Monthly Archives: February 2013

From Grasshopper to Hill Master: Wax On the Cross Training and Wax Off the Miles

Maybe it’s because I’m all hyped up on Mountain Dew, or maybe it’s because I’m tired of starting blog entries like some informative news piece, but today I’m going to go all Billy Mays on you with this running infomercial:

Hey Runners!

Are you tired of stressing out about hills?

Are you sick of getting repetitive motion sports injuries from all those miles?

Wish there was a better way to train without logging in so many miles but still improve your running?

Well I’m here to tell you there is!

Cross-Training!

Start cross-training today, and in as little as 3 weeks, you can start to see and feel the benefits of trying this new program. Be strong, look sexy, and watch those sports injuries melt away!

It sounds too good to be true!

But wait, there’s more!

Start Cross-Training and get the added bonus of Strength Training! Strength Training builds up your muscles like never before! You’ll not only conquer the hills, but you’ll do it all without feeling a burn! Your thighs will be so delicious even Wonder Woman will have to ask, “Where’d you get those?”

And you can tell her you accomplished it all with Cross-Training!

*(all this for a payment of 2-3 times a week, transportation and handling not included, results not typical as Wonder Woman doesn’t really exist)

Ok, so now that you’re ready to dial in on this deal, let’s take a look at how to incorporate cross-training into your running regimen so you can conquer hills, prevent sports injuries, and stay strong without logging in extra miles.

In high school, all I did was run, run, run. Running seemed simple. You want to run faster? Run harder. You want to run further? Run farther. But then freshmen year in college, my left knee got really bad. It was a combination of running too much, running on a very hilly campus day after day, and not replacing my worn out running shoes. For awhile it looked like I might not be able to run again.

But when people tell me I can’t do something, I sure as hell want to go out and do it. So when my Mom and the on-campus physical therapist told me that fixing the problem was to just not run anymore, I looked for other solutions. While my knee was healing, I needed to find a way to stay in shape.  I found out the KU Rec Center offered free personal training sessions to students. There were only so many free sessions given out, but it was totally worth getting up at the butt crack of dawn and waiting in line.

I got lucky and worked with a trainer who wasn’t phased by me being a girl. And I really appreciate this. A lot of people assume girls only like to put on their makeup, grab Cosmo, and go hit up the treadmill for an hour. He taught me exercises with machines, free weights, medicine balls, resistance bands, and the infamous Bosu (the weird half blue ball thing with a flat bottom – don’t be deceived by its mediocre appearance. It’s a torture machine that will make you work!).  I also learned to appreciate the elliptical and bicycle equipment, which are huge thigh burners without the added stress on your joints.

For about two years I didn’t run – I did cardio on the elliptical or bike and did my weight training. When I went back to running, I was amazed I hadn’t lost a lot of speed. In fact, I could now run up the giant hills on campus and my thighs didn’t burn anymore! Thank you, leg press!

I also realized I wasn’t getting the constant leg injuries that I had used to – no more shin splints, little to no knee pain, etc. The muscle I had built on helped keep my knees in place, helped me keep a strong stride, and let me run up terrain with no pain. It was awesome.

I now do cross and strength training about as much as I run. These are also great to work on while the weather sucks and you want to stay inside. I try to workout out at least 5 days a week and have at least 1 day rest. I started out working out 3 days or so and built up from there. I also have a very solid relationship with food, beer specifically, so I like to workout a lot so I can eat a lot but still fit into my jeans. Here is what I try to incorporate into my schedule:

Exercise/Times per Week

Length of Time

Miles

Examples

Cross Training

1-2

30-60 minutes

Depends on machine

Fitness Classes, Spinning, Step, Pilates, Zumba, Court Sports, Eliptical, Yoga, Basketball, Swimming

Strength Training

2-3

20-45 minutes

n/a

Abs, circuit work, plyiometrics, heavy weight less reps more rest, light weight more reps less rest, machines, muscle works classes or cross fit sessions

Running

3-4

15-30 minutes (sprint workout); 25-50 minutes (middle distance); 60 minutes or more (long run)

1 sprint/speed workout (1-4 miles, including recovery jog/walk); 1-2 middle distance (3-6 miles); 1 long run (6+ miles)

Complete short distance by alternating sprinting with slow jog/walk – use treadmill or Garmin to do sprints of a specific distance or time – or just do a fast and hard 5K; Complete middle distance and play with speed or do hill repeats; Complete long run for distance not speed

