The Cross Training Conundrum


Marathon training is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I suppose the same can be said for any type of distance training, but I find marathon training to be especially mentally exhausting.

Take, for example, my feelings about cross training. A couple months ago, it felt like there wasn’t enough time in the week to do all the things I wanted to do. I wanted to do a few barre classes, head to spin class, go rock climbing, work in a quick hike, and maybe take my bike for a ride outside. I often would do multiple activities on cross training days just because I felt like I never had enough time to do them and I had so much excitement about it. I got in trouble with my coach about this about once a week on average – especially when I would go on long, tough hikes right after long runs. Oops.

Fast forward to the past couple of weeks. I haven’t felt like cross training at all. There’s no excitement. Am I still doing it? Yes, of course – I do what is on my plan unless I’m injured or sick, no questions asked – but I can’t say it’s very much fun. Nothing sounds appealing to me. The other night, I literally couldn’t think of a single type of cross training I wanted to do, so I ended up just doing a random circuit and strength workout from Aaptiv. I had a lot of fun with it – maybe just because it was different. But I’m not dying to get out there and do it again.

Prettttty much

I’m not really sure why this is, exactly. I can’t figure out if it is just mental and physical fatigue now that I’m almost at the end of marathon training (I leave for Prague 2 weeks from today!), or if it is coming from a place of anxiety. After the scare with my back a few weeks ago, I find myself nervous to do too much other than running. But then again, that’s not an unreasonable response, right? I think it is natural to want to protect yourself and try and make it to the starting line.

But I’m also trying to be cognizant of the fact that with just a few weeks left to go, now is not the time to slack off and start eating my weight in pizza any more than I already do and give up on my workouts. I haven’t really struggled with motivation to run (probably because I’m now going just 3 days a week in an effort to self-preserve), but in pretty much other aspect…well, let’s just say I could do better.

This just makes me laugh

It’s normal for motivation to ebb and flow. The difference maker, I guess, is what you do about it. I’ve written before about the difference between motivation and discipline and I’m proud that, even at a time when I’m not feeling particularly motivated for whatever reason, I’m still getting out there and getting my workouts done. That hasn’t always been the case, so it is something to be celebrated! I think I’ll be ready for a little bit of an “off season” by the time the marathon is over, but I hope to jump right back into it after that (assuming my spine makes it through the race in one piece). After that, who knows? I’ve got some new types of cross training I’m ready to try but haven’t wanted to take the risk of hurting myself so close to the race. OrangeTheory, anyone?

LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you have ups and downs in your motivation levels? How do you handle cross training while training for a race?

14 thoughts on “The Cross Training Conundrum

  1. With my last two injuries coming off a 2-year “no injury” stent, I’ve learned I have to cross train. My best races were all last Spring when I was running less (40-45 mpw) and cross training/lifting 2x a week. I’m up now to get ready for BodyPump and it’s not my favorite thing to do this early in the morning but it sure beats having to take tons of time off running which seems to happen when I try to increase my mileage and cross training falls to the wayside.

    You’re at the hardest point of training for anything though, so I understand the motivation issues! It is almost here and the work is almost done. As for Orange Theory… I haven’t tried that. Someone suggested it to me when I was injured and I was like seriously, if I could do that I would be running??

    1. I agree! I benefit a lot from cross training, but I also have a tendency to overdo it sometimes, I think (like when I was trying to run and teach 6 barre classes a week, etc). Usually, I really enjoy it, so it’s a little weird to be in a slump. I think my body is just tired 🙂 So funny someone suggested OrangeTheory to you when you were injured! That’s not exactly what I call a low-impact cross training option.

  2. I’m in a total slump right now and it’s being magnified by a cold. I just feel completely BLAH. As for cross training/strength training, I usually have to force myself to do it and often look for fun ways (yes, like Orangetheory) to fit it in. I say, just go with how you’re feeling and eventually you will get your mojo back!!!…at least I hope that’s what will happen…:-)

    1. Aww, I’m sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well! Normally, I find cross training fun and a good break from running. I usually have to stop myself from doing too much! I think I’m just worn out from training, so hopefully I will get my motivation back soon! I loved your review of OrangeTheory because I’ve been wanting to try it!

  3. I’m’ cruisin for a ruisin right now. I’m running way too much, and I know it. And I’m spending so much time on my feet at the restaurant. Make me stop! The problem is that I’m dealing with a lot of anxiety right now and running is my comfort zone.

    Ok, back to you. I worry about doing OTF this close to your race–it can be rough on the body. I would hold off until after. Especially the rowing….

    1. I totally understand! Just make sure you don’t do too much and end up with another stress fracture. It would be devastating not to be able to run right now for you, I’m sure!

      Oh, no worries. I definitely will NOT be trying OTF before the race. This is an idea for after!

  4. To be honest, my motivation levels have been at all time low right now. I think it’s a combination of running almost exclusively in pouring rain as well as just not improving. I completely understand and marathon training can be tough. You’ll make it through this plateau and tough time and I’m looking forward to seeing you push through.

    1. That’s totally understandable, Hollie! You’ve dealt with some crazy tough weather this year, and I know you haven’t had the races you were hoping for. I’m rooting for you!

  5. Ugh, I totally feel you. I’m training for a 10 miler in June and I’m just getting back in the gym to weight train for the first time in weeks! Awhile back, I was so gung-ho about crosstraining (doing cardio step) and lifting weights and then all of a sudden, nothing but running. You’re right, its hard to balance it all and keep it moving! At least you only have a few more weeks and then physical and mental freedom, haha!

    1. Yes! It’s so funny how such a huge mental shift can happen in the span of just a few weeks. Oh well! Good luck with training for your 10-miler!! That’s such a fun distance!

  6. I know cross training (even if all I do is barre) is a must for me to keep the injuries away, but it can be such a struggle to try and do ALL THE THINGS when training for a marathon.
    I need OTF to open near me and have a good intro rate so I can go regularly. I’m certain I’d be in the best shape of my life.

    1. Agreed! I think barre (and the core strengthening that comes with it) is the reason I’ve been able to keep running since my surgery!

  7. I think motivation in general is a very tough thing … I mean, I think as runners (and really anyone who exercises) we ALL get the “I didn’t want to … yet I did it” – and want to applaud that person.

    Add to that the whole ‘follow a plan’ thing about race training, and it starts to feel very confining after so many weeks. I am crappy about that as well – I just want to run, whatever distance and pace seems like a cool thing on that particular day.

    That is all hard – and then factor in the rest of your life, how you feel about work and your house and your various relationships and that makes it more challenging. Because sometimes you want to stay up too late, drink or eat too much, and so on … but you have a long run that is ‘crucial’. Then there is the special joy for women about … well, yeah.

    Reading the updated comments since I started typing … I think it is important to try to piece things together like a puzzle – what does what for you: physically, mentally, emotionally, and so on. Running does so many things for me, but I try to remember that stress and stress relief come from many places, as do positive and negative thoughts and feelings.

    None of it is easy.

    1. Great insight as always, Mike! I have noticed a big change since I had the one or two really bad weeks with my back. I think I am afraid of hurting myself again and doing too much, and it is diminishing my desire to cross train. I’m not at the point of letting myself make excuses and just not doing the workout, but I do think that fear is playing into why I am not looking forward to the additional activity as much. It will be refreshing to take a break for a few months and just do what I feel like based on how my body feels!

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