When you read all the running magazines and the running books and all the running websites they all tell you that you ought to do cross training.
This basically means “Something that isn’t running”, or more specifically it means “an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to develop a specific component of fitness.”
Frankly, when in May you were achieving the grand total of the occasional brisk walk and now you’re going running at least 3 times a week you tend to think “pfft, I have to do OTHER STUFF?” well, you do if you’re me. I’m having a go at a few press ups and doing some squats and planks and all that stuff. I can feel muscles in my thighs tightening up, my posture is better and my stomach is (a bit) flatter. Surely that covers it?
Last week I left my running shoes in the car. So I decided to pull out an old Davina exercise program I had saved on iTunes to get some exercise because I’m THAT dedicated (and I keep eating like a pig). I did the Buff Boxing and Buff Abs sections from the Body Buff DVD. It didn’t feel that hard really. Nicely out of breath, but not as hard as running.
Then I tried to get out of bed the day after. Turns out there are muscles in my rib cage. Who knew? There are also muscles in my inner thighs, but not the ones I already knew about, oh no. These are whole new inner thigh muscles, just toward the back of my inner thighs, ones that really hurt when you walk.
So it seems that if you just do the same sorts of exercise all the time, eventually you stop getting better at them and you only work the same muscles and maintain your fitness levels rather than improving. It also seems that despite feeling all smug about all this running I am just as much of a muscle free slug as I always was. I have therefore made one of my winter fitness goals to commit 45 minutes each week to some additional cross training.
I’ve discovered I love running, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune from ever getting bored, or not wanting to go out in the cold. I’m also still quite a slow runner by the standards of most runners! My fastest pace over a 5k is just under 9:30 a mile, but I can’t sustain that over long distance and I mostly plod happily somewhere around the 10:30 minute mile mark. I don’t mind this, but I would like to be faster, just because I’m sure I can be. To do that I need to not only run, but work on some muscles running doesn’t. I also run partly because I want to enjoy those toning and slimming effects, and to keep those going I need to do other stuff too.
When people talk about cross training they always talk about exercise bikes, cycling, rowing machines and elliptical trainers. Quite where I’m supposed to get one of those I don’t know. Even if I wanted to buy one I don’t have room in my house and I’m not paying extortionate gym fees to go once a week and use a rowing machine for 45 minutes. Basically I want to do something else with a cardio element that will work some different muscles than I already use, so the obvious choice, especially at this time of year, is to turn to the trusty exercise DVD.
I have 3 or 4 old Davina McCall exercise DVDs kicking around which I plan to rotate. Plus if I ever get my living room in a decent state then the EA Sports Active and Wii Fit can be fun when I’m at home.
If you’ve got any more suggestions for cross training that doesn’t involve expensive equipment then I’m all ears!