Cross training? Whatever do you mean?

Trek madone

Where, oh where, is my love for this bike?

I really had the best of intentions. This marathon training cycle would be different. I’d keep up with the swimming and cycling fitness I acquired last summer training for two triathlons. What better way to start next summer’s triathlon training than to maintain a base in my other sports, after all?

But good intentions are never enough. Like always when I get immersed in marathon training, I’m pretty quick to cut back on the cross training. This time I’ve pretty much eliminated it, in fact (strength training the exception). I get in the pool once or twice  a week, sure. But the bike? Can’t tell you the last time I even looked at the trainer. I just have no desire, and frankly, I’m at an age where I’m just not going to spend my free time doing something I don’t enjoy, even if skipping it does leave me feeling guilty. Right now I’m loving my runs, so that’s where I’m putting my focus.

Here’s the good news, though. As much as we like to think that cross training has an infinite amount of benefits, the best thing for increasing your speed in any given sport is more time doing that sport–not others. It’s the law of specificity. Want to be a better runner? Run more. A better cyclist? Same thing. So if you are focused on one sport, don’t exchange a sport-specific workout in favor of another thinking it will help your primary sport.

I’m not too concerned about my lack of swimming or cycling. Right now I’m all about running. After mid-March, mood provided, of course, I’ll start getting back to some cross training. If my heart leads me to running, though, I’m going to follow it. Life is too short to do otherwise.

What about you–are you a dedicated one-sport junky or do you like mixing things up? 

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  1. says

    My athletes often ask me about cros-training, and I normally give them the same sort of answer:

    Ran, and when you are running enough the you cross-train. So for my wife, who is only alond to run 3 times a week, bikes swims and gyms all the rest of the time, while I run 7 times a week and don’t have much other time, so it’s a short swim at home or a weekend ride with my wife.
    Coach Dion recently posted..JUST HOW LONG IS A MARATHON?My Profile

  2. says

    I’m primarily a runner but I do 2 strength workouts a week and I’ve also added two yoga a week and it seems to help me feel better. I hate being indoors so it limits me in the winter for biking.
    Jeff recently posted..#plankaday updateMy Profile

  3. says

    I’m bit much of a cross trainer. I’m spending plenty of time on the bike as well as running, but that’s bc I have a goal bike race AND a goal running race. Forced cross training, I guess. :)
    Kate recently posted..Best. week. ever.My Profile

  4. says

    I mostly just run, even tho I know I should cross train. I made a goal for myself to take 10 classes at a local gym (that only does classes, no treads or equipment, other than weights, etc for the classes). I took my first one on Monday, a Boot Camp, and every muscle in my body aches lol
    kim prytherch recently posted..(Half) Marathon MondayMy Profile

  5. says

    We talked a lot about the law of specificity at the RRCA training. It makes a lot of sense. My body has always responded better to more cross training to stay uninjured, but i did hit my highest mileage this past cycle and of course and now wondering if I can go even higher next time. But I also love spinning, so it’s not a chore for me to do it. :)
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Apple Raisin Oat MuffinsMy Profile

  6. says

    I do keep up with my cross training pretty well. I have found it really does help me. Spinning once a week, total body class, pilates, yoga. But I don’t have any kids yet. So its easy to fit these things in now. I often wonder what I will do when I have kids. I feel like I will do a lot more at home stuff instead of going to the gym.
    J recently posted..Catching a SunriseMy Profile

  7. says

    I enjoyed the big focus on running during my Disney training and avoiding the trainer. I was obviously frustrated with my loss of fitness but it was a nice, needed break. And I feel like the SMALL amount of cross training I did complemented my marathon training and helped me to be stronger. I am so excited to hear how your marathon goes.
    Robin recently posted..Pushing Yourself in Training and a SparklySoul WinnerMy Profile

  8. says

    This is the first marathon that I have actively used cross training. Not sure if it will help me or hurt me in the end. When I trained for CIM I had cross training too, but it wasn’t as intense as crossfit. When I trained for Eugene I lifted at home, but that really wasn’t intense and I never felt guilty for skipping a session. I think that it is great that you are getting in the pool 1-2 times a week. If you don’t enjoy the trainer then you are making a good decision to not use it.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Brooks Gear: Review #1My Profile

  9. says

    Wellllll, if that beautiful Trek needs a good home? :) Just kidding. I love my Cannondale. I have good mojo with it and with my Mazda.

