Cross-training blues

I’ve been cross-training for a grand total of two days in a row now. And I’m already itching to throw on my running shoes and get out of the apartment.

I’ve been using the Nike Training Club iPhone app, which offers (sometimes annoyingly peppy) audio recordings/encouragement from an all-star cast of crazy strong women – both professional trainers and athletes – and plenty of workout variety. I’m trying to avoid plyometric style exercises, which are not the best for a healing calf, so my workouts are limited to core work, push-ups, arm waggling with the medicine ball, squats, and lunges in little tiny circles around my living room. I still get a great workout, and generally end up with totally fried muscles and a sweat-spattered living room carpet (lovely).

However, one thing about this app that ticks me off, and then makes me annoyed that I’m letting it irritate me, is the calorie count. When I work my butt off for 45 minutes it’s disheartening to look at the cal count and see 160 cal, which is what I’d generally burn with a nice easy 2-mile run. I’m not trying to lose weight, but I get a little anxious when I’m used to burning 300 – 600 cal/day running and then have to cross-train and worry that maybe I should be paying more attention to not having that extra snack/dessert or whatever. No one wants both the misery of forced cross-training and the misery of giving up the after-dinner hot cocoa 😛 Plus, it makes me feel like maybe I wasn’t actually working all that hard when my 45 minute workout only used as much energy as a 2-mile walk/run, or <20 minutes of running for my current running fitness. This is aggravating because I’m generally lying on the floor in a pool of sweat at this point, having collapsed from leg-exhaustion.

I’ve heard runners and coaches say that cross-training has conversion factors – if you’re hurt and have to bike instead of run, you have to bike 2-4 times as long at the same effort level to get the same cardiovascular training effect. Ditto with the *#@*!ing elliptical, swimming, pool-running, etc. You aren't using the same muscles or using them at the same intensities, and it may be difficult to judge equivalent intensity accurately. Jack Daniels gives these guidelines: if the cross-training activity involves plenty of leg work (cycling, xc-skiing, pool-running), count training time as equivalent to ⅔ of the corresponding time spent running at the same heart rate. But what about doing lunges or burpees? The aerobic profile is definitely different, but both exercises get your heart rate up and are much more brutal on the legs than running on flat ground. Does additional muscle damage & rebuilding contribute substantially to overall energy use? Am I over-thinking something that probably matters for only a couple more days before I get back to running (fingers crossed) and no longer have to worry about trying to do some sort of equivalent amount of exercise to make up for my run for the day?

Ugh, cross-training…I think I'll try to at least get something interesting out of today's session by taking my heart rate periodically. If I can't run, I can at least get data!

p.s. Yes, I said I'd finish that biomechanics article post this weekend, but then a *really awesome* job posting came up and I had applications to do. Maybe this eve…


2 thoughts on “Cross-training blues

  1. I hear that. I can spend two hours in the gym lifting weights until my entire body feels like putty, and I’ll still burn a fraction of the calories I would’ve had I been running 12 easy miles instead.

    It’s just nice to have to even think about what you’re eating.

    • Good point – it’s shamefully easy for me to forget that having too much available to eat, and to have to choose what (nutritious, well-stocked, and widely available) foods to eat or not eat, is a huge luxury. The only times I’ve ever gone hungry have been due to choice rather than necessity.

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