Cross Training is Key

by Benita Zahn

Runners gonna run, right? Well, the best runners know they must also cross train. That’s because doing too much of anything is simply too much, raising the risk of injury, burnout, and muscle imbalance. Simply put, cross training helps you become more fit because you use different muscle groups and you’re more likely to stick to your workout because it keeps things interesting. Remember, all work and no play make Jack/Jill a dull person.

So, what are we doing, what’s working, what do we love and hate when it comes to cross training? Are you a pool person – I am! I am always humbled when I get back in the pool after a long layoff and am winded doing that first 50 meter swim despite running/power walking like a fiend. Different muscles, different breathing patterns. And yes, my running improves measurably once I resume swimming. Moreover, the day or two off my feet lets my joints – feet and legs- recover so they’re ready to go the next time I call on them.

But what about you? I turned to my Greek Chorus for replies – the fabulous community of runners who populate the One NY Challenge FB page.  Vicki Ardia Dingman from Clifton Park shares my fondness for swimming. She also cross trains on the bike and throws in strength training. After all, it’s our upper body that gets us across the finish line when the legs begin to holler! And to prove the point that cross training helps, not hurts, running, Vicki notes, “It seemed that once I took some of my focus off of running, I became a much stronger, faster runner!”

                  Vicki Ardia Dingman

Brenda Hoffman Abelgore needs to chat with Vicki because her mind tells her she needs to run / burn a set amount of calories a day. Well, you can burn those calories cross training. And lest you think I’m picking on Brenda, she does some weight training and has started using the rower. You’re right, Brenda, dial back the miles and pump up the other activities and follow your coach’s advice to ‘just go hit the weights’.

Jessica Bowman Leonard used to have the t-shirt Brenda’s wearing, the one pushing for more miles (hers were predominantly on the elliptical) despite what the body needs. These days Jessica writes, she enjoys CrossFit, weights and HITTs training and loves the motivation from the groups, even though most workouts in the winter are at home.

Speaking of the elliptical, Paul D’Elisa jumps on it once or twice a week, throws in some speed training and also plays soccer (hope you have an indoor space!). And if you check out his Facebook page, you’ll see this Long Island resident posts from across NY, the US and around the world, turning in very respectable finish times, so he must be doing something right!

And I simply loved the response from Pat Taweel Garay from PA, who says she “pretends” to be a runner at 5k’s and relies on the workout he gets at Barre Fusion, Piyo, Soul Fusion and TRX. I defy anyone to question Pat’s fitness, and my money says this ‘pretend runner’ is coming in ahead of some ‘real’ runners.

Bottom line: the feds recommend we all get 150 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous exercise AND 2 days of weight / resistance training. As one of my coaches says, weight/resistance training isn’t about bulky muscles, it’s about being capable and who doesn’t want that?!  Oh, one more thing. Rest never hurts. Sometimes taking that extra day to recover yields big gains. So, listen to your body, but feel free to ignore requests to consume a bag of Doritos!

About Dr. Benita Zahn

BenitaBestLogo.jpgBenita is a certified Health and Wellness Coach working with clients at Capital Cardiology Associates. Benita spent more than 40 years as a health reporter and news anchor at WNYT in Albany, NY. She covered issues such as wellness, treatment breakthroughs, aging, nutrition, and the latest health care trends. Benita’s work has taken her around the world and across the USA.  She continues to produce and host “Health Beat” a digital health interview program that posts every  Monday and Thursday on and can be heard on the station’s podcast. Benita is a contributor to  the weekly “Live Smart” page in the Times Union, the HMRRC Pacesetter and the new magazine 55+LIVING. Benita also created and co-hosts the podcast EVERYTHING THEATER.

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