Monday, February 4, 2013


Cross training is...important?  Yes ...beneficial?  Yes ...recommended by those in the know?  Always ...done consistently by runners like me?  Um.  Well.  See, the thing is, I just don't have any desire time.

We've all heard that running is addictive.  Maybe that's why we runners don't like to do other kinds of exercise.  A crack addict will probably smoke weed if it's put in their hand, but they're certainly not going to put in much time, money or effort to obtain it.  It just doesn't have the same effect.  I'm like just about every other runner I know; cross-training doesn't really become important until an injury prevents me from running. And we're all a bit like the flat broke crack addict who finds some free Mary Jane, sighing, "It's better than nothing."

I realize that the experts talk about cross-training for runners as different forms of cardiovascular exercise that work the same muscles used in running, but in different ways.  Liptickling, rowing, cycling, swimming, and even pool running are technically the cross-training exercises that runners should do.  If you've been hanging around these parts for any length of time, you know that this is not a technical blog.  Or, technically, a running blog.
"Just you wait.  Soon, I'll be able to roll my eyes when you're annoying."
See?  Nothing to do with running.
It is a blog!  And I do have some advice to share!  And it's probably worth less than my son's duplicate Pokemon cards!  And it might not even be entertaining to read!  So many sentences should not start with 'and'!  Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Cross-training.  Er- CROSS TRAINING!!!!!  Woooooo!

I contend (because I wanna) that cross-training can be whatever exercise, other than running, you find enjoyable and actually do on your non-running days. I try to work in an hour of Yoga a week, plus an hour of Arms-n-Abs on a different day.  The key word in that last sentence, of course, is 'try'.  When I'm not dealing with a running-related injury, it's a whole lot easier to skip going to the gym and just pound the pavement.
I can hold some yoga poses for hours.  I'm just that good.
Since training for last November's half-marathon, I've had an on-again/off-again relationship with calf, knee and hip pain.  I've had more pain-free days than pain-full days, but my knee started protesting again -loudly- during a run a few weeks ago.  Since, I've been running fewer miles, walking more, and RICEing (rest, ice, compression and elevation) my knee each time it starts to hurt.  After a half-mile walk/half-mile run "workout" earlier in the week, I found myself with plenty of time to get to Yoga class at the Y where we have a family membership.  I arrived early enough to lay out my mat, arrange my water bottle and shoes, put down the ladybug that had hitched a ride in on my shirt, and send a guilt trip text message to my sister about how everyone else there had a friend.  (Turns out, I did, too.  The ladybug stayed right next to my mat throughout the entire class, and climbed quietly back onto my arm as we started the meditation practice at the end.)  Here's what I love about yoga: I don't even feel like I'm working out, but my muscles are sore afterward.  Using the connection between body, mind, and breath really does enable me to do things I wouldn't have expected to be able to do.
I look just like that when I do it, but with the bulges in different spots.
p.s. Gross, right?  Shouldn't they have photoshopped that out?
Once the class was over and I had set my ladybug friend free again, I spoke to the instructor about how my feet cramp up when I'm on the tops of my toes.  She suggested stretching my toes (and the rest of my body) often, continuing to practice Yoga, and she directed me to my new favorite website, where ancient meets present day.  That night, I searched for information about my foot-cramping problem and learned that-- wait.  Do you want to guess?  I bet you can.  While you think on it, please enjoy this lovely picture:
Sun rising behind the mist of Niagara Falls
If you guessed that my foot cramps are related to my intermittent calf, hip and knee pain, you win! It turns out that all those parts are connected (dur) and if you stand, unbalanced, with bad posture, you probably also walk with your feet going wonky, and you might even run with your hips swaying, back arched, and your heels hitting the ground way harder than necessary.  I do all of these things.  As discouraging as it has been to learn that I don't know how to run, and that in fact, I'm so bad at running that I've caused actual damage to my body, I found hope in this article!  Basically, if I consistently practice Yoga and incorporate some breathing and posturing techniques into my running, I can expect relief from my pains.

I made another Great Discovery at the gym the next day.  I can use the elliptical machine and the weights without hurting myself!  I ran on the elliptical for 20 minutes without even a twinge of knee pain, and followed up with a round of upper body and core work, also without pain.  Of course, I also didn't feel all my worries melt away, or get the relief and relaxation that come after a good run.  To put it a different way, "marijuana" will never replace my "crack".  But it isn't a bad stand-in.

What's your "crack"?


  1. If I say this post CRACKS ME UP, does that count?

  2. Heh, heh. ^

    So glad you got some insight into your pain! Tight IT bands are a problem, fo sho.

    What's my crack? Can it be food? As in Applesauce Cake with Penuche Frosting?

    If not, I pick writing.

  3. Rhi, since you directed me here I will throw my two cents (or more) in. A lot of sports science books/articles talk about cross training as a tool not only for "something to do" on your off days, but also a means to strengthen muscles/ muscle groups ignored/underutilized during primary activity. As an avid runner, I have to say that my running has improved with weight training and with my continued wushu/taiji practice. Most running magazines preach about the benefits of yoga for runners-soak it up.
    Do yourself a favor and look into a book called "Chi-Running". Some good concepts about running form that may help you to minimize some future injuries....or buy a Nook and I can loan it (and more) to you.

  4. Actually, I've read it. And, read (parts of it) again. It is very smart. And I am not, because I still run like an elephant with no toes.

  5. but elephant's don't have toes...

  6. They do so. I just can't figure out how to post the images here.

  7. Damn you...."Asian elephants have 5 toes on their front legs and 4 on their back. African elephants have 4 toes on the front legs and 3 on the back."

  8. Replies
    1. Ha! Ha! I toedally wish I had thought of that!

  9. My crack is finding excuses to not run. My marijuana is running.

  10. My crack is definitely NOT running, as I can stop anytime I want to.

    I'd show you, but I just don't feel like it.

    ...but I totally could.