Training - Cross It Up

After two weeks of some major mileage, my left hip has acted up again.  It's generally sore, but not to the point of limping like last October.  Rather than tough it out, I've been laying low and running slower shorter distances this week.  I even managed to get in to the pool on Tuesday, but I've been feeling general workout withdrawals because of it.

I know it's probably time that I commit more energy to core workouts and strength training.  I've proven to myself that I can put in the requisite time to run 20+ miles, and I understand under which conditions I'll feel well during those performances.  A light week of running followed by a rest day before a Long Slow Distance (LSD) leaves me with energy and feeling generally indestructible.  Well, that might be a bit too far fetched, but I certainly feel good enough to sing and smile while I'm running.  Something must be right about it.  I'm still pursuing consistency with a mid-foot strike, and will be looking for a more minimalist approach to shoes this coming season -- hopefully one that won't break the bank.

At a mere 177 pounds, I'm the heaviest I've been in two months, averaging around 173 to 175 depending upon when I weigh myself.  At 6'2", I've become damned skinny once again - time for new jeans.  This was to be expected, though, with the number of miles I've been putting in.  Growing up, I had never had the problem of thinking I'm not skinny enough, rather the opposite one.  I was the tall beanpole with no muscle mass and whose only talent, discovered late in my high school years, was for running long periods of time.  I was never that sprinter, and even though I was a two-way lineman on the football team my senior year, it was more out of team numbers than size that put me there.

I find running "easy", relatively speaking.  Sure there's work and pain involved, but its something I know how to cope with well enough to stay healthy and continue enjoying it.  However, I think I've come to a realization that skinny and long slow distance isn't enough anymore.  What is missing is general core strength and conditioning and more intense interval training.

I started down the route of cross training hitting the pool for recovery workouts this winter; it was and is a good direction.  With training and time, I've found another sport that I thoroughly enjoy, something that is a close sibling to running in many ways.  With very little change in the mechanics, you can go from a long, slow, endurance workout into a very demanding anaerobic one.  Bicycling as well falls in this category.  Triathlons are a possibility now that I have a very nice entry-level road-bike (Thank you, Meghan!) -- which I have yet to take out this year.

Through my recent trail running experience at the Zumbro 100, I learned about another fitness program from Matt Patten called Crossfit and a sister site called Crossfit Endurance.  I've been trying to wrap my head around its general approach.  Crossfit has three Fitness Standards:
"Crossfit's First Fitness Standard: There are ten recognized general physical skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power,  coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. (See “General Physical Skills”, pg. 4, for definitions.) You are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A regimen develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills...

Crossfit's Second Fitness Standard: The essence of this model is the view that fitness is about performing well at any and every task imaginable...

Crossfit's Third Fitness Standard: Total fitness, the fitness that CrossFit promotes and develops, requires 
competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines [Phosphagenic, Glycolytic, and Oxadative]...Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others and not recognizing the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway are arguably the two most common faults in fitness training." -- Glassman, Greg. "What Is Fitness", Crossfit Journal, October 2002
The primary Crossfit site is a bit intimidating, however.  The Workout of the Day (WOD) consists of those more appropriate for Olympic weightlifter's and gymnasts.  I can handle the multi-modal sprinter workouts, but the other two scare the hell out of me.  The high school football I mentioned left me with a left shoulder that likes to sublux on occasion.  Skiiing in college left me with a right shoulder that periodically dislocates if I decide to throw a fastball or go up for a rebound in basketball.  And there's something genetic about my body composition that thrusts my left hip out further than my right and dips my right shoulder lower than my left.

I remember trying to do a handstand once in high-school track, just after said football season.  My left shoulder slid out of socket, and I had to do a pseudo Lethal Weapon move to get it back in.  Surgery didn't fully correct my right shoulder problems, and several dislocations later, I've learned that sports that demand upper body strength are simply excluded from my regimen.  The prospect of doing handstand pushups, or handstands for that matter leaves me more than a bit worried.  Olympic weightlifting moves like the snatch and the clean and jerk send my shoulders into nervous spasms just thinking about it.

There are some other oddities about the Crossfit programs, departures from general sport-specific training, but despite the fear of complete shoulder destruction, I'm intrigued.  I'm not so stupid as to think that I can or ever will try some of the WOD's on the Crossfit site, but finding suitable and safe alternatives for my own body quirks might be a workable solution.  It is something they encourage.  With access to most of the required equipment at the YMCA, I may soon turn my attention more seriously to strength training and weightlifting.

I know Meghan won't object to me turning down the mileage and focusing more on cross training.  She's not at all impressed with my desire to run ultras, but as I start to focus my attention at trail running, more minimalist approach to gear, and a heavier focus on cross training, maybe I won't destroy my hips before I'm 50.  Beginning this week, I'll be commuting to work on my bike every chance I can get and continue to incorporate swimming into my workouts.

Now that I have a pretty solid aerobic base, it's time to start looking at interval training, perhaps a bit too late to benefit in time for Grandma's though.  I'm pretty psyched to run the upcoming marathon!  It has been a while since the question of "Can I finish?" turned into "What time will I finish?"  Any finish will be a PR for me, since this is my first Marathon event.  3:45 seems entirely attainable, but who knows. :)  We shall see!

If any of you have had experience with Crossfit or other cross-training programs, please pipe up and let me know how it's working for you!