The Joys and Challenges of Cross-Training

Over the last few years, my primary form of exercise has been running. When I picked up the sport, living in Africa from 2008-2010, I only really ran twice a week – one morning run along my Mozambican beach, and one long run through the surrounding areas on the weekend. The other days were exercise DVDs in my bamboo hut – if we had power – and other types of full body exercises.

I got into pretty great shape. And over the last two years, I’ve spent most of my time running. And admittedly without being 100% committed to the types of runs that can help build fitness fast – speedwork intervals, hill repeats. (I got the “long slow distance” run thing down, though!) Running has helped me become much healthier physically and mentally. But, in terms of daily workouts, I’ve grown a little complacent due to my confidence in my running abilities. (Pushing the pace, running with more experienced friends, trail running: awesome challenges. But my morning runs have seen me lacking a bit of motivation.)

Enter cross-training. My big goal this year has me transitioning from a marathoner to a Half Ironman-er (just go with it) in the next five months. Which means I probably need to learn how to swim and bike in a half decent kind of way. And so, while running will remain important and my favorite sport (with marathons on the calendar to boot), it’s time to focus on bringing some new activities in as well.

#1: Overall Strength and Conditioning

An overall stronger body = better running. Especially with core strength and leg strength. I’m going to be hitting the weights more often. I took BodyPump at the gym last Thursday and was sore for FOUR DAYS. I can’t even remember the last time a marathon left me sore for four days, and this was just me lifting 14-30 pounds repeatedly over the course of an hour.

Goal: two challenging, well-rounded weights workouts per week. When I’m not in the Philippines or India (people who know me know this is about 25% of my life).

#2: Swimming

Swimming is, in my mind, the best and the worst sport ever. What do I love about it? The calmness and the fact that it’s no impact but builds strength all over – how amazing is that! What am I not a fan of? The fact that it’s basically swimming from one end of a pool to the other, over and over, probably inhaling water up my nose, trying to balance staying ahead of the other person in my lane while not drowning, insecurities about my inability to flip turn, and that I can’t listen to my iPod. (I have a little ADD going on that this doesn’t help). I was proud of my swimming 800 meters in my first trip to the pool (in about 20 minutes) last week – then I realized the Masters workouts swim about 2500 meters. Gulp.

Goal: take adult swim lessons, build endurance and be swimming with the Masters by May! (And there’s the whole “I need to swim in open water, as in the SF Bay, but I really hate the cold, so that’s fun” thing going on, but hey, baby steps.)

#3: Biking

First off, how fun is CycleSF going to be?! (I’m running the Big Sur Marathon the next day, but perhaps the 13-mile option can be my “shakeout run”… right?) Biking is an awesome sport and will be the bulk of my triathlon training – the problem is that it requires roads and daylight. (Well, for me. Again, baby steps.) I need to get back on the bike and back to spending time consistently riding – my commute to work in SF has stalled given my dislike of riding our fine city’s downtown roads in the dark, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of other opportunities.

Goal: buy a bike trainer to make my Hulu-watching time productive. Join a group to bike with/convince friends to spend the time with me.

While I’m still running as consistently as I can, I’m looking forward to spending these months also focusing on other sports and strength – and who knows, it just might pay off at SFM. And I’m always looking for local training partners. If you have tips or favorite spots in the Bay, let me know! I’m looking forward to a stronger 2013.

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