Look at any running information for long enough and you’re bound to read about the importance of cross training. Essentially, this is just other exercise that helps with your running, or helps to even up body areas that running doesn’t target. This has always been a bit of a sticking point for me – I can never seem to get momentum for running and other exercise at the same time.
When we did our Leadership in Running Fitness course at the end of last year, the trainers talked about the need for regular stretching workouts as part of any running training plan. Secretly, I felt a little bit smug at this, as just a couple of weeks earlier I’d started a new stretching and flexibility class, and this time I was determined to make it stick.
Studio 22 is a dance fitness studio, and was the place I decided to try when looking for a new start. I was attracted by the range of classes, and the decent class prices. My desire to stretch out my muscles combined with a wish to stretch out my comfort zone, and so I found myself at X-TND & Flex. Stretching my comfort zone was putting it mildly.
I was asked about my flexibility goals. An obvious question, you’d think. But as someone who has never been associated with the word ‘flexible’, it was difficult to answer. And with that I entered the world of biomechanical releases, muscle rolling, belly breathing, and the splits. Yep, the splits. It is fair to say that I had never been close to doing the splits, and this did not change that evening.
For some reason I persevered, and slowly but surely I started to have a bit more of a clue what I was doing. You could even start to tell that I was attempting to do the splits. With the extra confidence it was time to add something else in, this time Ballet Fit.
Ballet is not something I did as a child, but it’s hard to deny the obvious fitness benefits. For me the biggest challenge was (is) balance. Oh and grace. And maybe a bit of flexibility. Ok, so essentially it’s a class that targets a lot of weak spots for me. As you’d therefore expect, I was rubbish at it.
Of the many things I’ve learned at Studio 22, a key one is that it’s ok not to be good at something, as long as you try to get better. There’s no way that you can expect flexibility and balance to magically improve, they are areas that need work just like running.
The burning question is, of course, what impact has all of this had on my running? Well, I’ve still not cracked the art of balancing exercise effectively. I’ve certainly been doing a lot less running than I was before, even with my short runs to and from the Studio each week. But it’s actually good news.
All the leg stretching and strengthening means that I no longer ache after a flat-out parkrun. And they feel pretty good during the run as well. I find myself checking my posture against any reflective surface I pass, which has helped my running form and day-to-day aches. As for my pace, it’s fair to say that there’s no indication I’ve been running less. In fact, my pace is up there with the best it’s ever been.
For me, the secret to cross training now seems clear. Find something that you actually enjoy, and stick with it. Studio 22 is the place that this has worked out for me, and I can feel the difference on the odd occasion I can’t make a class. Now I just need to get out running more, to really reap the benefits.
I have not been asked, or paid, to write this post, and I pay full-price for all classes at Studio 22.