10 Reasons Why Runners Should Cross Train

Friday, 31 May 2013  |  Bullish Insights, Running + Triathlon

When I started running, all I wanted to do was run. It was difficult enough to find an extra hour per day to workout, so if I managed to find time, I thought it might as well be used doing something I love: running. Phooey with mind-numbing squats at the gym, swimming laps at the pool, or yoga poses that I couldn’t do much less pronounce. Those were a waste of time for me.

Fast forward to 2012. I signed up for a triathlon and found myself compelled to swim, bike, and take yoga for flexibility if only to save myself from embarrassment at Ironman 70.3 in Cebu. In the months that passed, cross training became a lifestyle for me. And, quite surprisingly, as much as I loved running, I woke up to each day eager to work out different parts of my body. It gave my tired feet a respite from all the pounding too! I found myself stronger, fitter, and, hey, happier! (The six-pack abs—I believe in my heart—is yet to come!)

So, here, I’ve compiled for you, dear runners, ten reasons why I think you should cross train. If you were like me before, a true running addict who obstinately refused to do anything but run, open your mind and take a few minutes to take this all in.  After all, even if we cross train, it doesn’t mean we love running any less!

1) It works out other muscle groups not used in running, such as your upper body, quads, and inner thighs.

2) It improves your cardiovascular fitness.

– Swim squad way back in 2012. Miss these guys! –

3) It prevents injury and gives your feet and legs a break from all the pounding.

4) It allows you to maintain your fitness level if you are already injured from running.

5) It will increase your chances of engaging in small talk with celebrity triathletes. Example: Ask Matteo Guidicelli while in transition: “So, do you wear your helmet or shoes first?”

– In this case, my line with Matteo was: “Lovely trails. You come here often?”

6) It will prevent you from overeating or indulging in junk food. Who wants to have a protruding belly in a bathing or tri suit?

7) It gives you new topics to discuss among running friends aside from the usual “So, when’s your next run?”

8) It provides variety for your Facebook or Instagram album. All your friends see are shots of you running plus that sickening Speculoos bottle all the time. (Sorry, I’m a solid Peanut Butter fan!)  This time you can post shots of you biking, swimming, or doing a headstand.

– See, now I’ve got shots with my bike. I’m not smiling because I saw that hill before me, but hey that ride was fun in a masochist kind of way! –

9) It breaks the monotony from running and gives your mind and body something new to look forward to.

10) Best of all, it makes you a better runner. Swimming will make you more flexible and lengthen your running stride. Biking will strengthen your quads. Yoga will improve flexibility and stretch tight muscles from running.

My New Old Roadie

Monday, 9 February 2009  |  Gear + Gadgets

Guess who has a new hand-me-down roadie…


Uhm, well actually it isn’t mine. It was just entrusted to me by my dearest running buddy, Annie, before she left for Singapore.

Annie loves this bike of hers.  She cleans it every morning and cares for it as if it was her 4th child. Her decision to leave the bike with me truly meant a lot to me as she knew how much I needed cross training to get over this injury. I guess, being best running buddies, she knew that I would take forever to spend so much money on purchasing my own bike.

Last Saturday, exactly one week to the day Annie left for Singapore, I thought of spending the day with her beloved bike. I planned on making casual conversation with the bike and try to get to know it better in hopes that it would make for a good training buddy. Unfortunately, the rain started to pour so my date with the roadie was postponed.

Instead, I headed for the gym for solo time spinning plus strength training.  Gawd, it was so boring.  (Can I just say this one more time?  I hate the gym!)  I took a quick shower and headed out the door dwelling on the mind-numbing workout I just had vs. the fun I would have had if Annie hadn’t left. After all, it was a Saturday morning and Saturday mornings were always LSD days with Annie.  

That’s when it happened. Suddenly, I missed Annie so much. By the time I entered the car, I was crying my eyes out, utterly depressed over the loss of Annie.  I texted her about how much I missed her knowing that I wouldn’t get a reply soon because she’d be busy working.

