Archive for the ‘Cross Training’ Category

Pro athletes use plyometrics exercises to sharpen their motor skills, increase speed and power and improve their game performances. Plyometrics use high-intensity, fast movements to train your nerves and muscles to perform better. You don’t have to be a pro to benefit from the many rewards of plyometrics. You can improve your race times, get faster and stronger by incorporating some plyometrics for runners into your training plan.

Do the following exercises on a track or cushioned, flat surface at least twice a week to step up your running game:

Tuck jumps can improve your running efficiency.

  • Tuck jumps — Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and arms at your sides. Spring up to jump into the air, tucking your knees in toward your chest and bringing your arms out in front of your for balance. As you land, immediately jump back into the air. Repeat to do two sets of 15 tuck jumps.
  • Lunge jumps — Stand with your feet together and bring one foot forward, bending the knee to get into a lunge position. Your knee should be aligned with your ankle and not go past it and your back leg should be straight out behind you. Spring up into the air, pushing off both legs. Switch your legs in the air to bring your other leg forward and bent and bring the front leg back behind you to land in a lunge on the other side. As soon as you land, spring back up to switch legs again. Do two sets of 10 lunge jumps on each leg.
  • High knees — Stand with your feet slightly apart. Bring your arms out straight in front of you to help you balance. Spring one leg up toward your chest, bringing your knee up to touch your arm. As your foot lands, immediately push off with the other leg to bring the knee up to your hand. Repeat to do 25 high knees on each side.
  • Box jumps — Use a stable bench or wooden box for this exercise. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and spring up to jump onto the edge of the box. Step back down quickly and repeat. Do two sets of 15 box jumps.
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Circuit training is one of my favorite workouts because you can burn a lot of calories and fat while doing a challenging workout with plenty of variety. Circuit training combines high-intensity cardio exercise with strength training exercises to give you a vigorous workout that improves your strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

Add weights to your squats for more intensity.

Here’s a sample 30-minute circuit training workout for runners:

5-minute slow jog to warm up

3 minutes of fast-paced running, at about 85 percent exertion level

2 minutes of push-ups, modifying to do push-ups on your knees if needed

3 minutes of fast-paced running

2 minutes of squats, using dumbbells if you want to add difficulty

3 minutes of fast-paced running

2 minutes of crunches

3 minutes of fast-paced running

2 minutes of lunges, alternating legs

5-minute slow jog to cool down

You can substitute different strength training exercises to target areas of your body that you want to tone. Planks, bicep curls, triceps extensions, chest press and side planks are some other exercises you may want to consider.

Strength training is an important part of any fitness program, as it increases lean muscle mass, boosts metabolism and helps prevents diseases like osteoporosis. The American College of Sports Medicine advises doing eight to 10 strength training exercises with eight to 12 reps of each exercise twice a week for good health. Building your muscle strength can help you run faster and longer and improve your running form while reducing your chances of injuries.

Side planks strengthen your core and arm muscles.

To get going on a strength training program, check out these tips for runners:

  • Strength train after your runs or in separate workout sessions to prevent exhausting your muscles before a run. Lifting weights before running can increase your chances of injury and muscle fatigue.
  • Allow yourself at least a day of rest between strength training sessions so your muscles can rebuild and recover. You can still run between strength training sessions but do not lift weights.
  • Do exercises that target all of your major muscle groups, including your arms, shoulders, chest, core, gluteals and legs. Strength training is your chance to balance out your body and get stronger in areas that you don’t normally work running, so make the most of it and target all major areas of your body.
  • Use free weights, weight machines or your own body weight for resistance. You can use dumbbells for exercises such as squats, lunges, triceps extensions and bicep curls, and use your own body weight for resistance by doing push-ups, planks and crunches. For the chest press, use free weights or a weight machine.
  • Track your weightlifting progress. Set goals and record your results after each strength training workout.
  • Be flexible and adjust your routine to suit changing goals, workout plateaus or unexpected results.
  • Try circuit training to rev up your metabolism and reach higher levels of endurance and strength. Circuit training involves alternating high-intensity running with strength training exercises such as pushups, crunches, planks and squats.

As an arm strength-challenged runner, I can attest to the common runner’s plague of feeling strong on bottom and weak on top. Cross training can help you balance that out, and get in a good workout and have fun in the process. Pole dancing is one form of cross training that is not only fun and exciting but also offers an effective strength, flexibility and cardio workout all rolled into one.

Pole dancing can vary depending on where you take a class and the individual teacher’s focus, but in general pole fitness involves doing dance routines that incorporate floor work, chair work and pole spins and poses. Learning to maneuver your body around a pole can be challenging, awkward and thrilling, but well-worth the effort. Pole dancing helps strengthen your arm and shoulder muscles, as well as your core muscles (a common problem area for runners and non-runners alike). In fact, pole dancing helped tone my arms and abs so well that I now pole dance — with yoga and pilates warm-ups — a few times a week instead of doing a weightlifting routine.

If you want to try out pole fitness for a cross training workout, check out your city’s pole dance studios and talk to the instructors and visit the studios to get an idea of what to expect and where you would feel comfortable.

Caution: Pole dancing can be addictive. After signing up to try it a year ago, I have since trained and gotten certified to be an instructor, so expect more pole fitness articles to come. (In the meantime, you can read more about my adventures in pole dancing here.)

Me taking a spin at Divine Body Fitness, my second home.