Cross-train to run better
Mixing workouts can help boost stamina and recovery
An athlete in her school years, Shwetambari Shetty, a banker, started learning zumba and decided to make a career of it in 2011. Now a trained zumba education specialist, 36-year-old Shetty teaches zumba at Cult Tribe, the fitness club she co-founded in Bengaluru. Last year, she finished the TCS World 10K Bengaluru in 47 minutes, coming second in her category. It was her first race.
“It is not that I was training for the run in the months preceding the race. But I think doing zumba for an hour each day had built up my endurance,” says Shetty.
Shetty’s workouts helped her on the running track. A growing number of runners are now embracing different workouts to train better for races. Be it yoga or CrossFit, runners are aiming at building overall fitness and strength, rather than just working on their legs and core.
So, if you plan to better your performance during the running season starting in October-November, now would be a good time to hone your training routine.
“Running economy is a measure of how much oxygen a runner uses for a given, sub-maximal speed. If two runners can have the same maximal capacity for oxygen use (called VO2max), the one who is more economical at sub-maximal speeds is likely to be the better runner,” explains Puma’s running ambassador and sports scientist Shayamal Vallabhjee.
He says that exercises like zumba or martial arts use the basics of plyometrics, which enhances running economy. A study published in the European Journal Of Applied Physiology in 2003 has shown that plyometric-based training can improve time trial performances by 3% and lower running economy by almost 8%. The results showed that a six-week plyometric programme led to better timings in 3km runs.
Shetty teaches zumba for an hour each day. Zumba coaches need to have inexhaustible energy to keep the class motivated and active throughout. “It is not like a usual workout class where you can warm up, take a break, then work out and are done in maybe 30-40 minutes. The 60 minutes I spend in the class help me too to build up my energy, and in turn my endurance,” says Shetty.
Zumba works on overall fitness and shouldn’t be used for recovery from a run, since it is a high-intensity workout. Shetty, however, combines zumba and running with core-strengthening workouts (such as lunges, planks, squats, etc.) during the week. This helps her increase her strength and work on her ability to run for longer durations.
Nischint Katoch, a business manager with Sony India, recently completed the Garhwal Runs (76km) in 10 hours, 14 minutes. This helped him qualify for one of the toughest Indian races—the 111km La Ultra—The High in Ladakh. Running takes up a lot of his time but since Katoch has always tried to stay injury-free, he needed to do more. After attending a parkour workshop, he decided to include basic parkour jumps in his training plan.
Parkour involves running, jumping around obstacles and climbing, typically in an urban outdoor environment. And it has helped his running—he has been able to make decisions more easily and quickly during a race, and speed up recovery.
“Parkour requires a lot of jumps and free runs, climbs and crawls. We have to constantly measure and make decisions very fast. Not to mention the confidence it has given me about what my body is capable of doing,” says Katoch.
Katoch combines his runs (three-four times a week) with circuit training and parkour (two-three times a week). These include basic movements—lunges, squats, stair climbs and bear crawls—for his Interval Training, with 30 seconds’ rest between each. Close to 40-45 days before a race, however, he begins to change his training schedule, using parkour only for the warm-up.
A former communications professional, Beverly Mathews is well known in the running circuit. When she began her fitness journey, however, it was mostly about working out at the gym. She picked up running and yoga as a way to develop a holistic fitness programme covering strength, endurance and flexibility.
Mathews says that at the physical level, yoga works your muscles, joints and internal bodily systems, all essential to health, fitness and athletic endeavours. “But it also works on the mental level, with an emphasis on attitudes such as maintaining a balanced and objective state of mind, focus on work rather than worrying about results, faith and self- reliance. This develops a lot of mental resilience, which helps you plough through tough training sessions, disappointments and other obstacles,” she adds.
Yoga incorporates various styles, including highly acrobatic postures and sequences, and works several muscle groups simultaneously, building functional strength. The emphasis on flexibility ensures the joints stay healthy. The challenging postures develop balance, demanding a heightened sense of body awareness that is essential for an athlete who is constantly pushing his/her limits.
Some of the asanas that Mathews practises regularly are Virabhadrasana, Utkatasana and Mālāsana, Santolanasana and Chaturanga Dandasana (for the core muscles and the upper body); Kapotasana variations, Trikonasana and Hasta Padangusthasana sequence (for stretching), and hip openers like Baddha Konāsana and Gomukhasana.
Delhi-based tax consultant Amandeep Singh took up cycling in 2014. He took up running a year later to improve his cycling timings and ran the 50km Bhatti trails. Running helped, and he completed 600km in the Super Randonneur. His best time so far for the distance has been a blazing 29 hours, 7 minutes, which he achieved in February.
“If you are running longer distances—like 50-100km, every muscle in your body needs to be trained. I need to work on each part so that there is no muscle imbalance. Cross-training also helps me to recover faster, letting me resume office the day after doing a 100km run or a 600km cycling ride,” explains Singh.
Singh’s training schedule depends on the race he is preparing for. For a 100km run, he trains by running 70km and cycling around 150-200km in a week. He practises active recovery (by keeping himself physically active while doing a less intense workout, like slow jogs or squats) on his rest days. In a week, he usually runs three-four days and cycles for two days (can be vice versa if he is training for a cycling event), supplementing these with core workouts in the evenings.
So, all you need to do is find a routine that works for you—and see what effect it has on your running.