working out in Vegas and running 101: the importance of crosstraining

Just got back from sunny Las Vegas yesterday and I am dead.  I averaged a total of 9 miles between my workouts and just walking around everyday and got an average of less than 5 hours of sleep every single day I was there.  So to say I crashed hard when I got home is a drastic understatement.

Working out in Vegas is a very interesting experience to say the least.  I was there for a conference for work, so I still had to get up every morning and get my butt to meetings by 8am.  Lucky for me, the time zone worked in my favor and waking up at 5am really felt like waking up at 8am, which was awesome.  But, that also meant that every other east coaster and their dog decided to join me at the gym.

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It was literally standing room only with some people waiting up to 20 minutes for a machine.  I opted two of the days to do some weighted circuits just because I didn’t feel like waiting.  Also, please note that the man who caught me selfie-ing in the gym sent me a LinkedIn request…I’m not kidding.

As the week went on, the gym goers lost their umph and slowly started dropping out.  On my last day there, you could use any machine you wanted because there were about 3 people besides myself up and ready to attack the day.

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Just goes to show that you have to make your own motivation sometimes.  I think it’s amazing the amount of change in people who worked out in a week.  If you want it, you work for it.  Simple as that.  No one makes you get up and get your butt to the gym, but I know I personally feel so much more prepared for the day when I do.

That being said, overall, it was a pretty good workout week for me in Vegas.  7 mile run on Monday, Tuesday was a body weight circuit and some ellipticalling, Wednesday was a really mentally tough 5 mile run (I was just so darn tired and my legs. just. hurt.) but I powered through, Thursday was 3 miles and some bodyweight HIIT, and Friday was a rest day to recover from all this craziness.  As you can see, I didn’t run everyday and that’s actually pretty normal for me.

I’m a firm believer in mixing up your training.  I have been running for many years and I always find if I try to run everyday or if I focus only on running, I get injured.  And after years of trying again and again to do this and failing, I realized there’s totally a science to why I always end up benched.

Pattern overload is the damage of soft tissue by repeatedly performing the same movements.  Wonder why tendonitis appears so often to baseball pitchers so late in the season?  It’s because they are repeatedly doing the same motion over and over and stressing out their tendons.  The same thing can happen if you’re repeating the same workout program everyday.  If you run a quick 5 miles everyday at the same pace in the same location, you’re asking for trouble.  The best way to overcome pattern overload and to avoid injury is to switch things up every once and awhile.

If you’re looking to keep your cardio up without running, good cross training options include the stationary bike, the stair stepper, the elliptical (especially good because it’s easy on your knees and joints), or swimming.  All of these provide cardio benefits while switching the muscles your body is working.

If you’re not into extra cardio and want to really switch things up, focus on strength training.  I know I personally have benefited exponentially since adding strength training into my routine.  Just because you’re running often doesn’t mean your muscles are getting any stronger.  To put some extra strength and power into your runs, try focusing on plyometric moves (super important for runners), squats and lunges.  These moves help work the muscles you use while running (especially the often neglected glutes) and other muscles around them to ensure you don’t have some compensating for others which could lead to bad problems down the road.

Workout: Try setting your timer for 15 minutes and completing this circuit as many times as possible:

  • 15 squats
  • 15 walking lunges (with of without weights)
  • 15 star jumps
  • 15 burpees
  • 15 side to side lunges

Finally, here’s a picture of the Boo perfectly explaining how I felt coming home from Vegas.  This dog just gets me.

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-sj

how to know if you’re overtraining and an epic philly weekend.

We interrupt my regularly scheduled Running 101 blog post to bring you some fun stuff from this last weekend and a discussion that I think we all need to take a minute to stop and have.

Obviously we’re going to start with the fun portion.  This weekend I went in to Philly to meet-up with some girls that I met on the Internet.  Scandalous, I know.  But actually, these girls are amazing.  I have been getting together with them at least once a month for the past couple of months to do a workout and grab some brunch.  What started out as 25 girls meeting in a random training center on the border of Pennsylvania has quickly grown to over 100 girls getting together in a massive gym to get our sweat on.

I went in a day early to help set-up and run some errands ie. getting massive balloons filled and stuffed into my car.  Insane size of balloons documented below.

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And after a long night ballooning and finishing up some last minute surprises for the next day, some girls and I had a sleepover which was more fun than I’ve had in a long time.

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And finally, the day came where I got to workout with 100+ amazing girls and sweat to my hearts content which was beyond awesome.  I can’t even begin to explain how much fun it is to get together and do this.  I’m a firm believer that working out with friends is 1,000,000x better than working out alone.  Nothing like suffering together to really make you push yourself.

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I loved the workout and was so sweaty by the end, but I hadn’t burned all that many calories.  Usually, this would have me going to the gym to finish up my workout later and make sure it really “counted”, but I didn’t do this this time because I’m really trying to catch myself and stop overtraining.

I’ll be the first to tell you I have a semi-addictive personality.  When I do something, I do it all or nothing and that is no different with working out.  There can also be intense pressure to make sure you keep up with your workouts and keep pushing yourself with the advent of social media.  Just because someone went to the gym for two hours today and burned 1000 calories does not mean that you do too!  And you know what, they’re probably doing more harm then good.

This brings me to the topic of overtraining.  Overtraining is when a person has decreased performance when a certain level or training load exceeds their capacity for recovery.  So basically, your body is working too hard and stressing itself out too much to full recover and make advancements.

Every time you work out, you’re stressing your system and making tiny tears in your muscles.  The longer you workout and the higher the intensity, the more you need to repair those muscles after.  If your muscles don’t get a chance to heal and repair, you risk injury and creating muscle imbalances because of it.

So, what are some symptoms of overtraining?  Muscle fatigue, injury, change in sleep patterns, elevated resting heart rate (this is a good way to track it.  If you have a HR monitor, track your resting heart rate over a couple of days and see if anything is out of wack), lowered immune system (never get sick and now you’re always feeling under the weather?  alert.alert. you’re probably overtraining), mood swings/irritability, hormone imbalances, increased water retention, and burnout.

These aren’t all the systems in the world, but these are some good ones to be aware of.  The main take away is that you don’t have to train hard every single day of the week.  More often than not this can be more detrimental than anything.  Listen to your body and for the love of God, take a rest day.

If you do not take a rest day at least once a week, you’re doing it wrong.  I don’t care how much you feel you need that extra workout, you don’t.  You need time for your muscles to heal if you want them to get stronger.  It’s just a fact.  Give yourself that break, take a breather, and you will come back swinging even stronger.

-sj