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X marks the spot

29 November, 2009

I’ve never been a big believer in cross-training: you might do other things that have nothing to do with running, but surely it’s better just to run a little harder and insert rest days as required if what you want is to get faster? But, I’m beginning to see the light. And the reason is because I would rather cross-train than go to the gym, the novelty of which is beginning to wear a little thin. Thanks to Joel Bourgeois in the most recent issue of Canadian Running for this gem of wisdom. I want to believe it. The key, as was suggested, is variety. It seems self-evident that no single activity would of itself better prepare a runner for faster and more running (other than faster and more running, of course).

Now I’m trying to work out how exactly this will apply to me. I know from experience that if I don’t go to the gym and proceed to train for a race, I will almost inevitably aggravate an old knee problem and wind up limping across the finish line. That is unless I can find activities that are equivalent for strengthening the right muscles. The most obvious one, and something I somehow avoided until late summer/early fall of this year, is trail running. It’s called running, but really there is so much jumping it could be considered plyometrics. And the difference between the ‘controlled descent’, and a hollering headfirst leap into the void is a strong core, and even stronger quads. But still it is running, and carries its own set of risks for overuse and injury.

Rock climbing, or I should say climbing on indoor walls, is something I started doing earlier this year. I plan to write more about the similarities and differences another time. But briefly, it’s somewhat aerobic, promotes excellent core strength, and all the arms and shoulders you’ll ever need.

Then there is hacky-sack. Thanks to my brother in England (who sent me one, and who initiated a game last time I was there) for this idea. I’d forgotten how much fun it really is to hack! And the more I think about it from the viewpoint of running, the better it seems. It requires flexibility, strength through a range-of-motion, reflexes/neuro-muscular condition, and it is mildly aerobic. I’m thinking that it’s the missing piece in my training puzzle. Now, where the hell I’m supposed to play it in a Vancouver winter?

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