The Whys and Hows of Cross-Training

As I’ve written before, I’m in an ongoing struggle battle war quest to lose weight and get into shape, which has resulted in my relative recent interest in running and racing.  However, as I’ve learned through reading, research, and talk with other runners, apparently running in and of itself isn’t enough.  Sources like Runner’s World, Active, and Running for Health and Happiness all emphasize the need for runners to supplement their training with other exercise activities, the theory being that the cross-training helps said runners develop other muscle groups and avoid injury.

I’ve heard since starting my running journey that hiking is an excellent cross-training option – it works several different muscle groups, you’re (hopefully) moving at a regular pace throughout, and there’s the possibility of elevation change depending on the hike, working out both the legs and the lungs.  Anyone who’s read even a small sliver of this blog knows I love to hike.  It’s easily my favorite manner of exercise and I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember, first with family, then with Girl Scouts, and now on my own or with friends.  However, I live in Tennessee where the weather is fickle.  Although I can, and I have, hiked in all types of conditions, including pouring rain, thick fog, frozen ground, and mud up to my shins, I personally prefer not to hike in bad weather if I can help it.  Also, I have a Monday through Friday 9-5 type job, which unfortunately means that hiking is limited to good weather weekends plus vacations.

So that takes us to gyms and workout classes.  My personal recommendation is try several options until you find the right fit, and don’t settle for something just because it’s the first thing you’ve tried.  I’ve done everything from Zumba to Jazzercise to various types of yoga.  I even attended one Pure Barre class with my friend B-, which I think tried to physically break me into small pieces.  Eventually, however, I found and fell in love in love with spin classes at a local Nashville Studio called KrankFIT.  It’s a fantastic workout, easy on the knees (unlike running), and no particular level of flexibility or strength is required.  Arms are also incorporated with jumps and weights, making it a fully body experience.  Plus the instructors are so incredibly good at what they do in addition to being super supportive.  In addition to KrankFIT, I also maintain a gym membership to Planet Fitness, which I use for running in less than ideal weather conditions, but also for cross-training with other machines, i.e. elliptical, bike, weights, etc.  Since they’re open 24/7, it convenient to go to the gym when travelling or during crazy work weeks.

Ultimately, the key I’ve found with cross-training is finding what works for you, not limiting yourself to what the people around you (or the people on social media) are doing, and consulting a doctor or trainer if need be.  Also, never feel bad or self-conscious about asking around for ideas.  You’ll never know what you can find!

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