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Winter workout: The importance of cross-training

Winter is a great time to take a break from your usual fitness routine. Shake it up with weight training, yoga, swimming and other activities. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — Streets and sidewalks throughout the D.C. region are covered with ice and snow, and most will remain that way for the rest of the week.

So unless your running shoes come equipped with ice cleats or snow chains, you’re going to have find a few alternatives when it comes to working out.

Personal trainer Josef Brandenburg says that isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, he says winter is a great time to take a break from your normal workout routine or sport of choice and cross-train.

“Can you imagine what would happen to an NFL team if they had no time off? By the time you got to the second year, you probably would have to find an entire new team because everybody would be destroyed and injured and unable to play,” says Brandenburg, of True 180 Fitness.

“Basically, your body just needs a change of pace; it needs time to heal from sport.”

In addition to helping prevent injuries, cross-training for six to 10 weeks out of the year also provides an opportunity to improve your skills. For example, Brandenburg says long-distance runners and cyclists typically don’t dedicate much training time to strength and power. Taking a break from endurance training allows them to do so.

“These are the things you’re going to be standing in the way of you going to the next level and setting your next PR. So this is an opportunity for you to focus on developing those qualities while you let everything else heal,” Brandenburg says.

That doesn’t mean you need to completely abandon your sport. Brandenburg says runners should still run two to three days a week at a relatively easy pace to maintain a base. Cyclists can continue to go out on rides. However, Brandenburg suggests working in weight training, yoga, swimming and other activities on the “off” days to build new muscle and skills.

“Swimming for a runner, it’s a great way to keep your conditioning up and not put a lot of stress on your joints as well,” he says.

The winter cross-training season is also a great opportunity to set goals or plan out rides and races for the spring season.

“Don’t dread the offseason; embrace it,” Brandenburg says.


Want to get started on your cross-training routine? Follow Bandenburg’s advice and workout: 

Tips: Many assume that strength training for endurance athletes should center around increasing muscular endurance by doing sets with a high number of reps. The job of the strength and conditioning coach is to provide what the sport doesn’t. This is why the reps are low (most exercises are only six reps). This is to emphasize strength and high tension.

You will also notice that the lower-body exercises are mostly single-leg exercises because running and cycling are single leg activities. The muscles of your hips, thighs, feet and core work differently when only one foot is on the ground.

How to read the workout: Items listed as 1A, 1B, 1C are to be done in a mini circuit. Complete the first set of 1A, then the first set of 1B, followed by the first set of 1C. Then repeat the circuit starting at 1A before moving onto the 2s or the 3s.

Also, there is an A and B day; they have the same “ramp up.” I would like you to alternate these workouts and progress them.  For example, in Week 1, on Monday do A, Wednesday B, Friday A. In Week 2, Monday would be B, Wednesday A, Friday B.  You can continue making progress on this for four to six weeks. Track your loads.

Click on the links for video demonstrations of the workout. 

The RAMP UP — 15 min Sets Reps Tempo Rest
1A. Foam rolling 1 1 5 minutes None
1B. ½ kneeling ankle mobilization 1 10 each Slow None
1B. Pretzel 1.0 1 1 each 30 seconds None
1C. Pretzel 2.0 1 1 each 30 seconds None
1D. ½ kneel KB halo 1 3 each leg Slow None
1E. Inchworm 1 5 Slow None
1F. Side lunge 1 10 each Moderate None
1G. Squat to Stand 1 5 Slow None
1H. 4 Way miniband walk 1 5 each Slow None

 

Day A

Strength, Core and Power — 30 min Sets Reps Tempo Rest
2A. ½ kneeling anti-rotation press 3 12 each Slow 30 seconds
2B. Kettlebell swing 3 12 each Explosive 30 seconds
2C. Pretzel 1.0 2 1 each 30 seconds None
3A. Single leg dead lift 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds
3B. Max Push up* 4 6 Moderate 30 seconds
3C. Offset squat 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds
3D. SA cross-body row 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds

*Make these push ups hard for six reps with integrity and full range of motion.  Elevate your feet or add weight to your back.

Finisher for conditioning: None. If you are still doing a minimal amount of rowing, running or cycling to maintain your base, then we don’t need to add extra conditioning work.

Day B

Strength, Core and Power — 30 min Sets Reps Tempo Rest
2A. Pike with sliders 3 12 Slow 30 seconds
2B. ½ kneeling MB throw 3 12 each Explosive 30 seconds
2C. ½ kneeling ankle mobilization 2 10 each Slow None
3A. Single leg squat from box 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds
3B. Single arm overhead press 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds
3C. Slider reverse lunge 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds
3D. Pull up* 4 6 each Moderate 30 seconds

*I’ve linked to a video on a great entry-level point for this amazing exercise. We like band-assisted pull ups as the usual next step from this exercise. Focus on full range of motion and control on each rep. No kipping or wiggling.

Finisher for conditioning: None. If you are still doing a minimal amount of rowing, running or cycling to maintain your base, then we don’t need to add extra conditioning work.

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