The Back Of The Pack
Cross Train? Yea or Nay?
By Gary Pulver
When I first started running, I took a great class with Bill Richardson. We ran with him three times a week and he told us that we could cross train on off days but he was not really recommending it. He said we could walk some or do some yoga or similar exercising. He was a big proponent of limiting one's pounding on concrete and other hard surfaces. When we would do speed work with him he had us running on a softer path on the side of the road. He said that whatever else we did we should be limiting the impact being made between our feet and hard surfaces. I got a similar recommendation when i talked to Bill Rodgers awhile back. He also was not a proponent of cross training but he certainly was a proponent of lots of running on soft surfaces. When I read from Runners World and other publications, there is much more being written about how cross training is not that valuable for runners, if you want to be a better or faster runner, running is the way to get there.
Based upon this opening paragraph you would think that I would be voting a big "Nay" for cross training. Almost all of my running friends would vote nay too. But, I am here to tell you today that I am a big "Yea" for cross training. A recent knee problem had forced me into the gym and I am really liking the results. I am now committed to the gym. I have spent 90 minutes to two hours in the gym (at the YMCA) for an average of six days a week since November. On a typical day, I do 10 minutes of stretches before and after exercising, 30 minutes on the elliptical, work out on 10-15 machines, and choose one other form of aerobics for around 10-15 minutes. This is usually chosen from a stationary bike, a recumbent bike, or walking or jogging on a soft track. I am still a runner but at this time, except for races, my running is being done on the elliptical.
Here is why I am voting Yea for cross training. I have been steadily losing weight. One of my trainer friends noticed this when he saw me a couple weeks ago. I have definitely done healthy eating during this time and he told me that weight control is about 80% diet and 20% exercise. He said that most people think that just going to the gym and not modifying their diet will work and it just does not. "Losing Weight" is always at the top of the list as a way to get faster running. Another reason I am voting Yea is that I have discovered that the gym is the safest way to exercise. I have run off the road, stepped into holes, and run on uneven surfaces with one foot higher than the other most of my running career. That just isn't happening on an elliptical or a track. Also, my trainer friend said that one thing about the machines that he liked is that they are very safe. It is very hard to hurt yourself on one of them, as I can attest after several months of extensive use.
There are some other less obvious reasons that I have turned into a cross train advocate who also runs versus a runner who rarely cross trained. I am starting to really look great. I had some times in my running career when I was running four or five times a week training for a marathon that I looked pretty good, but I was paying the price with foot and leg pain. I think you can see by the photo that accompanies my articles that I did look okay for someone in their late sixties. Well this is the year that I turn 70 and I am really working harder with less danger of hurting myself now than I ever was a couple years ago. The three areas of my body that I work the most on are my legs, my stomach, and my upper body, all of which were not getting the best of workouts by simply running. Plus, the YMCA is a place to go if you want to feel young no matter now old you are. I usually go there during the late morning or early afternoon and there are many people there in their 80's and older working out. I have been the oldest person in a race many times but I have never been the oldest person at the Y! I have two races that I am registered for in Granbury coming up, I'll let you know how I fare since I have not been on the road running since my last race.