple of workouts it is going to be very challenging but very effective. It’s a series of DVDs that combine pilates and yoga to build strength and flexibility.
- Injury Prevention – Same story as before. PiYo has a big focus on proper alignment and posture which should eventually help with running form. Based on my sore everything, it also does a lot of strengthening. Finally, it works on flexibility with almost every move. I have tight hamstrings and calves and I’ve already seen a difference in my runs. Before PiYo, I’d have to stop after about half a mile to stretch out my calves because they’d cramp up. Since the very first workout I haven’t had any calf tightness.
I know it’s hard enough to squeeze the scheduled training runs in my already busy life but I know that finding the time to do some kind of strength training or other cross training at least twice a week will help keep me running. It really doesn’t matter whether you do a workout video that’s a decade old, hot new videos like PiYo or find something new to try on youtube, in your local library or at WalMart. If you’re a gym member, sign up for a new class. There are lots of options and most of them will work just fine so pick one and give it a try.