Shorter exercises can be combined in one workout (20 minutes upper body weight followed by a quick sprint workout). Most races have a racing schedule telling you which days to run and which days to rest or cross-train. It’s up to you to find what works best. I run better doing a combination of things versus just running all the time. Some people benefit from running more. However, for me, running is just one part of my overall health. By incorporating other types of activities, there are several benefits:

  • You look leaner and have muscle definition (don’t worry, ladies; it takes A LOT for us to bulk up, so don’t freak out that you’ll look like the Hulk if you pick up a 20-lb dumbbell; instead, you’ll look strong and powerful! I’ve gotten a lot of compliments from guys when they see me load up the leg press)
  • Less prone to injuries
  • Less likely to get bored and burned out with training
  • Learn new sports to gain new skills and meet new people (I’m currently learning my left from my right in Zumba and hand-eye coordination in racquetball)
  • Everyday tasks seem easier/don’t get as tired during the day
  • Recovery from races is faster/get less sore

Strength training is sometimes intimidating. It’s hard to know where to start, the proper form, etc. Taking a weight-lifting class or working with a personal trainer is a great option. Cheaper options include watching YouTube videos, reading fitness magazines, or doing at home videos like P90X. With strength training you typically do 3-4 sets of an exercise with 10-15 reps per set. You can rest up to a minute or so between reps. Here’s a handy chart outlining the basics:

Light Weights (feels easy to do several reps, but not too easy that you never fatigue) – builds endurance and leans out muscle 3-4 sets 15-20 reps 30 – 45 seconds rest between sets
Medium Weights (start to feel the effort around rep 6-8, the last 2 reps are somewhat of a struggle) – maintains muscles and helps tone it 3-4 sets 10-12 reps 45 – 60 seconds rest between sets
Heavy Weights (you feel the exertion by rep 4-6, very hard to finish last few reps) – builds muscles and increases strength the most 2-3 sets or drop set (start at heaviest and do reps to exhaustion, lower weight and do reps to exhaustion, lower again and keep going with no rest until no weight left or too easy; drop set is great by itself or as the last set) 6-10 reps 60 – 90 seconds rest between sets
Circuits (doing a variety of exercises in a row; alternate exercises so no one muscle group is being used over and over; example: bicep curl, squat, overhead tricep, calves, sit-up) – saves on time and helps with endurance because it keeps your heart rate up the whole time 2-3 rounds (also called a circuit; do 3-5 exercises in a row without a break and at the end of those, take a break – that’s one round) 6-15 reps of each exercise, depending on how hard the weight is 1 to 2 minutes rest between rounds (circuits)

There are several professional resources out there – I’ve done a lot of reading, asked trainers and fellow health nuts for advice, and tried various activities. The key is to find what works for you. Each study swears doing x amount of this for x amount of time has been proven to improve x function. But then you’ll find a study stating the opposite (for example, some regimens swear by running, others says running is detrimental to your health). It’s all about moderation and variety and listening to your body.

If your legs are really sore one day, use the next day to do an upper body workout or try a yoga class and stretch out that muscle. If you can, plan out your workout at the beginning of the week, making sure to spread out running and try not to do something that affects one workout too close to the next (i.e. don’t do a heavy leg workout the day before or after your long run is scheduled). Below are some handy resources to check out:

  • Fitness Magazines – Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Oxygen (for women), Reps!, etc. These magazines give great workouts using pictures to show you how to complete a rep and outline how many to do and for how long. The key is to finding a fitness magazine with a variety in it and people in it that look fit. I’ve seen too many women’s magazines (that generic magazine called Fitness comes to mind) where it just talks about losing weight and having a flat stomach. None of the models look very fit – they’re just skinny and their bodies kind of remind me of a teenage girl’s. In Oxygen, these women are fit – they have muscle and curves which you can tell they get from doing the workouts themselves, and they feature pics of real readers too. Of course, everyone in a magazine is going to look hella fit b/c that’s their job, but you can tell these exercises will actually benefit you and give you results.
  • YouTube videos – Big Name Gyms, Cross Fit, and Body Rock all post various videos
  • Fitness Blogs – people like Tony Horton from P90X and other fitness professionals post all sort of health advice and workouts you can follow
  • Active.com – sign up for their newsletter when you register for a race; they have tons of running articles on various topics including how to speed train and cross-train!

This weekend, I’m incorporating cross-training by playing in a racquetball tournament. I’m not that good (as in hitting the ball, even in the wrong direction, is exciting for me!), but it keeps me mentally sharp and helps me work on speed and coordination. Pick something new this weekend and see how it goes! And feel to post any recommendations you have too!

Next week: The Thrills of Hills: how to conquer hills, where to go to conquer hills, and how to keep your knees happy during the whole process!

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