Cross-Training To Become A Better Runner

When I first began running, that’s all I did.  2 miles here, 3 miles there, an occasional 5 miler, my first 5k, a 10k, a few half-marathons, and eventually the marathon.  To train, I ran… and ran… and ran.  My now husband, introduced me into weight training when we were dating, but it took quite a while before I began to really appreciated the benefits of pumping iron.  Nagging injuries (a bum post-surgery knee for one) seemed to recover better because I learned how to strengthen muscles in different ways and they in turn supported and worked better with the ones I needed for running.  5 years ago I finally entered the land of cross training and it’s probably the only reason I’m still able to put my feet to the pavement.  With an injury repertoire of 4 (left) knee surgeries (ACL reconstructions and cartilage repair), a broken Distal Fibula (in my right foot), and Peroneal Tendonitis in my left foot, my body craves another means of exerting energy and hulking itself up (hulking – instead of bulking – get it?).

My favorite cross-training activities are:

  • Kickboxing (cardio and on the bags)
  • Swimming

Weights has never been one of my favorites, though I used to try and do them consistently 2-3 times a week.  That was until I met Shaun T in the INSANITY DVD and, well, it’s been a home workout love affair ever since.  It is without a doubt the most efficient, powerful and intense mixture of cardio and strength that you can put into a workout.  I could go on and on, but I’ll wait and drool over INSANITY in another post.  For now I want to point out that it not only helped make me stronger all over, but it significantly increased my running speed.

I wandered into a cardio kickboxing class back in early 2007 when I was a member of LA Fitness and was hooked immediately.  I was at the gym to catch a ride on the treadmill, but my running buddy at the time (Hi Bridge!) and I saw this crazy awesome woman dressed in a funky outfit, beating the crap out of the air with fists that looked like they could take down any mugger and legs that kicked up to her ears.  “I want to take that class”, I said.  In we went and I enjoyed it so much that I went on to get certified to teach it.  It’s a great cardio workout that really accentuates different muscles while burning up to 1,000 calories an hour (can I get an Amen?).

Swimming has always been a love of mine.  The lap lanes?  Not so much, but the splashing around and then laying out to bronze the skin?  I heart that type of swimming.  I was born and raised in Florida.  Raised a beach junkie, I enjoy water like Frosty enjoys snow.  The laps of strokes never did it for me, however.  I wasn’t raised on a swim team (why would I have been – we lived on a lake!), and used to feel that it was too much effort to have to unclothe, suit up, goggle it, cap it, etc and then wash and dry and (gasp) re-apply make-up.  Let’s face it, runners can just throw on a pair of shorts and running shoes and go.  Who needs a shower after?  That’s what Bath and Body Works Spray mist stuff is for.  Am I right?  Well I don’t know exactly how or when it happened, but I started to enjoy doing laps.  I think it had something to do with not being able to stand the treadmill another day because I’d rather be outside (I take my kids to the gym most days to get my workout in) and so I suited up and went for a swim and 1,200 meters later I thought, “Hey, that was kind of fun”.  Since then I’ve tried to add 2 days of 1,600 meters into my workout regimen.  I am by no means a Michael Phelps and my technique is pretty stinky I’m sure, but I’m anxious to improve and if I ever have a spare buck, may land a coach to give me some 411 in the getting better department.  For now I just paddle along sporting a kick with my legs spread too far while choking on water with each breath I take, but that’s ok.  I’m out there, I’m getting a damn good workout, and I’m having fun.

Someday I hope to add cycling in more regularly, but for now, that comprises my cross-training “happy place”.  What’s yours?

*For that person that read the line earlier about me taking my kids to the gym to run, and thought to themself “She should just push them in a jogging stroller”,  I USED to do that.  I sported the double.  I plowed the town with the beastly triple. But there was no way in any kind of hell that I was going to invest in a quadruple jogging stroller.  I may be weird, but I’m not that weird.


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