Thursday, August 18, 2011


You might notice that most training plans specify cross-training (XT) days. SmartCoach gives you the option of taking a Rest/XT day. This is a little misleading to me because sometimes my XT days are pretty intense. Anyway, cross-training is important, particularly if you’re like me and aren’t built to run 100 (or even 50) miles a week. I’m looking at you, Meb.


Physically, cross-training helps prevent injuries and correct imbalances in your body. Cross-training is also good for you mentally since it force you to switch things up. Again, I don’t know about you, but running the same 4 mile loop around my neighborhood greenway day after day is the quickest way for me to hate running. I love that 4-mile loop, but I also need a change of scenery.

Cross-training can take a variety of forms: swimming, cycling, walking, hiking, yoga, elliptical, home exercise videos, etc. I’ve developed a predilection for group exercise classes like spin and Bodypump with the occasional yoga class thrown in. If it’s a nice day, I might go on a hike with Joe. A gym certainly isn’t necessary, but since I do most of my running outside, I don’t mind heading inside for my cross-training.


Spin: I love spin class. It works my legs without the pounding of running, and I’ve even found my runs the morning after spin classes to be particularly speedy. Most spin classes will be based on an interval format set to music with sprints, climbs, and jumps over the span of about 45 minutes, varying the intensity and difficulty both through speed and with putting more resistance on the wheel. It challenges me because I have strong legs (good for climbs when I pretend I’m in the Tour de France climbing the Pyrenees) but forces me to work those fast-twitch muscle fibers during sprints. It will take your butt a few weeks to get used to the seat, but once it is, you won’t notice it.


BodyPump: Strength-training is extremely important for women, not only as part of a well-rounded exercise plan and a way to get that toned look but also promotes bone density to fight osteoporosis. I like the way I look (leaner and more “cut”) and feel (strong) when I lift weights regularly, but I had stopped doing it regularly. BodyPump is the best way for me to get my strength-training in as well as getting a cardiovascular workout. Each release has a choreographed track targeting every area of your body. Jen teaches BodyPump and noted that the squat track on the current release (78) has over 130 squats! Now that’s a workout. It’s also encouraging to see my fitness improve in ways that aren’t measured by pace or heart rate like being able to hold my plank through the whole sequence or increasing my weights for the back track. I think about how the strength I’m building in my legs will help carry me up hills and power through to the finish line.

What are your favorite ways to cross-train?

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