    I’m the same way tho…if I don’t feel like doing something, I just don’t. After my 70.3 last year, I didn’t ride for 2-3 months. The break actually did me good because I felt as if I were living on it for awhile. For me, the swim is where it’s at. Actually, I just love it for therapeutic reasons.
    Coy recently posted..Leaving the blog behind…My Profile

  10. says

    I WISH I could cross train. My bike is set up on the trainer and last year, because we did the NYC ride in May, I was cross training with cycling. But this year, there is only running on my list so I have no desire, like you, to get on the bike. I also wish I could get myself into the pool because I like swimming but I am so cold sensitive (and getting worse) I can’t stand it. Wet suit in the college pool? Ummm… the way I swim is already providing amusement.
    Joanne recently posted..Hills are the Best and Lemon Blueberry Protein PancakesMy Profile

  11. says

    I do much better with a balance of running and cross training. I cannot put in very high mileage weeks at this point, so the cross training is a way to keep my endurance and cardio up. But when I do run (3x/week) it is purposeful and quality. Yes, to be a better runner you have to run more, but for some of us running more means maybe eventually not being able to run at all (injury) :(
    Shut Up and Run recently posted..10 Things I Learned The Hard Way As A RunnerMy Profile

  12. says

    If I had to ride my bike on a trainer for the majority of the winter I would hardly touch the thing. I love cycling but only outside.
    And I’m with you on cross training and training for a marathon I always have the best intentions but it just never happens. I get to focused on the run.
    And that is ok!
    Missy recently posted..I dress the rainbowMy Profile

  13. says

    I think that I’m more of a cross-trainer by nature because there are so many different sports and activities that I like to do. But I will admit, it’s usually laziness or convenience that gets me stuck in a rut more than anything like I’d love to swim more but then it’s the hassle of getting to the pool and coordinating my schedule with lap swim hours that’s a hassle sometimes and I end up at the gym.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Staying active while travelingMy Profile

  14. says

    It’s hard to fit in cross training when your doing marathon training because it just takes so much time anyway and once you’re done you just want to rest. I think cross training is good until it starts to cut into recovery time. recovery time>crosstraining
    Amanda recently posted..Free Thought FridayMy Profile

  15. says

    I don’t cross train and don’t really ever plan on it. I know the pros say its good for you, but I’m no pro. I only have so much time in life to do the things I want. Fitness is extremely important to me, but it isn’t all there is. In short, don’t sweat not cross training. Cheers!
    Viper recently posted..Too Much, Too LongMy Profile

  16. says

    I’m not sure how much cross training helped me fitness-wise during my marathon training, but it definitely prevented me from burnout! I’m a newbie though, so I can’t handle as high mileage as most marathoners and the cross training kept me moving. Recently, I’ve really gotten into stretching, core, balance exercises, yoga, and rock climbing. The one thing I can’t get into (even though I really want to) is swimming. I just suck at it, and it would take A LOT for me to get good enough to actually enjoy it.
    Jen recently posted..Weekly training recap: 2/11/13My Profile

  17. says

    I disagree about specificity. There is a point of diminishing return. Depending on the individual, that point might be closer than one thinks. For some bodies, the act of running breaks things down more quickly. If not allowed enough time away from running, the body might not repair enough to safely continue with injury-free training. Those individuals would become faster, better, stronger runners by trading running time for cross-training. To be a solid marathoner, one needn’t run exclusively or every day. One can successfully and thoroughly train for a marathon running three days a week and cross-training a lot. When I say successfully, I don’t mean just able to finish. That said, enjoy your runs! Sounds like your training is going great!
    MILF Runner recently posted..WHERE’S MY STEVIA?????My Profile

  18. says

    I will ALWAYS pick running because it requires the least amount of planning and gear! But training for IM, well, the added disciplines aren’t exactly x training any more.
    But for a marathon? Hey, if you can’t bear the thought of that trainer, don’t do it! But I *do* think cycling has made me a stronger runner. I’m using the same large muscle groups in a different way. Just like running makes me a stronger cyclist!
    But swimming? I’d gladly give it up for yoga, ha! The chlorine and I don’t get along!

    Whatever works for you. Every athlete is different. Sounds like you’ve found what is working for you!!!
    That Pink Girl recently posted..Let’s go to Luckenbach, TexasMy Profile

  19. says

    I’ve essentially done NO cross training this training cycle. WHOOPS! I also had the best of intentions but running just takes up all my time. When am I supposed to squeeze it in when I also need rest days? Quite a conundrum. But like you said, I’m training for a RUNNING race, so running is what will provide the most benefit.

  20. says

    It’s just as well that I don’t have to cycle to become a better runner because that’s never going to happen. And swimming? Haven’t got me hair wet apart from in the shower and running sweat in a long time. I’m pretty much a one trick pony.
    Char recently posted..Ear WormsMy Profile

  21. says

    I agree on the notion of “to get better at running, run more”. I sort of mentioned that not too long ago, that I am seeing so much more improvement this training cycle than all of last year with my running, now that I am running more/better. Although I do understand the concept of mixing up the muscles targeted to engage more of them. This training I’m focusing mainly on running more and adding core strength work. I do admit, strength training and cross-training is more of a chore to me. I rather be out running :)
    Christina recently posted..Running for a health charityMy Profile

  22. says

    I could easily write this same type of post right now. I’m taking baby steps with more cross training this winter, in fact I’m doing more than last summer, but it’s still no where what I want to do. We’ll see what spring brings.
    David H. recently posted..The Shamrock goal.My Profile

  23. says

    it’s so hard to do it all. when I was running, I was very good about pilates and yoga. now that I am doing flywheel (obsessed), not sure I can give it up-even when i start running again. even it it’s only 1xweek.
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