With a background in Football, Wrestling, Shot & Disc, Bodybuilding and Strongman competition, I was just as surprised as most that saw me at the starting line for a local ½ marathon a few weeks ago.
With any sport I have ever played I would always find myself deeply immersed in training and preparing specifically for that sport. Activities, workouts or equipment that could not be directly related to performance in that sport were deemed a waste of time and I passed on them. I see this with many endurance athletes as well. Runners and cyclists that feel the ONLY way to prepare for the road is on the road and ignore various training methods and equipment because, “ I just don’t see how anything that doesn’t involve running … will help my running.” In reality this mindset often leads to burnout in training/competition, and eventually overuse injuries that can lead to chronic pain.
I learned this lesson about 4 years ago when my life was consumed by bodybuilding competitions for almost 5 years. I was tired of being tired, hungry, worn down, sore & stiff. My fitness had taken over my life. My workout schedule, eating schedule and level of soreness had been making my decisions for me regarding what my days looked like and the activities I participated in. I was at a point where I needed to reconnect with the true power of fitness. Fitness should enhance your life not run it.
I found things like TRX, kettlebells, performance training, myofascial release and a number of teachers and resources that taught me how to put these powerful functional fitness tools into practice. I learned more about how the human body really works and how to train it as one machine opposed to separate collections of parts. My new drive was to create a body that “works;” a body that would allow me to do whatever activities I wanted whenever I wanted. I wanted to get back to using fitness as a tool to better my life and not be something that would take it over.
Fast forward to ½ marathon start time.
I stood at the starting line. Six miles was about the longest I had ever run in my life, less than half the mileage of this run I was about to encounter. My goal for the 13.1 mile race was to finish with no expectations on performance. My plan of attack was to do small intervals where I would run for 9 minutes and walk for 1, having never before run for 2+ hours I decided this would be a great way to break up the course and help me mentally not worry about looking too far ahead.
This run was not one I trained for using traditional standards; one of my biggest motivations for completing it was to reinforce the idea that a body in balance can achieve many things. I strongly believe that all areas of fitness need to be addressed in all individuals regardless of goals, and that fitness & performance training seeks to develop a body that “works.” I use these beliefs to lead my personal fitness journey and that of my clients. Perhaps that will give you some insight into my race prep.
I first began thinking about running this race about a month before hand. In that time I ran twice; once for about a mile and a half at the end of a 12 mile bike ride; and the other time being a 6.4 mile run. The rest of my training was focused on a balance between core stability, balance training, explosive power and full body strength training, mobility work, different intervals and modalities of athletic style endurance training and finally flexibility and recovery. Each week looked very different from the week before to maintain variety but the foundational elements listed above were always present. Each workout took place in all three planes of motion. There was also a lot of crossover. For example, a strength workout could have elements of balance in one or multiple exercises.
So how did I do at the race? I finished the course in about 2 hours and 20 minutes. When I need my body to come through for me a rise to a new challenge it “worked”. I crossed the finish line feeling great with plenty of energy left to enjoy the experience and the company of the other runners who also ran that day.
Please do not mistake the message of this article. I am not advocating to just “jump” into something as challenging as a 13.1 mile run without any preparation. Although I did not train or prepare using traditional methods (running, running, running) – I still did train and prepare. I am not suggesting that when preparing for an event you ignore practicing that event either. If you want to be a competitive runner you do have to run. What I am suggesting is that your body is capable of so much more than you can imagine if your training is balanced.
My hope is that when reading this article a few eyebrows are raised to the point that what you choose as an activity does not dominate your fitness. You can be a runner and not have to run 5-7 days a week. In fact, cross training can greatly enhance the endurance and ability of your running program. I hope my experience has shown you that a body in balance is very capable of many great things.