One thing you should know about me: I love classes. I’ve gone to enough classes that I can find my way around a gym on my own, but I prefer the class environment. I like an instructor to correct my form and the energy of the class motivates me to push harder than I might if left to my own devices.
One of my biggest challenges last year was switching from a class schedule to a run schedule. At some point, the miles take over and it was hard for me to temporarily say goodbye to my favorite classes. I’m vowing to do better this year. That said, cross-training is a critical element of a marathon training plan. My New York Road Runners’ virtual training plan includes flex days, which are designed for cross-training.
While I’m focused on banking more miles this round, I credit cross training for helping me get strong and I’m counting on it to help me stay injury free. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be profiling some of my favorite cross-training exercises. I try to focus on abs, leg strength, stretching and overall physical fitness (just a few, small goals). Many gyms will offer classes similar to the ones I describe, but I don’t have a gym membership. I use classpass to book my classes. They have a great list of studios in New York, where I live, but you can book across the country and internationally. I’ve used classpass in NY, Austin, LA, DC, Miami, San Francisco, and London (!). They charge you $20 if you don’t show to a class or cancel in time – which is extra motivation to make it there. (Do you see a theme? I can’t be left to my own devices).
While I personally saw a benefit from cross-training, I was pleasantly surprised to see that NYRR was encouraging cross-training as well. I did some research and it seems to be universally accepted that cross-training can help runners improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury. Want to know more? Check out this Runner’s World article on the 8 benefits of cross-training.
Last year‘s NYC marathon was the last marathon I could run before I turned 40. I’ll be 40 (yikes!) when I run this year. So, although I was still experiencing pain in my knee every time my foot hit the pavement last year, I was determined to find a way to make it through 26.2 miles. My knees were hurting due to a hip alignment issue, and my physical therapist was working with me to build up my leg strength. I used cycling as my transition to running,
This low impact, high intensity workout got me in shape and got my legs prepped to hit the road again. Cycling works most of the muscles in the lower half of the body. It’s also a damn hard workout that will strengthen the heart and improve lung capacity.
I was initially skeptical about SoulCycle. I’m competitive and I like the structure of FlyWheel. (Suck in life, but topping the leaderboard? I’ll take it!). That said, I like to try new things, and when SoulCycle opened in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a ten minute walk from my home, I decided to give it a try. After a few sessions, I was hooked. The class is a high energy, mix of speed work and hills culminating in an arm session about 30 minutes in. Following arms is what I call meditative soul – a ride at your pace, eyes closed, making the most of your moment on the bike. There is one more song, and then class is over and it’s time to stretch. The time flies. Like most classes, the instructor and music are key. JR Kennedy teaches a Sunday class in Park a Slope and I’ve definitely become a member of his devoted tribe. He brings high energy, mixed with a motivational message and a reminder to have fun to each class. The class is hard but you feel good afterwards. In one recent class, after a grueling hill, multiple people yelled out “I love our JR!” It sounds crazy, but it totally made sense in the moment.
For me, the benefits are improved physical and mental endurance. When taking us on an impossible hill, JR will encourage the class to “push past the resistance.” I hear those words when I’m jogging up a hill, or dealing with a difficult call at work, and it’s a reminder that I’m strong enough to get to the other side.