Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why cross-train? (Part II of more than I)

In the first installment of this brief and dolorous series, I declared that cross-training while injured, for purposes of this burned-out shell of a former jogger, is not worth the investment.

Since I just dropped an economic term, I'll wander further down that path. When I was younger and faster, cross-training would have represented a great use of physical capital. I would have channeled it into maintaining fitness that could then be drawn upon to take a high-probability shot at a fairly fast time. There was little opportunity cost in cross-training because the time I spent exercising 15 years ago wasn't realistically being stolen from other, better things I might have done. At all times, being in good shape was something I could almost immediately deploy, anytime and anywhere, for personal gain, even if it was just in the form of a cheap self-esteem boost.

This is simply not the case now. As fast a I can rattle off plausible reasons for "staying in shape" when I can't run, I just as quickly shoot them down, credibly and without blinking.

The main ones:

1. If I cross-train, I'll be in better shape when and if I do start running again. Right, it's vital for me to make sure I come back ready to blaze a 38:00 10 rather than limp through one in 42:00. The world's really going to take notice of that distinction.

Over the years I've been in and out of shape so many times that it no longer bothers me to know that for about five or six days, almost every running step faster than a tree sloth's pace will be accompanied by burning sensations in a number of parts of me. I don't care. If I keep running, that goes away in 10-14 days or so, and then running is fun again, even if I'm still slow as fuck.

2. Exercise is great stress relief. Undeniably true, but so are a lot of other things. While I admittedly feel better when I'm able to run, the decrease in my mood level and overall sense of well-being is not as precipitous as it once was, probably because there is simply no real urgency about Being Fit for Some Event. As long as I am able to do around 60 to 90 minutes of moving around a day, I don't get that not-so-fresh antsy feeling.

3. Exercise makes you live longer, makes you look better, controls your weight, fucking blah blah blah. The "live longer" thing is, depending on how you score the claim, a myth; furthermore, living to be really old has never been much of a goal of mine, because if I do that, a lot of untoward physical and psychological effects await and I am not inclined to court them. I'm too fucking old for vanity -- I mean really -- and I don't really look any different when I'm training than when I'm not. If I feel like maintaining that morose, angular, cachectic serious-runner look that's a veritable sine qua non in Boulder, I'll just use a whole lot of THC. (I always threaten to use pot, and in great amounts at that, but this is mainly because I'm still getting used to the fact that I can, without breaking laws. In truth I've rarely used marijuana, although I highly recommend it.)

4. When I'm running, I'm more attuned to "the sport," and am a better coach and a more eager spectator. No and no. These are conditions I expected would hold before I ever stopped running for any length of time. I appreciate "the sport," and more importantly the people I advise, just as much when I'm not training seriously myself as when I am. This actually surprises me, or did when I first realized it; in my fastest days, I assumed that if external events ever curtailed my own serious running, or I simply got sick of it, I would shift my interest entirely to new domains.

Am I rationalizing to some extent here? Engaging in some post hoc bullshit to convince myself that the reality I can't presently escape is magically the one I'd happily choose anyway? No doubt. But as long as it works, I don't give a fuck.

I'm not sure if this ends the series, but this seems likely.


  1. Hey Kev! You should do some walking or hiking on trails because soon You may seriously get withdrawals from all the endorphins you were getting from all those miles. Be careful because if Your not doing much You could start to struggle with anxiety and possible depression. At first You may not notice it coming on so just be careful. Just take good care of Yourself.

  2. Now that Your injured go to yard sales around Colorado. Not too close to Your home. Put lil ketchup on running sock and limp while looking around at items. Trip over some odd clothes their selling so that You fall. Before You do that watch video of Emmitt Smith's Dallas Cowboys days. He ran low to the ground and knew how to land all the while becoming the NFL's all time leading rusher. HE DIDN'T GET INJURED LIKE YOU. After You pay, say thank you and run to your truck to get to the next yard sale fast.

  3. You're preaching to Spanky's gang over here. Why do I want to die on a bike? Who swims hours a day for enjoyment? I tried those planks a couple days and that was plenty.

    About once every two weeks I jump on a t-mill for utilitarian reasons when on the road. You've seen these at the basic Holiday Inn or Marriott. I'm glad people come in and get a workout in on the various equipment, but from what I almost always see is what they do would never qualify as an effective cross training workout to me. If I was to get on a stationary bike I'd be standing on that thing bringing the mail for about an hour. But I don't because I loath them.

    "We serve hard liquor for men who want to get drunk." That's how it is. Why would I fart around on a rowing machine.

    How times have changed. In 1978 I was banking miles and figure why not run 20 on Saturdays? It was summer and I didn't once think about what the heck am I going to drink? No special fuel belts. No vasoline. Just go figure it out. I did and all that other stuff is nonsense.