Varying your routine

As another marathon season winds up, I find myself asking a familiar question: is it time to incorporate other activities into my fitness routine?

Every year, the answer's been the same. No.

I've always felt that if you want to get good at an activity, do more of it. But that's my perspective.

If you have no interest in finding out how well you stack up against others, by all means, diversify. Walk, run, swim, cycle, play squash, dance. Do any combination of things that will get your heart rate up and burn calories. It can only do you good.

I've got this notion that maybe I can be fairly competitive in my age group in the sport of marathoning for maybe a few more years. And to place well in a race, it pays to focus your workouts on the event you are training for. Incorporating other sports into your training is often seen as a way to get through or avoid injury, allowing you to quickly refocus your training on your event.

Runners are probably the worst when it comes to doing other activities. As a group, we're notorious for sticking to one sport. Why waste precious exercise time doing anything but running?

To run well, your calves and ankles bear the brunt of the workload. You want to focus on them. That part of your body doesn't get much out of something like swimming. And cycling? Not much for the ankles and calves to do, but lots of work for the quads.

Forget about squash. All that fast lateral movement greatly increases your risk of knee and ankle damage.

Incorporating other exercises in your routine is called cross-training. There are clubs devoted to it. I'm not crazy about the term. First time I heard it, I thought it meant running in women's clothing, or training angry.

When I hop on my old clunky bicycle, it's not for a workout. It's for a leisurely ride or to get to and from work. Even when I pedal hard, people who don't seem as fit as me zoom by, like I'm standing still.

Cycling is hard work. I'd rather run 30 kilometres than bike them. Like running buddy Bryan Mulligan put it, "when's the last time you saw a Kenyan on a bike?"

Again, that's just my take on it. But if so many are touting the benefits of doing more than just running, maybe I'll reconsider my narrow focus and add some weight training this winter. Maybe get a gym membership. They have treadmills in those places, don't they?