Rock Climbing and Other Fun XT Activities

I had just tweeted about my excitement to go rock climbing and thought it would make for a great topic for my blog today.

My three favorite cross-training activities are strength training, pilates, and rock climbing. Each provides me with unique attributes that I believe enable me to become a better runner and life a healthy lifestyle.

Strength Training: My brother-in-law Joe is studying to become a personal trainer. I absolutely love Joe. He’s so passionate about life and interest in physical fitness is no different. He and my brother Luke entered (and won awards for!) a natural (drug-free) body-building competition. It was amazing, and, okay, a little disturbing, to see the transformation their bodies underwent in getting ready for this competition! Their bodies were so lean that every sinew of muscle was apparent.

It could be that when you think of strength training you picture a bronzed and oiled enormous body builder who’s muscles have muscles. For myself and people like Joe and Luke it’s more about pushing the limits of what you think your body can handle so you can build a stronger body while defining muscle. I have heard many times over women who don’t want to lift weights because they get “huge muscle.” Sweetheart, unless you’re some sort of superhuman, this won’t happen. I also have had friends who don’t like to do any sort of strength training because they are intimidated by the machines and what kind of exercises they should be doing. Okay, that’s more understandable. Especially if you belong to a gym where testosterone flows freely in the free weights section (barbells, dumbbells, no machines).

My suggestions are these: 1. Find someone who knows some good weight lifting routines to show you what to do or 2. Hire a personal trainer. I would highly recommend not just pretending you know what you are doing as this can lead to injury.

For me, this is what I do: Routine 1. Back and biceps, Routine 2. Chest and triceps, and Routine 3. Legs and Shoulders. I leave my core work (abdominals and lower back mostly) for my Pilates days. There are great websites, books, and iPhone apps for different routines and there are also a wide variety of ideas as to the best way to build muscle. I say, do your research and find what works for you.

As a runner, strength training is an excellent way to keep your body toned and less prone to injury. You also burn more calories when you have more muscle! And if you started running to lose weight and keep it off, strength training adds another wonderful element in accomplishing this.

Pilates: Everyone has that one persistent problem area where fat likes to hang out, make itself comfortable, and have a cup of tea while it laughs at any attempts you may make to rid yourself of it. It’s the first to creep back the minute you aren’t paying attention to your eating and exercising habits like you should be and it’s always the last to leave. For me it’s my stomach. So while the rest of my body conforms to my will, my stomach laughs and nuzzles just a little closer to that six-pack of abs I’m certain exists – somewhere.

Pilates is one of my favorite activities in building a strong core. The system was developed in the early 20th century by a man from Germany named Joseph Pilates. You can use what’s called a pilates reformer or just a mat when doing pilates exercises. Many gyms and studios feature pilates classes and range in levels of complexity. I prefer to use a mat and an exercise ball.

What I like about pilates is that it offers a great variety of exercises that specifically focus on your core muscles. For runners especially it is so crucial to have a strong core as they keep you from injury and make you a stronger runner. And a well-toned core looks pretty hot too! So many benefits!

Here are some Pilates Exercises from About.com. Check your local bookstore or library for some great books on pilates exercises too.

Rock Climbing: I first got into rock climbing when I lived in Colorado. My friends at the time were big into the sport and there was an indoor rock climbing wall within walking distance of my apartment. The rock climbing picture above is what I enjoy doing. It’s called bouldering. Bouldering is climbing on lower and often more cave-like walls without any ropes. You never go very high and you always have thick mats underneath to protect you when you inevitably fall. It’s wonderful!

Bouldering (or rock climbing in general) is a great full-body workout that will leave you feeling muscles that you never knew existed. I love combining different XT activities for this reason. If I were to always do the same workout routines over and over, my body, being innately brilliant, learns these routines until they cease to push it to new levels of fitness. (It’s the same as running the same route every single day with no changes.)

What is Bouldering? – Synthetic rocks are bolted into the climbing walls and are all different shapes and sizes. They are designed to mimic the grips you might find on a rock wall outside. Different routes are set by placing colored pieces of tape next to a rock. The climber then has to find the start (usually a “V” of the colored tape) and match her hands and feet to the rocks that have that color until you reach the finish (also a “V” of colored tape). At the start there should be a label of some kind indicated the level of difficulty for that particular route. Bouldering is designated by a v, so an easy climb would be a v0 and a harder climbing might be a v5 and up.

While it was challenging to even do the most simplest of moves in the beginning, I can now finish more complicated climbing routes because, although it is also about strength, my mind and my body have also been trained to know how to be a better climber.

If anyone has any other XT activities that they enjoy doing, I would love to hear about them!

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