Shake It Up, Baby

Here on Cape Ann, the rain and winds have been relentless for the past three days.  Heavy downpours have left puddles big enough to row boats across, and wind gusts has been strong enough to knock giant limbs to the ground and uproot trees.  Our gardens are underwater; the seas are crossing our streets without looking both ways, leaving piles of seaweed and driftwood strewn across yards and parks.  We are lucky we are on granite ledge, otherwise our homes would be floating out to meet the fishes.

I ran early Saturday morning, before the heavy rains began.  Two remarkable things happened on that run.  I saw the first red-winged blackbird of the season.  Actually, I saw three of them.  Two flew across my path as I blasted along Penzance Road between the two marshes.  One came so close it nearly grazed my arm.  But there was one in the marsh, balanced boldly on one of the few remaining stalks of timothy grass, its bright orange-red wing tips the only brilliant mark in the gray, drizzly morning.  I also ran my fastest pace yet.  I did 6 miles, averaging 7’28” min/mi.  No run yesterday or today; I guess the weather is giving me time to focus on core and strength training, and on flexibility.

Fitness rule for today:  Cross-train.

Cross-training keeps our bodies guessing.  It keeps our muscles from repeating the same old motions in the same old ways, which can cause overuse injuries.  When our bodies grow accustomed to doing the same exercises every day, the muscles don’t have to work as hard, so we burn less calories.  But what exactly is cross-training?

Cross-training is working on all aspects of fitness:   muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, and cardio-respiratory.  It’s also shaking things up a bit in each of those areas.  Try different core exercises on alternate days.  Focus on plank, side plank, table, and Pilates one day, then switch to lotus crunches, oblique crunches, and reverse crunches the next time you work on your core.   Lift free weights from different angles— try them balanced on one foot!   My personal favorite is to do curls while standing on one leg, with the other leg straight out at a 90 degree angle behind me.  Still too easy?  Close one or both eyes!

Change up walking, cycling, swimming, running, rowing, or whatever you enjoy.  Take an aerobics class at your gym, or rent a video from the library.  Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio-respiratory exercise on most days.  One of my clients told me she did 20 minutes on the elliptical machine at her gym, then hopped onto the rowing machine for 10 minutes right afterward.  Great idea!

Work on flexibility for 10 minutes each day.  Stretch on the floor, in a chair, or on your bed.  Try standing.  Try varying angles slightly, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds,  always being gentle and never to the point of pain.  Mild discomfort is as far as you should go with a stretch.

Not only does cross-training keep our bodies guessing, it helps our minds.  Mixing up a fitness routine prevents boredom and burnout.  Learning new steps in a dance class, new yoga poses in a different style of yoga, or taking a walk on a new trail forces us to think differently as we try to get our bodies to redefine movement.

It can be challenging.  I love to run!  Since I have been wearing the Nike Free shoes, running has become easier for me.  I am much faster, and don’t seem to have any of the little twinges or annoying side effects I had in my old running shoes.  I have been running most days, and although I have stretched some, done drop sets, and made very good use of the gigantic ball in the living room to keep my core strong, I have had a hard time buckling down and taking the time to train my whole body.  The weather has kept me inside for the past two days, so I have had to be creative with my fitness routine.  I know my body and mind will reap the benefits of the extra cross-training.  So will yours.

Explore posts in the same categories: Fitness Rules, Run notes that run into life, Tips, Training

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