On a sweltering day in the Nation's Capital, I decided that it was an appropriate time to step outside my exercise comfort zone again – this time with a little cross-training. A new gym had opened in the area – Roam Fitness DC – and I had read two complimentary reviews. With an offer of a free introductory class, I decided to give it a shot.
What is cross-training? You may remember the boom of "cross-trainer" shoes in the 90s, designed to straddle that line between running and any other exercises you may want to try. And that's exactly what this form of cross-training was as well, with a focus on high-intensity interval training. The class I ran with was called OutRun, a combination trail run and interval training.
There was a roughly 3.5 mile course through a local park, complete with hills, logs to hop over and the occasional stream to traverse. Along the way – about every half-mile – we stopped to perform some form of explosive, heart-racing activity. First it was box jumps and pushups, then triceps dips on a log and jumping lunges. The next "break" was for burpees—a combination of pushups and squat thrusts--another devoted to calf raises. At the next stop, the group leader broke out resistance bands, where runners paired off to do standing versions of oblique twists and biceps curls. Abdominal exercises and some running while attached to the resistance bands followed.
By the third set of exercises, sweat was pouring off each member of the group, including the leader. Though the heat was partially to blame, the difficulty of the exercises combined with an only-slightly-slower-than-average run up and down hills were the bigger reasons we all were dripping. But once the course was finished – a little over an hour later – it was nothing but smiles. Hard work is empowering, and I felt like a million bucks at the end – despite the fact that I was soaking wet.
This kind of training raises a point about the changing face of exercise in America. Instead of doing some cardio work in an air conditioned gym or lifting some weights, athletes (and wannabe athletes, of which I consider myself) are looking for new ways to get the most out of their exercise. With limited time, it's important to maximize your workout. Rather than jogging at a consistent, reasonable pace, try interval training with alternating periods of intensity to get your heart rate pumping and active recovery to let your body rest a little.
One of the other things that I learned from my experience with Roam Fitness was the power of a great leader. The guy in charge of my group was Chris Geier, a three-year veteran of the fitness industry and partner at Roam Fitness, who fit the mold of an exercise guru in supremely good shape, while managing to not be intimidating in the process. It was important, given the heat, that the person in charge understood when to push the group and when to relent. It was also refreshing to have someone who clearly knew what he was doing and kept the vibe fun despite the intensity of the workout.
If there aren't any gyms that offer this type of training in your area, try to create your routine. Here are some of Chris Geier's advantages to cross-training that may help you get started:
1.) If you don't have a gym, no problem! You can start cross-training anywhere and it is intended to be done outside. All you need is some pathways, trails, public spaces and perhaps a school or park.
2.) Your senses can be better stimulated working out outside instead of inside, which can help break up a "boring" fitness routine or encourage you to start in the first place.
3.) You can do a cross-training workout alone, but it is really easy and fun to do with someone else as well. Working out with a partner can help keep you motivated, or help provide a feeling of "shared" pain and support to help push through.
4.) Cross-training – and specifically, the OutRun program – helps establish a baseline level of cardio, which more traditional exercises may not do. You get a complete, comprehensive and total body workout that may not be achieved through lifting, yoga, Pilates, traditional running or biking, for example.
5.) Because cross-training is by definition a hybrid of many different fitness disciplines, it allows for versatility in your training. This is important for someone who doesn't want to focus on one particular type of exercises, so you can try them all!
6.) Cross-training is very scalable, which is important for someone just starting out. It allows for you to do just enough of any exercise to reach your limit, then move on to something new. Cross-training allows for you to pick your own pace and work to achieve results.
Published On: June 11, 2013