Friday, August 10, 2012

Cross training doesn't do it

Thanks for all the sweet comments about how cute my nephew is! In my effort to declare a moratorium on emotions this weekend, I'm going to now only talk about running.

This morning, I took a different approach to my long run. I had to do an 18 miler, and since this is my last day of summer break (let's not discuss that, I've cried enough this week). I had my alarm set for 6:30, but when I woke up, I saw it was 77 degrees, and the high for the day was only 85. My thought process was something like "F&^% it, I'm not dragging myself out of bed for 8 degrees" and turned the alarm off, figuring I'd run whenever I felt rested enough.

I woke up around 8:30, relaxed with some coffee and toast, and didn't get out the door until almost 9:30. 

The first 8 miles were in pouring rain, so that's always fun. I was actually pretty thankful for it because it kept the temperature down.

Side note - don't you love when you don't have any pictures for a post and then you get race pictures just in time? I sure do. I think my expression looked just like this, too, so just imagine tons of rain and a hydration pack. 

Running on grass is always great during a race
 Then the rain cleared up, and it got to that level of mugginess where it feels like you are breathing soup. It was way too humid for me to dry off, so I spent the entire three hours running in soaking wet shoes and socks. I'll spare you the picture of my feet, since previous ones haven't gotten positive reader ratings. 

This was my longest run since the 50K three weeks ago, and I could feel it. I've backed off running mileage a bit, trying to get in some last ditch effort biking and swimming. The last two weekends I've had 16 miles on the training schedule, but haven't done it. The first, I did 13 miles on the AT trail to preview the JFK course, and last weekend was the triathlon. While both workouts were about 3 hours in length, I don't think biking and swimming quite took the place of the running.

I get the slowest swimmer and weirdest runner award

Did you know I can bike with my eyes closed?

So, I've come to the groundbreaking conclusion: to train for a running race, I need to exclusively run. I might give my knees a little break with some biking in place of easy runs here and there, but there will be no more skimping on my weekend long runs. 

Do you believe cross training can help you prepare for a race? I still love cross training, but let's face it, I'm not going to have the option to hop on a bike during my marathon in 7 weeks. 


  1. I'm going to lean on the side of science and say, no, cross training doesn't help you. Everyone says it helps you avoid injury and get those muscles stronger, but really, it just helps you avoid injury because you're lessening the amount of opportunities you have to injure yourself. if I only run two times a week, I only have two opportunities to hurt myself, if I run 5 times, I've more than doubled my chances! GASP!

    Also, if you want to get better at running, why would you do anything other than run? That motion is what you need to perfect and practice, so riding a bike is just taking you away from that and possibly making you worse at running because you're getting used to a different motion.

    I feel strongly about this. Can you tell?

    1. I have to disagree in some respects - if you're a conditioned runner, and your body is used to mileage, or even if you're trying to up your mileage, cross-training isn't going to help you. But if you're a newbie or trying to develop fitness/aerobic capacity, cross training has some definite benefits. If you're starting from scratch and aren't particularly concerned with time or disaance but are just trying to develop overall fitness, a day or two of cross-training instead of running 5x a week allows you to develop aerobic fitness without risking the injury you would by running five times a week - because if you're just starting out, that will put you a lot more at risk of injury than 3x a week running and then 1-2x a week biking or swimming. Once you reach the point where you're comfortable running and that's your primary focus, then cross training ceases to help much. I personally don't love cross training because I have really solid aerobic capacity, I'm just not comfortable on my feet for a long time, so it makes more sense for me to run 4-5x a week (ideally - I'm building up to it) or more if I can do it safely without risking injuries. However, if you've never exercised before and lack aerobic capacity and aren't really comfortable with the discomfort of pushing yourself (and likely don't know what to look for form or pain-wise) it has a lot of benefits because it provides the aerobic training and forces you to get comfortable with pushing yourself in ways that are less hard on your joints (especially true if you're starting off overweight)

  2. I love when people think 5 days of Cross fit and two runs a week will prepare them for an endurance event. I'm sure you could rock a 10K like that, but to have running need to run. A lot.

    It's like science or something. :)

    I love the dude behind you in both the swim and bike pic. He looks like he's suffering haha.

  3. I'm with these two. If you want to run long races, you have to run long. And often.

    Sounds like your run was the same as mine this morning (well, except mine happened at 4am so I missed the mugginess factor). I thought the rain was glorious. Between the pouring rain and the wind, I almost felt...dare I say it...chilly?! I'll take pouring rain over 95% humidity ANY day.

    Those pictures are awesome.

  4. Your nephew is very cute, hope the crying has stopped! I felt my last long run too and won't be skimping any more either. Though, I will say I think the cross training still helps because it does seem like I recover better from the longer runs when I mix in some other stuff!

  5. I think cross-training helps, but training for a triathlon isn't really cross-training in my eyes. To me, cross-training is a short (one hour or less), fun ('easy' - no tempo or repeats) workout from another discipline. Seriously training for three sports is triathlon training, not cross-training.

    Please add disgusting feet pictures.

  6. I believe cross-training can be used effectively for running training, but I'm not going to do it at this stage in my life. I think it is especially appropriate for older runners, as the impact stresses become problematic.

    Also, I have seen knowledgeable people claim the long run is not as necessary as mainstream plans claim, for marathon training, and that volume and race-appropriate workouts may be more important. There are a few, very famous example cases - such as Grete Waitz, who said she never ran further than 12miles in her life, until the day she lined up at NY. I expect that most people could get by without the long runs, just as long as they start out by getting into the type of aerobic shape that Grete was in :)


Thanks for commenting! Comments make me probably more happy than they should.