If you come from a non active background and were never truly an athlete running 4-5 times a week 12 months a year is virtually impossible. For the first five years of running I never truly understood that. I found myself doing what a lot of runners do in cooler climates, training March to November. Taking off 3-4 months a year is not going keep you lean the way you want 12 months of year. Also trying to run 12 months a year causes a lot of burnout and injuries.
Burnout I believe is the number one cause of people giving up their respective sport. With running you find yourself running those same 5 mile runs a few times a week which turns into 80-100 times a year. Even when you run 7-10 miles you end up running a lot of the same course. Doesn’t this happen to you? Burnout for people sometimes lasts a few days initially, then turns into weeks, and eventually turns into months.
From my experience after a fall marathon I had plans to take off only a ‘few weeks’ but then it turned into months. Most of the time I set a New Years resolution to get back to training in January. This would happen for a few weeks and then I found myself taking off most of February. February and March has their own dog days of winter. I then found myself around the end of March or early April scrambling to get back into shape.
By early April those 15 pounds I lost from the year before were easily back on and then some. It would then take several months to lose that weight again. Though I like the challenge of trying to lose some weight it really gets old losing those same 15+ lbs every year. Even after getting back to the weight of the previous fall I wasn’t completely satisfied with my weight. This is because I really wanted to be 10-15 pounds less than that. The problem was I spent all summer losing those first 15 pounds that I ran out of time losing the next 10-15. Then burnout sets in. The cycle completely repeats itself year after year until you realize something isn’t working. What I needed to do was cross-train.
Cross training I believe is the number one reason people can keep weight off. I discovered cycling in August of 2008 and fell in love it from the beginning. I would be on my bike 6-7 days a week. I loved being outside and going for 20-30 mile rides. I didn’t have injuries like I did when I was trying to run 4-5 times a week.With cycling I wanted to ride up until it got to cold. So I was able to ride until about December and then pick it back up in early April. Even in the winter I was able ride on occasion that it warmed up in the afternoon. I also found myself putting my bike on the trainer indoors. By adding this second sport I wasn’t putting on as much weight in the winter. Most of the time it would be closer to 10 pounds.
Training indoors can be boring and tedious at times but it helps to teach you to train 12 months a year. When I would ride the trainer indoors I would normally ride for about 30-45 minutes while watching a show. With cycling so much I wasn’t running much at all from 2008-2012. I would do an occasional treadmill run in the winter but not for more than 30-45 minutes.
After two years of cycling in 2010 I decided to ride outdoors even in the winter. I was outside in sub 20 degree weather doing my normal 20-30 mile rides. I thought this would really improve my cycling fitness but after a while I learned this sport as well could cause burnout. Remember the rule about burnout, doing the same thing over and over again will cause you not to want to do it. I should have learned this from my first 5 years of running.
In 2012 I decided to get back into running more seriously. Right away because of cycling for the past five years I was a much stronger runner. But this time I was going to do it the right way. I wouldn’t run 4-5 times a week instead I would run 1-2 times a week outside and then run 2-3 times a week on the treadmill. I would also maintain biking 4-5 times a week. By doing this cross training I wasn’t having any issues with being burned out. Cross training creates this illusion that you’re training less but really you are training more and improving at a much quicker rate.
I also added in weight training in June of 2012. I haven’t lifted ‘seriously’ in almost 21 years and thought by adding in some weight training this would help me out. I tend to only lift about two times a week because I am focused on running on the treadmill. I think this winter I will cut back on running and focus on doing some dedicated weight training days.
In January of 2013 I made the decision to start swimming again. It was the first time I had done laps in 22 years. By adding a third sport that can be done over the winter indoors I think I may have found the ultimate way of cross-training.
Now that I added swimming to my repertoire it made to sense to start doing triathlons. More details coming on triathlon training in my next topic.