As far as my training went last year, the biggest failure (by far) was actually getting in cross training. When you start running with a goal, mine was the half marathons, you get serious about running. Every training plan that I have looked at has you doing some type of cross training one day a week. During my 12 week training schedule for races last year, I did a grand total of 2 cross training workouts. My mind was focused on running and I just stayed committed to running. I don’t enjoy weights, I don’t enjoy yoga, I really don’t enjoy work out videos.
There is a reason that cross training should have been part of my training. Cross training lets your body get movement in ways that just don’t happen while running. Muscles that aren’t really engaged in running will be tested and pushed maybe to their limits with a completely different work out. Not only does this help those new muscles, but it is good for your overall health. We need to have well rounded lives to be healthy and our bodies need to be well rounded as well.
This training season I have done no better at cross training. I understand the importance, but haven’t been able to commit to the execution. Yesterday, I found out that some guys from my church were short a couple guys for our church basketball team. I enjoy basketball, but hadn’t played in a league for close to a decade. I knew it would be fun and with a bunch of great guys so I jumped on the chance to fill in. Plus, this would count as cross training so I get to kill two birds with one stone.
During the second half of the game I realized the other reason to do cross training. In the second half I felt just as good as I did at the beginning. The training and subsequent transformation of my body over the last year had given me the ability to play hard for the entire game. My legs were full of bounce when most guys had anchors tied to their shoes. All of a sudden I looked (and felt) like Michael Jordan. I was scoring at will, because I had the energy to keep going. Shots were going in because I was able to keep proper form and not get lazy with it. This was something I didn’t anticipate. I had a tangible situation to show me that all my work had been paying off. Not only had I lost pounds over the last year and gained the ability to run long distances, but I have actually affected the way I perform in other areas of my life. That is exciting when you see it.
Now, I don’t plan on playing basketball every Sunday for cross training…I prefer to let my legendary performance live on in the minds of those that witnessed it :-), but I will look for ways to do things that I enjoy that will push my body in different ways. As I mentioned, I was still energetic after that game. What I didn’t mention was that after everything was over my back was sore and I definitely had muscles working that don’t get worked very often. I think this was a pretty efficient core workout.
Cross training doesn’t have to be structured. It doesn’t have to be a “workout”. It does need to be something that pushes your body in different ways than normal. We can’t grow stronger without struggle. If you don’t make your body tired from time to time it won’t learn how to push past that and give you the breakthrough that you desire. So find new ways to push yourself. You may even get motivated by the fact that you can see how running has already changed your abilities.