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Anatomy of a Cross Trainer

We hear all the time about the importance of cross training, and how it is an essential part of every runner's program. Why is it so important? Frankly, I have no idea. Nobody ever says why, so we just need to accept it and move on. What is cross training? Cross training is really just a euphemism for the punishment we inflict on our bodies during the non-running minutes of our day. Swimming, for example, is one popular form of cross training. I, myself, have never gone in for swimming because I hate getting my hair wet, and because the chlorine causes it to become a lifeless, frizzy mess (as opposed to the lifeless, frizzy mess on my head now). I also believe that I am performing a great service to my community by refusing to appear in public in a bathing suit.

Other cross training activities popular among runners include cycling, cross country skiing, spinning and weight lifting. Pick your poison. My personal form of torture is called "body sculpting," as though participation in the class will somehow turn me into the female equivalent of Michaelangelo's "David." Ha.

I never actually desired to cross train, of course. I was guilted into it by Bill "I biked 40 miles to the pool where I swam 2 miles in time for my 6:30 a.m. run" Bretz. My husband also encouraged me by constantly reminding me that the pouch (i.e. belly) I carry in my abdominal region qualifies me as a member of the marsupial (i.e. kangaroo) family. We are hopeful that my husband will be able to notice the changes wrought by my sculpting class as soon as his eyes recover from having written "I will never call you fat again, not even if you look like a beached whale" 10,000 times.

My body sculpting class is directed by a young, perky and perpetually cheerful instructor, Gina. Gina had herself a good laugh at my expense in that first class. I, of course strutted in with what I thought was my reasonably fit running body only to be carried out in a stretcher at the end of the hour. Since then, I have become accustomed to standing in a line of grunting women doing exercises such as "dumbbell row" (speaks for itself) and "easy" crunches, a horrible misnomer. Gina is constantly exhorting us to "breathe, breathe" sounding like a paramedic working on a heart attack victim.

Paramedic 1: Breathe, dammit, breathe.

Paramedic 2: Look, John, he's developing rock-hard abs.

So I breathe, though my abs still look more like a pack of marshmallows than they do a six pack. But Gina assures me I will notice a difference if I stick with the class and give up food altogether.

Body sculpting does have several advantages over other forms of cross training. 

a. It can be done inside;

b. It does not require costly high-tech clothing or equipment other than the wheelchair you will need after the first class;

c. It provides me with a captive audience, mostly women, to whom I can complain while I suffer through each "rep" and "set."  

So, has body sculpting helped my running? Hard to say. I've been so crippled since starting the class that I haven't yet been able to do any actual running. But I'll let you know. Do I like body sculpting? I suppose I do, in the same way I like having the dentist fill the hole in my tooth so it doesn't rot. But I'll probably stay with it at least until the fitness gods come up with something more appropriate to meeting my needs. Something like "Cross training in bed."

This article was originally written By Aimee Gilman for the newsletter of the NERC, Northeast Running Club. It may not be reproduced without the express, written consent of Aimee Gilman.
Copyright 2010.

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