Cross training and strength training

Sorry for the long delay.  I’m now almost a full month removed from the Chicago marathon, but I haven’t been keeping still.

The knee injury that smacked me across the face in the middle of the marathon continues to improve.  I’ve had two runs so far, both of them very easy, short intervals.  Very much like what I was doing when I started this journey last year.  The great news is that I’ve had no knee pain so far on these little runs.

Because I knew I wouldn’t be running consistently for a while, I decided to try to do two things to improve my running long term.

  1. Get better about cross training.
  2. Improve my overall strength.

Cross training has been much more of a mental battle than anything else.  First of all, I’ll admit that I am a bit of a running snob.  I’m really not interested in doing any of the other activities particularly well, so I thought that I really didn’t need them.  The hard lesson of being temporarily away from running has opened my eyes to the fact that cycling or using the elliptical will actually improve my running.  First of all, they both allow you to maintain your fitness level without giving your knees, shins, ankles and feet a pounding like running does.  Secondly, I’ve found that there are leg muscles that get far more engaged when doing those activities than they do during running.  A consultant might call that a win-win.  I might punch him in the face for being consultant-y, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’d be right!

As I got toward the end of marathon training and was running the long (15+ mile) runs, I began to notice that it usually wasn’t my legs that gave out first, but my form, particularly from the waist up.  So, having forced time away from logging miles gave me the perfect opportunity to begin work on strength training.  Admitting that I didn’t know the best way to do this was the first step, and then recognizing that, like running, this will take time before I see improvement was a necessary second step.  So, I’ve been working with a strength trainer for a couple of weeks, and I have to admit I’ve loved it.  I really feel like I’m getting my ass kicked every time I go, but it remains the “good” kind of pain.  He’s also a marathon runner (yes, I can now say also) along with being a certified strength trainer, so the plan he’s put together is specific to what I want to accomplish.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my boys about how it’s important to get over the fear of being embarrassed by being a beginner at something, because everyone starts somewhere.  As usual, that’s an easy thing to say but harder to live by.  On day #1 of strength training, the trainer said, “Get down and give me as many pushups as you can.”  Eight.  Eight pushups was all I could do, and calling that eighth one a pushup was a gift.  I was mortified, then quickly laughed at myself, as I was there on the training mat living exactly what I had been preaching.

My current plan is to continue to easy back into running through the end of November and hope that by then, I feel confident that I can go back to a more regular regimen.  And yes, I’ve already been “caught” by my wife looking for spring marathons.

2 thoughts on “Cross training and strength training

  1. I have been very impressed with your strength training regime. Seriously, I wish I could make myself do something like that!

    Picked out a spring marathon yet?

  2. Sean – what a great lesson to be teaching the boys – and an even better one for us to embrace as we get a little older. (O.K., maybe more than just a little).

    I am going to remember this post when I take my first swimming lesson in 2011. If I want to every compete as a triathlete and god forbid ever hear, “Joe Marruchella, congratulations, you are an iron-man” – I’m going to have to get in the water. No two ways about it. Thank you for reminding me of a great, great lesson.

    The good news on the strength training Sean – you won’t believe how quickly that strength comes – you’ll be knocking out 50 pushups in no time ….

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