For a while, running was my form of cross-training. Last year I worked full-time as a yoga teacher and while my strength was there, my endurance, or ability to walk up a flight of stairs without being totally winded, was not. Running, at first, was an addition to my yoga practice. And then I remembered how much I loved running, and in no time was once again obsessed with the sport.
So, here I am knee deep in marathon training and I haven’t seemed to nail down a form of cross-training that I really want to stick with week-in-and-week-out. When I first started running longer miles, I thought I needed to have a really serious cross-training game. I got decked out in swim gear and would hit the lanes twice a week. But after a month or two of swimming, I realized I should probably add some strength work to my program.
I began doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts twice a week and was starting to notice some gains. But I wasn’t swimming. After another few months of strength cross-training, I started to hit the wall. I was reaching the midway point of my marathon training and was starting to feel it physically and emotionally (plus the February blues). So, I stopped strength training, except to do my stability exercises for running performance. I did yoga on the days that I felt like moving a little slower and giving some love to my overworked body. Some weeks I took an extra rest day. And it felt fantastic.
What I’m trying to get at here is that cross-training, I believe, is meant to support your training, and the level or type of support you need is going to change from time to time. I felt guilty that I wasn’t going to spin classes but I don’t find cycling fun so it didn’t seem like the right thing to do, even though tons of other runners do it. I enjoy swimming on my “off” days but sometimes I want to push myself with a yoga flow because that’s what my body is asking for.
I think, as runners, and maybe just as humans, we have the tendency to push ourselves too hard when our bodies are screaming at us to slow down. We think that by pushing we’ll get there faster and in just the same time and condition. But slowing down helped me become a better runner; it showed me that my ego was getting a little too big and I needed some rest. After that rest and break from harder cross-training, I had some of the best runs of this training cycle. I encourage you to listen to your body and give it what it’s asking for, because, even if it feels like you’re slacking off, that bit of TLC will take you farther in the long run.