According to the marathon training calendar from Lance Armstrong’s health and fitness website, I’m supposed to spend one day a week cross training. While the site recommends swimming, cycling, and cross-country skiing as good choices, Lance et al claim that “anyone who avoids lifting weights during a marathon training program is missing out on important injury inhibition and overall cardiovascular health.” Although I would love to ignore my upper body, something resonated in this advice to commit to a strength training regimen. If a couple of curls and situps every week can make me feel less stiff and fatigued midway through Battery Hill at the Vermont City Marathon’s mile 16, then by all means, sign me up!
At some point, I think while I was watching Jurassic Park for the millionth time in college, it occurred to me that I have the body type of a T-Rex. My legs are strong enough to run for hours, climb, and kick open outhouse doors, but my arms have never done much better than letting me dangle limply from the monkey bars. A couple of years ago I was defeated at arm wrestling by someone who had just broken her ribs. Enough said.
Fortunately for me and other T-Rex types in Vermont, there’s this huge cross-training phenomenon, CrossFit, that’s been popping up recently in gyms around the state. I joined The Confluence, Montpelier’s CrossFit gym, in 2010 and kindled a passion for leg-centric exercises like weighted squats, deadlifts, and lunges. I also reinforced the fact that pull-ups, push-ups, and generally everything that involves heavy overhead lifting are about as easy for me as running for Congress. Even so, after a few months of patient instruction I was able to do something like a regular push up. I am still very proud of this and show it off as much as possible at parties, work, and any time anyone uses the words “push” and “up” together in a sentence. People are never terribly impressed, but I know what they mean when they tell me, “you’re form is wrong.” They mean, “Your forearms are so strong! You go, girl.”
And so, since the road ice and lack of snow this February have made conditions less than ideal for biking and skiing, and also because Lance Armstrong told me to, I’ve been incorporating elements of CrossFit into my weekly cross training exercises. My favorite thing about CrossFit is that every Workout of the Day is different and can be done with minimal equipment. This WOD, for example, is conceptually simple but feels like a ski trek across Siberia:
As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes:
Since there isn’t much I can do about my body type, I’ll always be a T-Rex. The most I can ever really hope for at some point in my life is to do two, maybe three unassisted pull-ups at once. But I’ll keep up with the strength training like I’m Schwarzenegger and hopefully prevent some race-day fatigue. Plus, sometimes when I’ve been doing a lot of arm workouts and I stand strategically in a partially shaded area, my bi’s and tri’s look really cool. It helps to cross my arms and push out the skin from the back.