Cross Training

Cross Training

Just kidding that is harsh.  But it is not running so obviously it is sub par.
run injury denial

No runner likes cross training but sometimes it is a necessary evil.  Like for me over the past 7 weeks.

Cross training quite literally means training using a different form of exercise.  In regards to running the best forms are pool running, spinning/cycling and swimming.  In this blog I will break down how to effectively make use of your time.
injury run

Now the first thing I want to mention is if you are off due to injury.  It is first of the utmost importance to get it assessed so you have a sense of timeline—unfortunately this is sometimes hard to know because a lot of the time it depends how your body responds.

There are two phases when side lined from an injury. As runners; typically when we get injured it is because our bodies were pushed too far.  So a lot of the time some absolute rest and recovery is necessary to jump start the healing process.  After absolute rest just moving can be important to help with healing as well.  My coach made a really great point that with this current injury I need to shift my mindset from ‘training’ to ‘healing’ that was huge for me.  I am great at being focused on the goal and was struggling because I was still stuck in ‘training mode’ but once I was able to shift to ‘healing mode’ it made a world of difference.  Not only on the injury itself but also on my mindset and ability to let myself chill and heal.  The second phase is when it is time to start to head back toward training then it is important to start to cross TRAIN with purpose.  So you can hit the ground running with a little bit of fitness.  I will discuss both below.

One of the issues or excuses you may be using to not cross train is accessibility to things like pools or bikes.  Well I have a solution.  The city of Toronto has many pools with various available hours.  I have spent a lot of time on this website organizing my days as of lately.  The cost is $4.00/ lane swim but there are packages you can buy and some of the facilities are free.  Check it out here:  My personal favourite pools for pool running are Wallace Emerson and Joseph Picinni for two reasons—they are close to work AND they have a deep end cut out that is perfect for pool running without having to worry about the lane swimmers.  Also pro tip leisure swims are free and can also be good for pool running.  For cycling or spinning I honestly like the straight up Goodlife classes.  They will often have offers where you can test out the gym for free and the classes are included.  I have definitely sat through multiple classes in a row like a true crazy marathoner.

Okay so now that you know it is accessible; we will discuss the two phases you may go through while sidelined with injury.

Phase 1:  Healing

As I mentioned above absolute rest can serve us well to jump start the healing process.  AND GUESS WHAT??  Taking a few days off is not going to mean you lose all of your fitness.  Quite the contrary it takes 2 weeks of NOTHING to START to lose fitness.  And if the body is injury it is basically begging you to rest.

Next step in healing is moving to heal (*not train).  For me this was 60mins in the pool.  And allowing myself to chill out a bit in regards to my activity levels.  I have also continued with 2x/wk strength work to continue to work on my chronic hamstring issue.  As this is also an opportunity to work on other areas of injury/weakness.  But on a much more relaxed level.  Again, turning off that ‘training’ mode can be very therapeutic.  For me as soon as I said to myself ‘I am going to take the weekend off being an athlete’ I immediately felt less pain in my injury.  And since being able to shift my mindset to healing rather than training I have felt significantly less pain.  I think when we try to force something the body is not responding to it just makes things worse.  I mean this mindset is likely played a roll in getting us to this injured state in the first place.

So take a deep breath this is what your body needs right now.  So the best thing you can do is embrace it.

Phase 2: Training

This phase comes in when you are feeling recovered and the injury is healing (and of course you are cleared for cross training).  Cross training includes spinning, swimming and pool running.  I think I have really started to master pool running as other pool goers have asked if I was ‘running in the pool?’ to which my response is always ‘yes… but I would rather be outside’.  How do I get through these torturous endeavours of cross training well I always go back to my why.  My goal is to break 2:40 and if doing some pool running is going to help me get there than so be it.  I also do workouts in the pool mostly to get my heart rate elevated but also to pass the time (*see examples below).  For me currently I have had to stay off the bike as well so I have literally been in the pool 5-6 days per week.

Having the Apple Watch Nike+ is a huge benefit as I can gauge heart rate during the workout.  Making sure I am actually getting something out of it.  And for the running dork in me it makes it a bit more enjoyable having quantitative data.

I have also distracted myself by learning (*or trying to) a new skill: SWIMMING!  And guess what I have really enjoyed how bad I am at it.  It has been a ton of fun to see myself improve and realize there is so much room for to get better.  With running I am literally killing (*or breaking– bad joke) myself in order to run a minute faster in the MARATHON.  And I get that is kind of crazy.  BUT with swimming there is LOTS of room for improvement.  So that is exciting and has been very distracting.  And guess what?!  I kinda like swimming.  Who knew?!

One question you may be wondering is ‘how does one pool run’?
Here is a video by Jennifer Faraone an MBP coach on how to pool run correctly:

Key is to keep your butt under your shoulders as best you can and then basically just move your arms and legs as if you were running (*great time to work on that marching type form).  I find making sure you actively bring the leg down in order to get the glute contraction to be helpful as well.

When you are off running, cross training is also a great opportunity to spend a little more time on everything that gets neglected through a training cycle.  I am talking strength, mobility and drills.  I am guilty of not spending as much time on them as I should.  But I have been trying to really work on the basics in order to allow myself to come back to running better than ever!

Here are some ideas:

Strength: know where your imbalances/weaknesses are and work on them provided they do not aggravate the injury
I have personally been working on my chronic hamstring tendinopathy— because guess what attaches to your pelvis and likely contributed to my current injury— your hamstring!
Here is a simple run specific strength routine:  But I do suggest making sure that any strength you do is the best thing you can be doing for you.  Everyone is a little different and my advice is always to make the most of your time spent in the gym… because really who likes strength training?  So make sure you are getting the most benefit you possibly can out of it.

Mobility:  Obviously it does not matter how strong we are if we cannot move through the necessary ranges of motion.  So mobility is very important.  Check out The Runner’s Academy YouTube channel for some mobility inspiration:

Drills:  sometimes technique errors can contribute to injuries as well especially with running because we are doing the same thing over and over.  And when we run a marathon it is 40-50,000 steps (*and that is just in the race).  So if your movement and technique are off this could result in injury.  Since you have more time it is a great opportunity to get back to the basics.  I have been spending time working on my foot placement (my dance history causes me to want to turn my feet out).
Check out my blog on drills:

IMG_0774    IMG_0778
Now moving on to specific workouts of each of the above cross training disciplines.  I hope you find them helpful!


Pool running:
5-10mins warm up
1 length hard/1length easy
2 lengths hard /1 length easy
3 lengths hard /1 length easy
4 lengths hard /1 length easy
repeat (until amount of time is over)
5mins cool down

400m warm up
6 sets of (50m kick w/ flutter board + 50m arms w/ pull buoy + 100m free)/
6 sets of (25m breast stroke + 25mins free hard)
400m cool down

Spinning:  I mean obviously doing a class is beneficial but not always accessible so if you can get on a bike at least here are some workouts to make the most out of it.
10mins warm up
5mins tempo (up pace)
1min hard /1min easy
2mins hard/ 1min easy
3mins hard/1min easy
4mins hard/1min easy
3mins hard/1min easy
2mins hard/1min easy
1min hard/1min easy
repeat (to make up the allotted time)
5mins cool down

So all in all the premise of this blog is that there is still plenty you can do when off for an injury but first and foremost is to get it assessed so you can make the best plan for the injury and always have the goal of coming back stronger in the back of your mind.

Happy cross training!


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