So you’ve started to make some healthy lifestyle changes and have begun to build a routine to fit your new habits into. You’re exercising a few times a week, you’re eating healthy food that allows you to exercise and pursue the activities you enjoy, and maybe you’ve even set some goals for yourself like a race. Congratulations! Keep it up!
Sometimes, a little variety in your routine is necessary, no matter how much you enjoy your new pursuits. Maybe you’re getting a little bored of the same old running routes, maybe you’ve stopped seeing improvements and have plateaud a little, or maybe you’re just really sore and need to work some new muscles. Maybe… it’s time for some cross training.
Cross training is, essentially, an activity that complements your exercise of choice. It might complement your cardio, your leg strength, upper body strength, or flexibility. For runners, great options for cross training include swimming, cycling, weight training, and yoga.
Swimming is the ultimate low-impact activity. When your joints are sore and your feet are tired, consider hitting the pool for some quality cardio. Regardless of whether you swim like a fish or a squirrel, there are great options to be found in the pool. If you’re comfortable doing lengths, consider asking a friend who is a good swimmer to critique your strokes and improve your form. If you want to work on your leg strength or aren’t a fan of doing a full stroke, grab a kickboard and do a few lengths of kicking. If neither of those ideas are your bag and you’d really rather run, do some aqua jogging. The PAC pool is the perfect depth for doing this: hop into the “slow” lane, and run up and down the lanes as you would on a road or trail. This works your running muscles, but takes a considerable amount of stress off your joints. It’s great for keeping up with your running when you have an injury. If you want to give swimming a try, the PAC has many open swims available every day (even some women-only swims).
Cycling is also a great low-impact activity that works your running muscles and improves your cardio. It’s a slightly more equipment-based sport than running and swimming, since you need a bike, shoes, and helmet as opposed to just shoes or just a bathing suit. Any kind of bike is good – mountain, hybrid, or road are all great choices. If you have a road bike, try cycling north of Waterloo for some great hills. There are also tons of mountain bike trails west of Waterloo. Hybrids are great for most road or trail cycling, and are also ideal for using on your daily errands so that you can fit your cross training into your regular day. Make sure you wear your helmet. Your skull is only about 6.7 – 7.1 mm thick, and that’s about the thickness of 4 pennies. It’s not difficult to get a concussion – or worse – after taking a spill on a bike.
Weight lifting and weight training are excellent ways to increase your strength while keeping your heart rate fairly low. Any type of weight training is great and will improve your running, but core training is especially useful. Your core muscles are those that make up your stomach, back, and sides. Some include the glutes and hip flexors as part of your core. These muscles affect your balance, your posture, and running endurance. Try doing some planks, pushups, crunches, and double-leg lifts on your back. P90-X also offers a great core workout – but be prepared to feel the pain once you’re done!
Finally, yoga is a fantastic activity that can relax you, improve your flexibility, and gently strengthen your muscles. There are simple routines you can do on your own at home, or you can join a yoga club or studio. The Waterloo Yoga Club (http://waterlooyogaclub.ca/) is a low-cost, friendly, and open option for students on campus. There are also some fantastic studios in Uptown Waterloo that are close to campus and very affordable.
That pretty much sums up cross training! It’s an excellent way to stay fit and excited about your exercise regime, and a great way to prevent injury by working different muscles and giving your joints a break. If you have any questions, feel free to email the engineering running club at email@example.com. As always, all are welcome at the running club meetings. We now meet on Mondays at 9:30 pm and Thursdays at 8:00 am to beat the heat, and will be continuing our runs up until the end of classes. Watch the EngSoc mailing list for details on meetings continuing through exams.