Blog, Cross-training, Running

Mix It Up: Cross-Training


tired woman runner taking a rest after running

I woke and strolled to the bathroom, performed my normal ritual before my morning run. I continued to dress, hardly enthusiastic as I normally am to run, but I continued anyway. I tied the laces of my running shoes, drank a glass of water, donned my baseball cap, all the while my mind is yelling, Not today, not today. I grabbed my keys and exited the building, walked a block, but my steps were lacking energy.  What are you doing? I screamed in my head. Go back, go back! And I did.

But I yearned to see the glorious sunrise and feel the wind and nature around me. There will be other days I reinforced in my mind. This meltdown has been coming for weeks. I’d overdone my training, burnout has afflicted me. Boredom? No! I just overtrained. Come to think of it, I’ve run nonstop all year, four seasons straight. My body is screaming, take a break, lighten up. I know better than to ignore the warnings. So, today I’m heeding the message.

Burnout Morning spin
Photo: Courtesy of

I headed back to my apartment and strapped on my spinning shoes, pulled out my favorite spinning DVD, and hit the road in my head. It was me and my spinning bike, my legs going at a clip, uphill, downhill, several intervals of speed and climbing. My heart pounding, anaerobic breath, sweat . . . profuse . . . Aww! Endorphin high! Yes! My thighs and glutes burned and screamed for a long stretch. I finished with yoga and thanked God for another glorious workout. Perhaps tomorrow will be a running day. If not, it will be okay. There are plenty of other ways to move my body until I’m ready to hit the roads again.

Does this sound like you? Are you heeding your body’s warnings?

Many of us don’t, trying to put in the mileage necessary to train for races, marathons, or some road event. Overtraining can sideline you for days, even months if you’re not cautious. I’ve seen friends push their bodies to the limits and never make it to race day because of injuries or some other malady.

Burnout: Would you know the symptoms if you had them?

Burnout can take on many forms such as:

  • Physical burnout
    1. Loss of appetite
    2. Weight loss
    3. Sleep loss
    4. Increased resting and running heart-rate
    5. Frequencies of colds and infections
    6. Increased muscle soreness and fatigue
    7. Decrease in muscle glycogen
  • Chronic fatigue
    • Very low energy for extended period of time
  • Anemia
    • Low iron stores decrease energy
  • Overtraining
    • Training exceeds capability
  • Mental malaise or sometimes referred to as “the blahs.”
    1. Little or no desire to run
    2. Perceived difficulty increases even on easy runs
    3. Depression
    4. Declining or little motivation
    5. Workout anxieties

You don’t have to run every day. Mix it up!

There are other ways to train. You increase your risk for both injury and burnout by sticking with the same movement day in and day out. Cross-training is a great way to build endurance and to give your running legs a break. No-impact workouts such as swimming and biking are great. My personal favorite is spinning. If you’re the type who thrives in a gym setting, there are many spinning classes offered throughout the country. Or if you want to go it alone in the privacy of your home, my preference, there are several quality spinning bikes at reasonable prices. If you like all the bells and whistles, check out the high-end bikes such as Peloton cycles which allow streaming of online classes.

Cross-training allows you to work different muscles:

Forgoing running for occasional cycling reduces the risk of injury. You’re substituting a high-impact workout for quality, no-impact ride. Your joints will thank you as you give them a break from the constant pounding and wear and tear of joints. On the bike, you work weaker muscles, not used during running. Strengthening these muscles will provide greater muscular balance, and reduce your chance of running injuries. Besides toning your thighs, hamstrings, calves, and ankles, the abdominals are worked as well. The slightly bent position and side to side movement work both the central and lateral abdominal muscles. The abdominals, triceps, and shoulders support the upper body while the lower body is working. And, of course, the powerful gluteus maximus gets a whopping workout, especially on hill rides. Other muscle groups in the hips are strengthened: Front of hip—hip flexors (iliopsoas muscles); inside and outside thighs—adductors and abductors.

Burnout article spinning workout planKeep it interesting. Mix up the speed!

  • Intervals
  • Tempo (steady aerobic-level cadence)
  • Fartlek (speed play)
  • Hill climbs

Advantages of Cycling and Running

Burout article Audrey Hepburn on bike
Photo: Courtesy of

If you’re a runner, you know nothing else compares. Both running and cycling increase the body’s metabolism—ability to burn carbs efficiently for use as glucose by muscles. Running requires more energy, and is more effective in burning calories. But spinning can torch calories as well. However, cross training by alternating running and cycling can help balance muscular strength. Most important, cycling is a no-impact workout and is easier on your joints and muscles. As a runner, we’re always looking for faster running times. Well, the advantage of choosing cycling as a cross-training method has been shown to improve runner’s speed. A 2015 study found that doing two weeks of three high-intensity interval sessions on a stationary bike helped runners improve 3K time trial speed by 3 percent.

So, when you need to mix it up and take a day off from running, plug in the music, choose your gear, and pedal away.



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