“So are you planning to do more cardio today? What race are you training for?”
Last Friday I had to take care of some long-overdue business with my “gym guy,” Ed. We don’t have the opportunity to talk as much as I would like. Most of our conversations are thirty seconds at most: I’m trying to fit a workout between work and some other crazy activity; he’s maintaining a treadmill I have yet to break.
Ed had recently returned from a rafting excursion in Peru. The concept of him doing “outdoorsy” stuff should not have surprised me; his brother Erik climbed Mount Everest. Yep, that Weihenmayer. A smart guy would have matched the poster-sized Time magazine cover to the last name on the business card. I still would not consider Ed a raft person. Ed looks more like a “portage the raft” person; his build is of a guy I want on my side when moving a couch on Saturday morning. Ed and I come from different world-views: He calls running “cardio.” I call his Cybex machines, barbells and benches “cross training.”
I mumbled something in passing about possibly working some of the small muscle groups. Of course, to every weight-training focused person even the large muscle groups of a distance runner could be defined as “small.” I felt no ill effect after a half-hour of pushing a few dumbbells and pulling a few pulleys. At least not until two days after the fact, when my back tightened up during the Sunday morning trot like it was spring-wound.
So perhaps I’m not as fit as I thought I was. I guess it all depends (wait for it…) on your own personal definition of “fitness.”
What is “fitness?” Is there a particular standard, or is it a nebulous feel-good “I might not be able to bench press 200 pounds, but I can run six miles” thing?
We do CrossFit, yoga, swimming, spinning, running, or any physical activity to improve our health, develop or advance our “fitness,” and hopefully advance our ability to perform the activity we choose to enjoy. We might be a poor swimmer but a great cyclist. We runners work a great deal on our aerobic capacity; the ability to move in some fashion for as long as possible, and to some extent for a specific competition or sport-related goal. But, as the muscles of my upper back and neck have reminded me, even up to yesterday evening, we need to focus as much on functional movement, stability and mobility, lest we become “one-dimensionally” fit. Not that I want my friends to call on me when it’s time to move into a new apartment, but I don’t want to need a dolly to carry a 12-pack, either.
I often refer to Timothy Noakes’ “Lore of Running,” because of the sheer volume of information on running physiology and psychology. But if you prefer a condensed version, I would recommend “Run Strong,” edited by Kevin Beck. In 200-plus pages, Beck distills the advice and counsel of coaches like Greg McMillan, Pete Pfitzinger and Joe Rubio, trainers like Christine Chorak, and athletes like Gwyn and Mark Coogan, to the elements a self-coached runner needs to know in order to, well...
Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of “Run Strong” focus specifically on those areas which are commonly overlooked by many recreational runners; upper body strength, lower body strength, and body alignment. I’ll be pulling my copy off my personal library shelf, and perhaps I’ll have a little heart-to-heart chat with Ed in the next few days…as soon as my back muscles loosen.