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Is this Cross-Training?

In my career, I’ve written about countless workout programs that all say cross-training is a vital component of any successful training program. Runners should take a day off and do yoga, cyclists should go for a hike or swim, and blah, blah, blah. Here’s my problem with the concept of cross-training: I hate it.  The last thing I want to do after five days of lung-bustin’ running is get on my bike for an hour. Instead of feeling recharged, my underdeveloped biking muscles go ballistic on me. My back aches and ends up going into spasms at night, my glutes get pissed, and my always tight hamstrings usually cramp up.

I come from the school that says if something hurts or you really are not enjoying it, don’t do it. And this is why I don’t cross-train on a weekly basis. It can ruin a pretty amazing week of workouts. Instead, I’ve adopted a semester approach to cross-training. About this time of year, I hop on a bike and ride exclusively for five months. Then come August, I start running and train for a late fall marathon. I take the holidays off, and then start a pretty basic strength routine that’s heavy on core strength and balance exercises with an eye towards keeping me in snowboarding shape for the 4-6 days I actually get on the mountain.

I’m four years into this cross-training approach, and I gotta say, it works for me. I haven’t experienced any overuse injuries. I also grow seriously fit and reasonably strong (for me at least) at my sport of the season. And that feels great. I’ve figured out that I’m good for about 20 straight weeks at any given sport  before I become incredibly bored (usually I finish some goal, like a century ride or marathon). In between, I guess I cross train, if you count hiking with the dogs, or playing tag with my kids cross-training. But that feels like life, not training. Which, when you really think about it, is why we do all this training in the first place: to make us strong and fit enough to handle and enjoy daily life.
The cool thing about this approach to cross-training is that I can see myself doing it for decades, cycling through the seasons and oddly enough, getting just a wee bit faster each year in each sport. I asked a friend of mine who’s a coach at Carmichael Training Systems why he thought I was becoming a faster cyclist and runner even though I was taking anywhere from 6-7 months off from each sport. He explained that it all came down to fitness, that I was keeping my cardiovascular system in top condition year round instead of checking out for several months like many one-sport recreational athletes.
Sweet. I think I’ll stick to this plan for, oh, the next 25 years of my life.

Grant Davis has spent the last decade writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Xeno
Dec 12, 2008

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 07, 2008

Hello Rowers and Hikers!

This post is about my passion for rowing indoors after college and the Olympics.

I am 36 years old, and at the "beginning" of my life long rowing career. As I look back in time, rowing at the Olympics, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to life long miles rowed. To people I meet, I tell them that I am rowing because I want to chase down my great grand children and regular rows will make this dream happen. In the same breath, I add that rowing is a sport that can be practiced until up to 300 years of age. Once I am of grandfather age, I see myself commuting in a class A RV with my wife to visit our grandchildren, for this I need to stay fit and row everyday.

"We" the rowers know of the zero impact/full body workout rowing is. In my opinion, it is the only cardiovascular sport to be practiced efficiently until advanced age. It is true, that cross country skiing and swimming are also zero "impact/full body workouts", BUT... Let's face it, for cross country skiing requires snow, ability to ski on slippery stuff, and enjoy cold temperatures. As for swimming, you need a pool, and efficient swimming technique in order to have a workout at all. In addition to the swimming option, you will get a soaked hairdo.

"The others" (pretty much the rest of the world) don't know anything about rowing, let alone, the high quality indoor rowing exercise option. As I see it, my job is to inform and educate the rest of the world to whom rowing is a foreign concept. While I write these lines, I am reminded of how many actual collegiate rowers passionately HATE rowing indoors... to them I say that sitting on a rowing machine is not that bad at all, if you have the right state of mind. From experience, I know, that if you learned to row at a boathouse with a coach, you were likely abused and mistreated :-) while being judged on your rowing ability on the ergometer. Therefore you are entitled to hate rowing indoors but keep your mind open to be rehabilitated to enjoy the sport off the water. Too often, unfortunately, the rowing machine is mainly used to compare raw endurance, which is wrongly equated to on the water boat moving ability. This last statement makes me want to scream.

So next time you climb onto the WaterRower, be mellow and find your groove. Love the ability to stretch out and smoothly move your body back and forth. Rowing is simultaneously a physical as well as a mental BREAK/workout.

Finally, my last advice is to be gentle to your body, you only have one, so don't freak out if an old friend from college is 50 seconds faster for 2K than you are. Use it as motivation to gradually get fit, OK?

Yours truely,

Xeno
www.ironoarsman.com
www.cafepress.com/gorow

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