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Varying your routine

Comments (7)
By Peter Hadzipetros

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?

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Comments (7)

Michelle

alberta

I personally like how a person who cross trains looks. I find that runners who don't do upper body weights just look skinny. I think atleast upper body exercises balance out the runner's legs...and leads to better whole body fitness levels. I've heard that upper body training also fine tunes a runner's performance too. But I agree, whatever gets you moving is worth it. If it's 'just' running...so be it. If it's a variance of activities that's great too. It's nice to have an activity you reasonably enjoy to fall back on incase you get injured doing the activity you love. It makes recovery a little more manageable.

Posted November 28, 2007 05:36 PM

Jim

Timmins

I respect specificity in training, but everyone has different goals and abilities.
I've been able to finish top third/top quarter of most races I've entered, and I'm happy with that. I might possibly do better if my training regime is augmented and controlled. But, do I want to?
I'm coming up to my 49th lap around the sun, and I love: to run, to compete, to go on 100+Km rides on my bike, to x-country ski, to snowboard, to hate golf (but golf anyways), and especially that 50 yr olds are talking about being more competitive at marathon distances rather than their RRSP's.
I'm not advocating being non-competative, but for me to excel at one activity would mean to lose out on the fitness level and enjoyment I get from being diverse.
In the end-when my kids come to put me adrift on that ice floe, they're going to have to catch me first.

Posted November 28, 2007 09:05 AM

Mel

Toronto

I'm like everybody above. I only run. Yeah, it's probably not a good thing but I haven't felt the same motivation for other stuff. Running is the only sport I've ever - in my life - made a commitment to. I never did anything athletic before I started running. I hate gyms and gym culture. I don't really relate to other sports... it's also time. And, frankly, money. I cannot afford a fancy spin class, yoga lessons and a membership to use machines at a gym. The only people I know who can do all that stuff either have a gym in their building/workplace or seem to have enough spare time and money for it.

Getting injured is a good incentive to cross train though so maybe I'll make more of an effort.

For now, my only cross training is the time I spend on my foam roller keeping my IT band in line :-)

Posted November 27, 2007 02:11 PM

Bryan

Mississauga

At first read, I thought I had just the Kenyan Cycling Association to worry about. Now I see that Gord has set up some age-group grudge match between Peter and me. Oh, great...
Approaching the age of 50, if I reach an average life expectancy, I have yet another 25-plus years to carry myself around in this body. Therefore, I'd better get some exercise. And, years ago, I found out I enjoy running, so I run. In fact, I enjoy it so much, that I run exclusively. But, if I didn't run, I'd certainly have sought another activity to keep me active.....I might be playing that squash game, doing yoga, swimming or simply walking. If you are inactive, think about various activities you believe you might enjoy. Try one. If you don't like it, then try another....there are plenty. Perhaps you'll find one form of exercise that you'll immerse yourself in. Or you may be one who found a variety of ways to gain the benefits of physical activity. And, at the worst, if you do not find something that you enjoy, you'll at least be active for years to come as you try out all those various choices!

Posted November 27, 2007 11:16 AM

Stuart Peddle

I think if you're finding your "clunky" bike is too uncomfortable to ride, it's time to upgrade. Much like running shoes, the proper bike for your frame and fitness level will make an incredible difference in your enjoyment of the activity. A few years ago I bought a cheap bike from Canadian Tire and hated it. It was heavy. Its gears were stiff. It's seat was uncomfortable and its frame was way off for my legs. Then I tried out a friend's moer expensive bike and was amazed at the difference. Look for something with a lightweight, alloy frame that fits your inseam height with a seat that can be adjusted laterally as well as vertically. You may have to pay a bit more (around $500 and up) but it's really worth it. I found my bike a good way to keep my cardio fitness while I've been unable to run due to plantar fasciitis the past couple of months.
Thanks.

Posted November 26, 2007 07:41 PM

gord nelson

mississauga

When is the last time you saw someone in your age group in your club on a bike? Run, run run. Isn't Bryan Mulligan going to be 50 in six weeks? Do you want to be chasing him?Specificity of training is the key. You'll have to invest in linament or something if you start that silly weight stuff.

Posted November 26, 2007 02:39 PM

Mark Trenton

Toronto

I'm a lot like you Peter. Cross-training does seem to take me a long way from where I want to be, which is running marathons. But a couple of years back I trained for a fundraiser duatholon. I couldn't believe how much the biking improved my running. Made it "easier". I ran my easiest marathon that fall (felt great, less recovery pain and was 2 minutes from my PB). I attribute that to a long bike ride the day after my long run every week. Of course, I never kept it up! But seeing value in something doesn't mean you'll always do it. Just look at all the people who don't exercise. But I'll leave that for another blog post! I enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up!

Posted November 26, 2007 01:22 PM

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