From where I am right now, can I even admit it? Ok, here goes: I'm injured. There I said it. I don't know exactly what is wrong with my foot, but there are two issues that make running very unpleasant after a couple miles. On the outside of my foot it feels like my ankle is crunching bone on bone. On the inside, arch area, it feels strained and the pressure on my arch from running makes this pressure feeling more painful. I paid a price for pushing through pain during the Zion 100 in early April. In fact, I didn't even realize I was hurting myself since I'd taken more than my fair share of ibuprofen (don't do this at home folks).
So here I am: unstoppable and in constant orbit needing something to do. Needing to play outdoors in a pain free kind of way. I love the trails and without being able to run on them, I decided it was time to mountain bike. Mountain biking was my second love, horseback riding being the first as a child exploring the woods and trails of Langley on Whidbey Island. It has been a crazy long time since I've hit up the trails on a mountain bike. The idea, like a moist seed in fertile soil began to grow and I found myself quite excited to ride the trails, instead of my usual running or road biking. As you can imagine, I had a blast mountain biking and since I needed to map out a number of trails, I decided to continue using mountain biking as my cross training and to get work done.
These past 6 weeks of recovery from Zion 100 and subsequent injury have had me trying quite the variety of cross training methods. I'll go over a few of my favorites. If you are injured and want to cross train consider some of these options, but stop any of them that make your pain worse. There are too many fun activities to do one that causes you pain.
Yoga: I can't say enough about how magical yoga is. Work on your flexibility, strength, and loosening up your fascia all wrapped up in one lovely spiritual experience. Vinyasa Flow yoga focuses on the breathing through flowing poses teaching the yogi how to use their breath to fuel the strength of the poses. The kind of yoga I do is hard! It requires a lot of strength and discipline to hold the poses while your quads are cooking. This kind of suffering is a great mental strengthening activity. Make it hot yoga (my favorite is vinyasa flow hot yoga) and you have your heat training taken care of for your next sumer ultra.
Mountain Biking: We run on the trails because we love the trails. Can't run or need a low impact day? Mountain biking is a natural alternative. It is far more exhilarating that trail running usually is, and in some cases it is harder! As the bike shop owner in Hurricane, UT said, "Trail runners always look so grumpy, we [mountain bikers] like to have fun."
Deep Water Running: Deep water running is truly amazing how it maintains your running musculature and cardio. It's actually pretty fun too if you can somehow entertain yourself as you do small loops in the pool while a creepy guy in the hot tub watches you.
Road Biking: Biking on the road will help trail runners develop a rhythmic cadence. It's also great cardio and leg strengthening. It will make you a better hill climber.
Swimming: An excellent low impact cardio workout for the entire body. Swimming is all about core muscles. I don't find that it translates to faster running, but it is a great way to mix it up while still getting intense cardiovascular training in. I like that it requires breath control as well. As a swimmer, you must learn to breath at certain intervals and in my experience that strengthens the respiratory system.
Rock Climbing: Climbing actually works your lower body as much as your upper when you're doing it right. It also helps you overcome fear and works your brain in a way that running doesn't. And that's a good thing!
Strength Exercises: Work those abs, arms, back, and legs to strengthen your body and make you a more well rounded athlete. I follow my 200/100 workout almost everyday. I also created a quick core routine for ultra runners.
Slacklining: Oh so addicting even when you're being sling shot across the lawn after just two steps on the line. Slacklining will develop your core and back muscles like nothing else you've ever done. Take your line to the park and make new friends while getting in a sweet workout.
What do you like to do for cross training? I know I left out some things, so tell us why you like your cross training sport of choice!
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