5 Cross Training Sessions
After the race I did 2 weeks ago, I decided to combat the niggle that was grating away at me and take a little bit of time off from running. In the wise words of Grayson Murphy, “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you don’t have to hear it scream”. Therefore, I decided to listen to my body telling me something wasn’t right, and tackle the niggle before it started to scream at me. This meant switching running for cross training, and doing sessions on the cross trainer/elliptical. Whilst no way near as enjoyable, cross training sessions are not something to be laughed at, because they HURT, and I sweat buckets and buckets, and this makes them quite satisfying.
I had quite a few people message me asking for some recommendations of cross training sessions, so I’ve put together my top 5 sessions. If you work hard in these, you will be close to throwing up at the end of your session, and feel quite satisfied.
*Always start with a warm up. You can do it on the elliptical as well or on the bike if you prefer. I tend to do 15-20 minutes. I do the same for a cool down afterwards.
20 x 1 min hard/1 min easy
This is a great session because you can really work on turning those legs over as quickly as possible. I always see a 1 minute rep as a sprint. I go as hard as I can and hold on. For the first 10 reps this will feel quite good, but trust me, by the end it will really bite. This also makes for a very satisfying session as you can push your heart rate up and come away with jelly legs, making you feel like you’ve worked as hard (if not harder) than you would in a running session.
12 x 2 minutes hard with alternating recovery of 60 secs, 45 secs, 30secs recovery
The recovery of this session is what makes it interesting and keeps you on your toes. I always keep the recovery moving, especially because it is hard to get going if you have come to a stop than it is if you are spinning the legs very slowly. This is especially the case when the recovery is only 30 seconds. It is better to keep the momentum going. The alternating recovery stops your mind from switching off, and makes sure you work hard throughout.
Fartlek, 4 x 2 mins, 90 secs, 60 secs, 30 secs (all 30 secs recovery)
In any circumstance, I love a fartlek session. The variation in rep length allows you to work different systems but also prevents your mind from getting bored. Word of warning, this session is TOUGH, but AMAZING. The 30 seconds recovery really comes back to bite you in the final set. When I was doing this session, I was so so close to throwing up, that I actually surprised myself when I didn’t. However, once that final 30 second rep is done, the satisfaction level this session creates is sky high. I would probably say this is my favourite session.
15 x 75 seconds (45 seconds recovery)
This is another great staple session. I try to split it up in my mind into 3 sets of 5 with different focuses for each. For the first 5, I will focus on working hard but feeling comfortable. I will make sure on the middle 5 the legs start to feel it but still feel strong, then the final 5 I will really start to push on and give it everything.
Pyramid: 5 mins, 4 min, 3 min, 2 min, 1 min, 30, 1 min, etc. (60 ses recovery)
A pyramid session is great for going through all the gears. Starting off with the longer rep allows you to work more on your endurance, but working down to the 60 second and 30 second reps gives you the chance to get legs turning over quickly. You then gradually build up through the motions and finish on a 5 minute rep on very tired legs. This will feel tough, but having a longer rep at the end will train your legs to keep going even when the legs tire, like at the end of a race.
Panic attacks aren’t fun and they can happen at any time, no matter where you are, when you least expect them to surface. Fortunately, I haven’t had a panic attack for quite a long time, until last week, when I had two in the space of one 40 minute run. Luckily, I had my boyfriend with me so he could help calm me down, but it has happened before when I’ve been alone. It can be scary, and at first I didn’t know what was happening, which made it even scarier, but now I am able to recognise when one is happening. They don’t however get any easier to manage, but here are the simple steps I take.
What to do? (From my own experience)
These are a few things I do to try and get my breathing under control and get my airways to feel fully open again. What do you do? I would love to hear your tips.
Appreciate every step.
Running may be simple, but the power it holds over us individually is incredible strong. It is however, not something to be taken for granted. It isn’t a given that we will be able to step out of the door everyday, healthy, and be able to run for however long or short, hard or easy as we want. To be fortunate enough to do this is something to be recognised. Of course, this can be difficult to appreciate when you are fit, but as soon as an injury or niggle arises, you realise how lucky you really are. You also realise how much every run means to you.
So what can we do to ensure we make the most of every run?
For these reasons, don’t take a single step for granted. Running is a powerful sport that deserves our appreciation.
Letting go of perfection.
Perfection is unattainable, simply because it does not exist and can never be measured. What one person considers perfect may not be perfect in another persons eyes. Therefore, there is nothing to define what is and isn’t seen as perfect. This means, no one can ever know when perfection has been achieved.
Typically, perfection is when something is done without fault. For example, when training goes exactly as it should and the plan is followed exactly. However, the thing about striving for perfection is, it is unrealistic, but it will also always leaving you feeling like you aren’t quite good enough.
A lot of athletes, and a lot of people, myself being one of them, constantly feel the need to strive for perfection. We tell ourselves that unless we are able to achieve perfection in our own eyes, then we are not good enough and things are not going well. The challenge however comes as perfection constantly changes. Once we reach the point that we previously may have deemed as perfect, our bar is already set higher, so we still haven’t reached it. As a result, we constantly feel like we are not improving and not getting better. How do we expect to ever feel content with what we are doing when we are striving for something that is unattainable? This is bound to make us feel insufficient.
Perfection may also be limiting. If the word suggests doing something exactly as it should be done without fault, however we may define that, it may actually hold us back. If we aim to do something exactly as it should be done, we may hold ourselves back by not thinking that we could go beyond that point set. There is no need to put limits on ourselves, so why aim for perfection, when we can aim to be even better than whatever that may be. So how can we stop striving for ‘perfection’ and remind ourselves that we are enough? Perfection does not get to decide whether we are or not.
What can we do?
Recognise that perfection is not realistic.
Perfection is something that can never realistically be achieved. As it has no exact measurement or definition to it, we never know if we have reached it. For this reason, as soon as we accept that it cannot be achieved, we will stop constantly striving for it. Essentially, to achieve perfection is meaningless, as there is always a point beyond it.
Go with the flow.
Everything cannot always go to plan all the time. If it did, life would be boring and predictable, and also cause problems. The art of being able to improve and progress, is recognising that deviating from the plan is also important to do. In order to avoid injury and burning out, we need to make last minute changes to the plan.
We are bound to have days that deviate from the original plan, but this doesn’t mean they are ‘bad days’ or that they aren’t perfect. In fact, this is exactly as the day should be in order to boost us forward. ‘Bad days’ are not bad, they are just our body and mind telling us that we need to hold back a little. More often than not, changing the original plan will give you more benefit than sticking to it would.
Set other targets.
Perfection is not a target. As we previously established, it can’t ever be achieved, so we can’t set it as a goal. There are plenty of other things we can focus on that will propel us further forward and also make us feel good because we can achieve them. For example, specific pace efforts, goal race times, or race positions are all things we can achieve. If we focus on these as a bigger picture, it won’t matter if the journey to get to them changes from the plan initially set.
Be kinder to ourselves.
Finally, be kinder to ourselves. Just because we didn’t go the route we deemed to be perfect, doesn’t mean we failed or we weren’t good enough. It simply means we had the strength and rationality to realise that the set path wasn’t the best one for us at that moment. There is no point criticising ourselves or putting ourselves down, because that won’t help anything or anyone. For plans to change, we don’t have to have failed, we have to have succeeded at seeing a better route. So, next time you think to beat yourself up for a last minute deviation from the plan, remember, the new route is the right one.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!