Runners World Articles: December 2000
X-Train to X-Cel: Sharpen your fitness (and stay
fresh) with these workouts
If you've been running and racing all year long, it's natural to
want to taper as the year comes to an end. You've earned a little
break. On the other hand, you hate to see that hard-earned fitness
slip away and with the holidays approaching, you'll need the stress-busting,
calorie-burning benefits of exercise more than ever.
Thank goodness for cross-training. By adding a variety of cross-training
activities to your schedule this winter, you can cut back on your
running miles while maintaining or even improving your fitness.
What's more, when you reduce your running days you'll find that
each run becomes more important. You'll truly look forward toe very
one. Meanwhile, you'll relish a valuable mental break as you enjoy
your favorite alternate activities or learn or master new ones.
Come spring, your legs will be strong, your mind refreshed, and
your motivation high.
Here are a few of my favorite wintertime workouts:
Stair Climbing: Regular stair-climbing sessions can build
the strength you need for running rolling hills, tackling steep
climbs, or just running faster on the flat. Opt for a stair-climbing
machine, which won't pound your legs, rather than running up flights
of stairs. Plus the fixed dimensions of actual stairs may not match
up with the mechanics of your legs, knees, and hips, increasing
your chance of injury.
Simulate your natural running motion on the stairclimber as much
as possible, without slouching. For maximum benefit, touch the hand
rests lightly or not at all. Build your sessions on the stairclimber
to 20 to 45 minutes.
To build strength for short, rolling hills, sharply increase the
resistance and do repeats of 30 seconds each. Between repeats, recover
with 1 to 2 minutes of very easy climbing. To build strength for
longer hills, choose a moderately difficult resistance level and
gradually increase the duration of each repeat to 3 to 5 minutes.
Recover between repeats with 2 to 3 easy minutes.
Pool Running: This exercise is about as low-impact as it
can get. Pool running also promotes smooth running form, because
the resistance of the water forces your legs and feet to reduce
or eliminate inefficient motion. Using a flotation device so that
your feet don't touch the bottom, move your legs as if you were
running on land, kicking out a bit in front and then pawing your
foot behind you . Run at an intensity similar to that of a moderate
run (same breathing rate, same feeling of exertion). Gradually build
your pool sessions to 40 minutes, one to three times per week.
Cycling: Cycling is another fun, low-impact way to boost
strength and fitness. Whether you ride indoors on a stationary bike
or outdoors on a road or mountain bike, intense biking can increase
your cardiovascular capacity and strengthen your quads and glutes.
Warm up with 10 minutes of easy spinning, then try 4-minute repeats
at your 5K race intensity, 8-minute repeats at 10K intensity, or
a series of hill repeats. recover in between with half the time
of each repeat at an easy pace. Whether you're indoors or outdoors,
keep a high cadence of 90 rpm or so, which roughly matches your
running cadence. (To check your cadence, count your pedal revolutions
for 15 seconds, then multiply by four.) Cool down with another 10
Weight Training: Twice a week, hit the weight room for 20
to 30 minutes. A strength program will improve your running economy
and stave off injuries. Do 8 to 15 slow, controlled repetitions
of each exercise, and don't be afraid to seek help from a trainer
at your gym if you're not sure about proper form. The following
exercises are best for runners: bench press with dumbbells, or pushups;
leg extensions; bentover or seated rows; leg curls; overhead press
or lateral raises; and leg press.
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