Cross-Training Routine for ChiRunning
I am not a huge believer in cross-training for running. I do believe in cross training if you have some weakness in your musculature that is affecting your ability to run efficiently and uninjured. In this case you need to strengthen those areas. I am also a huge believer in cross training to keep your mind interested in fitness, your body in good shape so that you can live a full life, and your spirit enriched by a consistent fitness routine.
I don’t just run. I practice T’ai Chi, regularly. I actively garden as often as I can. I ride bikes (more like a kid, for fun, than for serious training). Katherine and I walk after dinner and kayak when we can. I play 4-square and tennis with my daughter. I have meditated regularly mornings and evenings for most of my adult life. I consider meditation to be part of my cross training because it is where I practice focusing, being fully present, and being an astute observer of my inner self. My meditation practice supports my running and vice versa.
To be the best runner you can be, practice refining the fundamentals of your running technique all day long. Make good posture and deep relaxation a part of every thing you do, from sitting at your desk to washing the dishes. That is my very best cross training advice.
Most of my strength training for running is done on the run. If I need strength to run hills, I practice my hill-running technique. If I need more speed (which is actually a product of range of motion and core strength), I do intervals at the track. Since neither hills nor speed require more leg strength in ChiRunning, they don’t require cross training to build leg strength. Core strengthening exercises can definitely improve your ability to hold a forward lean for longer. The ChiRunning DVD shows you everything you need to know about good running form. The Hills and Trails DVD teaches the best way to run hills efficiently.
I do exercises to maintain upper body muscle mass as I age. Three times a week I add push-ups, pull-ups (in a plank position), twisting sit-ups and dips (on parallel bars) to the middle of my run on a nearby Ropes Course. It takes no more than 10 minutes to do.
My training program for upper body strength
• 35 pull-ups on a bar about chest-high. I angle my body at about 45º to the ground and pull my chest toward the bar. I do 35 reps holding the bar in an underhand grip, pulling my elbows in the direction of my dantien. Then I do 35 reps holding the bar in an overhand grip. I pull myself toward the bar by engaging my inner scapula back muscles, not my arm muscles (play around with varying how far apart your hands are on the bar and you can strengthen different muscle groups).
• 35 push-ups, keeping your posture line absolutely straight from your heels to your ears
• 20 shallow dips on the parallel-bars
My training program for core strength
• 70 twisting crunches (alternating left-twist/right-twist) with my feet anchored above my head and my body resting at a 15º angle.
Here’s an additional set of core strengthening exercises I occasionally do separately from running. It’s a four-part core-strengthening series for pelvic stability:
Part I: The Bridge
Part II: Leg Lift
Part III: The Butt Walk
Part IV: The Chair Ball
Mindful practices while doing these exercises:
1. Always engage your core to support any upper body work.
2. Keep your posture, including your head position, aligned straight as an arrow during all push-ups, pull-ups and dips.
3. Use a metronome set at 1-second beep intervals throughout the routine. This keeps you moving, without going too fast, and keeps you from slowing down when you get tired. If your muscles fatigue, just do fewer reps, but don’t slow down your rate of repetitions
4. Relax any muscles you’re not using.
5. Sync your breath with your reps.
a. Breathe out during any extension of your arms during push-ups
b. Breathe out when you’re pulling on a bar, flexing your arms
c. Breathe out as you sit up during oblique crunches
6. Use the Chi principle of Gradual Progress and start with a number of reps you can easily do, increasing as you feel your body begin to strengthen. I’ve built up to these numbers over a period of a year.
Cross training for me is about keeping healthy: aligned and strong in my center and relaxed in my movement. I enjoy learning to use my body as well as I can, all day, every day, which supports everything else I enjoy in life. I have found that when you do your fitness well, everything else is easier and more enjoyable.