As much as our bodies need a wide range of nutrients we also need to exercise all of our muscles and ask them to do a variety of things (pushing, pulling, lifting, etc). If we don’t mix things up we actually place our bodies at risk of injury and reduce our overall fitness (much like being nutrient deficient). As with our diet, spicing up our fitness routine helps us to keep boredom at bay and keeps us feeling energized enough to explore the limits of our culinary/physical abilities. Variety keeps life fun and interesting. Imagine the joy you would have missed if you never ventured to try chana masala or masir wat. So, with that same mentality, give a new activity a try this week.
Here are 10 reasons to mix up your fitness routine.
1. Strong core muscles will reduce risk of injury and improve your speed and power on a run. Doing a regular routine for your core muscles (be it crunches, planks or pilates) is important because it helps to maintain your form and alignment over long distances (especially as you get more fatigued). Without a strong core you are risking injury to your lower back and hips. Strong abs also help you to be more efficient in movements using your arms and hip flexors. You have to find a routine that you will do a few times a week.
2. Flexibility reduces risk of back and joint pain and maintains functional fitness. There is a lot of debate about stretching lately. Instead of individual stretches I like to attend a yoga class once or twice a week. When I’m not training for a race I really love bikram classes. I completed a 30-day bikram challenge at the end of 2008 and loved how it changed my body and increased my mental endurance.
3. Changing your routine helps to build more calories and boost your metabolism. Our bodies are naturally conditioned to become as efficient as possible at both mental and physical tasks (it makes evolutonary sense to limit stress). If you’re trying to loose weight or reach a new level of fitness, mixing up your routine will move you past a plateau.
4. Cross-training can increase your fitness without increasing muscles strain so you can train while recovering from a run, making you faster and fitter. Most of us can’t run a marathon everyday. Our bodies need time to rest certain muscles (especially those screaming quads and calves). If you have other forms of activity that allows your legs to rest you can continue to build up your lung capacity and core strength while resting your sore muscles (think swimming!).
5. Going dancing or for a bike ride is great way to be active and social with friends and family who hate running. Running can be a pretty solitary pursuit. A focus on cross-training is a great way to enjoy some of the passions of your friends. Go out dancing or for an afternoon bike ride and make it count as one of your workouts.
6. Pool running and eliptical routines build up muscle strength without stress and strain on your joints. Repetitive strain injuries plague many runners. Taking the pounding out of the routine by running in the pool or on the eliptical can keep you healthy and still allow you to build up your muscles and base miles. But challenge yourself. Make sure it is still a workout, there should be sweating involved.
7. Having a strong upper body comes in handy at the end of your run. Your arms and legs work together to give you the power you need to push through to the end. When you’re legs are tired, the strength in the swing of your arms will keep you moving ahead. Adding weights or resistance training to your routine will help build up functional strength for your runs and your life.
8. Yoga and meditation is emotionally restorative. A strong mind is incredibly important for endurance. Anyone who has gone out for a long run without the distraction of music or a podcast knows it is a mental game. You can find yourself debating your ability every step of the way. Practices like yoga and meditation that allow you to focus on breath and let go of competing thoughts can really help you to conquer the challenges of perseverance.
9. Running breaks down muscle. You need to build up a strong base to carry you through your training. I think this is pretty self explanatory.
10. New challenges and new adventures allow you to grow and realize new feats. Life would be pretty boring if we just ran the same route everyday without looking for new experiences. I like to challenge myself with different fitness goals so that I don’t feel stagnant.
Now, the recipe:
I had a ripe avocado that needed to be used and a small bunch of organic collards in my fridge. I whipped up this dip in a couple of minutes and was so excited by the taste that I couldn’t wait to post it.. I didn’t even wish the collard was kale Sometimes, mixing things up produces surprising moments of enjoyment.
Add all of the ingredients to your food processor and blend until you reach a smooth consistency. Enjoy as a dip or a spread.
Walk: 1.5 hours
Run: 11 km
Pace: Speed Training-5 km at 4:20 m/km (broken up into 3 intervals) 6 km at 5:00-5:15 m/km
Fun: I have booked two of my hotels on Kauai. I am starting to get really excited about my island adventure.
What do you think about cross-training? Do you save it for recovery? Have you noticed improvements in your fitness through cross-training?