When I ran high school track, runners ran. Building big muscles was for the “weight men” – shot putters, discus throwers and the like. For distance runners, rail thin was in.
I’m not in high school any more. And rail thin, as it turns out, isn’t such a great idea. I had a vivid demonstration of this last weekend. HB and I stripped wallpaper.
Strong legs are an asset for almost any activity. But stripping wallpaper requires more upper body strength than legs. Or, at least, upper body endurance. This was vinyl-coated wallpaper, which is a pain to remove.
After almost 4 hours, HB – who’s been cycling pretty regularly – commented, “I can tell I’m going to be sore in the morning.”
And she was. But I wasn’t… and I’d followed stripping wallpaper with mowing the lawn and a couple of other chores outside.
I’m convinced the difference is that I do some cross training. Besides my running, I do 100 pushups most mornings, plus a little light weight lifting a few times a week.
The more I read, the more convinced I become this is a key to staying healthier longer. You need whole-body fitness. And that includes both strength and endurance.
For one thing, cross training helps keep your workouts from becoming boring. So it’s easier to stick with your plan.
Varying your workouts also cuts your chances of injury. Always doing the same workouts puts a lot of stress on the muscles and joints used most doing that type of exercise. Mixing it up takes some of the stress off those body parts.
Most importantly, cross training promotes overall fitness. Runners often have weak “core” muscles – stomach, middle and lower back. Body builders tend to lack aerobic endurance.
Folks who cross train are much more likely to enjoy overall fitness. And as we get older, that’s important for balance, flexibility and independence. (I’m looking way ahead here.)
Finally, I know “exercise” is a dirty word. Going to the gym can be intimidating… or boring. But workouts can be fun.
When HB and I go hiking in one of the nearby nature reserves, that counts as a workout. (We’ve covered up to 11 miles at a time.) And it’s fun.
Maybe you’re into riding your bike, cross country skiing, or canoeing. Just because you enjoy the activity doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as exercise. In fact, that activity is the perfect base for your workout program. Because you enjoy doing it.
Just add in activities that ensure you’re building both strength and endurance.