Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Exercise Diary: Cross training? Fun!

Even since I started paying attention to running related reading materials, I've come across many new terms.  Tapering, pacer (a concept I still don't quite fully understand), foot strike, positive and negative splits, carb load, and LSD (long slow distance, that is, and I wonder if Americans actually use this term, since I've only read them in Chinese or Japanese running materials).  And one of these terms is cross training.  From what I understand, cross training is any activity besides running that helps with running, or whatever main sport it is that you do.  They are usually done not only as a break from running, but also serve to improve the running.  I've seen people say they do core exercises, weight lifting, boot camps, swimming, cycling, etc., etc., and I can see how they would help with running.  There are even shoes designed specifically for cross training, which I really don't understand.

But what I really, really, really don't understand the most is why anyone would label all of these activities under the ominous category of "cross training".  To me they are just "hobbies," other fun, active things you can do when you are taking a break from running.  Maybe you do them not because you like them (why anyone would like boot camp is beyond me), but you make yourself do it anyway because it's good for you.

Anyways, I had to take a break from running today since doing almost 5 miles two days in a row has taken some toll on my legs.  Besides, I have not gone to yoga in 2 weeks and am starting to feel less and less flexible every day.  I also have not been working on my core, even though I really want to so my stomach and belly don't wobble as I run.  So I made the commitment to go to yoga class today, even though it was actually quite nice out.  It's harder and harder to be excited about yoga these days, when spring has finally reached the northeast and when it's getting warmer and warmer.  I can't imagine spending an hour and 15 minutes in a windowless room with the heaters turned on to 80 degrees and sweat my ass off only to emerge into an equally hot summer evening afterwards.  It's probably why fewer and fewer people are attending the classes nowadays.

I had to make myself go to yoga today not because it's the kind of "cross training" I dread, but because I wasn't sure how it would go after a 2-week hiatus and with tired legs from too much running.  I was partially optimistic since I've had similar experiences before and half of the time I actually felt stronger and more improved, and the other half when I just felt like dying halfway through the class.

Luckily I survived the class today feeling much stronger, more flexible, and more awesome than ever before~  All that running has really strengthened my leg muscles so that I no longer feel like collapsing after doing endless crescent lunges and warrior poses.  I could transition from a chair twist to a lunge twist quite easily, and keep up with all the poses without having to take a child's pose to catch my breath (not that I've ever allowed myself to do that before, but now I can keep up with less and less effort).  I could also breathe longer; my exhales are louder and longer, so I guess all that running has increased my lung capacity.  I was also able to reach my leg during a full pigeon pose (still can't grasp it with my elbow, so I guess it's an almost-full pigeon), which I could never do before without serious cramping myself.  We didn't do any tree poses or other poses that require standing on one leg, so I don't know if my balance has improved or worsened, but my balance usually gets worse so I'm glad we didn't do any to prove me right.

All in all, it was a lovely class.  I don't usually pay attention to other people, even when I have to turn to face them during a twist or something, but I could see out of my peripheral vision that my neighbors had to constantly take breaks with child's pose, and I actually felt quite proud of myself for chugging through the whole class without feeling the need to do so.

Side note:
After my Boston trip I decided to get myself a soft bottle (you know, the Capri Sun-like pouches, except these are re-useable and probably shouldn't have anything but water put in them) to carry during my runs.  I had realized the importance of hydration as my runs are getting longer; I can't always count on convenience stores along the way, and I just don't like the idea of either putting a bulky hydration belt outside of my shirt or carrying an empty bottle after the water is gone (I have yet to see a functional outdoor public water fountain and even if I do see one I would be reluctant to fill my bottle with its water...).  So I thought that getting one of these collapsible water pouches that's light and foldable when it's empty would be a good choice.  I ended up buying a Platypus brand soft bottle because I liked how it has a curve around the middle (for better grasping, I had hoped), rather than a Vapur one I originally saw in a store.  After some debate I decided to get a 1L one, thinking that I could always let the air out if I don't need the full liter so it wouldn't be a bother.  If I needed more than a liter of water then I would bring my 2L hydration backpack, which I hope I won't get to till much later.

The good news is that the bottle came today (yay for Amazon Prime).  The not so good news is that the bottle is HUGE.  Way bigger than I imagined, although I had flickers of worry after I bought it that it may be too big.  But it's way too big.  It's too long so it spills out from both ends of my hand, and when filled with the whole liter, quite heavy too.  It also takes a bit of an effort to squeeze all the air out when not filled all the way.  I guess I will take it out for a try on a weekend morning or something to see how well it works.  I don't think it's a complete mistake.  I think I will definitely use it for my runs, and that it's still a better choice than a real bottle.  If it doesn't turn out well I would have a convenient water bottle for everyday use.  I guess I'm just too greedy, should've gotten the smaller size or something.  We'll see.  Practicality comes first.  The minor inconveniences wouldn't be such a big deal if I go on a 6 or 8 mile run in the middle of nowhere with no water stops.

That's how big it is with my hand as reference.  But again, I'm confident that it will work out.

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