Ugh. All this drama creeps up on me every now and then—when I drive past San Juanico where we used to meet, when I’m thinking about signing up for a race, when I remember Saturday mornings—but, I’ll be fine. Annie is doing great over there too.  

That Saturday evening, Annie called.  She asked me how the injury was going, her bike, upcoming races, and she went on to tell me that she lived near a track oval (lucky girl) and a huge sports center. She’s been awfully busy so she’s been running through the city at night. We chatted about everything and anything under the sun, just like before, as if she hadn’t left.

As for the bike and I, I have a feeling we’ll get along just as well as Annie and I did…

Spinning For Runners

Saturday, 24 January 2009  |  Running + Triathlon

“People think running is just about getting out there, but it’s all of the other factors—sleep, proper nutrition, and cross training—that allow you to get the most out of the sport.”

– Deena Kastor

I have a confession to make, Deena. The only time I take cross-training seriously is when I am injured.  Do you think that’s why I am, uhm, always injured?

Injury has been a major curse in my running life, but I’ve realized—just as I was writing this—that it’s been a blessing as well.  The curse of the runner’s knee forced me to take up TI last year (which started a whole new love affair with swimming) and now, with the respite from running, I tried spinning. 

Yesterday morning, Jun and I joined Annie’s spinning class at Fitness First.  Jun, my running buddy, and I accepted Annie’s invitation as we our both currently suffering from knee injuries.  

Cycling is a great alternative to running as it develops lower body strength without the hard impact on the knee.  Experts say that cycling works out your leg muscles even more thoroughly than running since the quads and calves are strengthened with every pedal rotation.

Spinning is a great alternative for those who wish to bike, but don’t have bikes yet (ehem).  It’s also safer and easily accessible to the gym rats.  

For Jun and I, we also thought it would be fun to watch Annie transform from our crazy, barok friend into serious instructor in a snap. We thought we would get a good laugh out of it (although, by the end of the class, I think it was Annie who got the last laugh!)

By the time I arrived, the class was already warming up.  I stepped into the spinning room, all four walls in black with the milky way galaxy painted on them, as if to remind me that I was venturing into uncharted territory.  I hopped unto the bike beside Jun’s and—3…2…1—blast off!  I started pedalling away!

The first 5 minutes were easy.  Just a warm-up.  The rest of the 55 minutes were excruciating.  Whatever mountain it was we were climbing, it sure was high, and long, and not for newbie bikers like me!  

The first spinning instructor guided us through the first half of the workout.  There was never a dull moment as we increased and decreased tension and speed at varied intervals.  The music was loud and intense so it helped to keep me pedaling on despite the weary leg muscles.  More than once, I could feel my heart pumping and, had it not been for those recovery portions, it would have leapt out of my chest.  By 30 minutes, I was beat. I thought my poor ol’ running legs couldn’t take any more.

Then, as we continued spinning, Annie steps out for a couple of minutes and returns with a CD in hand.  She puts it on and takes over from the first instructor.  Suddenly, she’s not the Annie that I know.  This Annie raises her arms up and commands the class to step it up.  Drenched in sweat as we all are, she raises her arms up in a fury and pushes us to climb that steep hill, pedal faster, or go up to standing position.  Gawd, who is this alien Annie and what did she do with my friend?!

We ended the session with the first instructor taking us through the cool down and Annie leading the stretches.  Needless to say, I survived the whole out-of-this-world experience.  It was tough on the quads (something my patella needs for realignment), it was utterly exhausting (my type of workout), it was humbling (just because you’ve run long distances, it doesn’t mean your legs are strong) and it was fun (although not as enjoyable as a run).

I’ve decided to add spinning to my list of cross training activities.  Hopefully, I get to practice it not only when I’m injured, but even when I’ve fully recovered already.  This would make Deena and that alien Annie proud!