Category Archives: Cross training

Training lately…

It’s been nearly five months since Ironman Canada. I have no 14 in 2014 race goals, no ‘A’ race on my agenda, and no races even on my calendar.

I’ve been throwing around tons of ideas but have yet to land on anything concrete.

Don’t let that fool you. I’ve been a training machine! I’m switching things up and loving it.

After my six weeks of strength and speed, I’ve made an effort to keep up some faster/anaerobic training. I use the bike for speed work. I try intervals (a variety of times/distances) and ladder workouts.

I am still thoroughly enjoying strength and although speed workouts are crazy hard for me, I feel really good once I’m finished them.

I’ve been on the bike trainer and running to keep up my endurance. I love to run outside and used to run in any condition, including ice. Not this year. I don’t want to risk falling and hurting myself! So I’ve spent a lot of time on the treadmill and actually don’t mind it. It takes me about 30 minutes to get into it, but then I can go for a while. (On Saturday I ran 13.1 miles for #megsmiles, and so did Kelly!)

treadmill

I focused on endurance and endurance alone for a long time. It’s my true running love, but I know I need to diversify.

I’ve still been doing circuit work with explosive and fast movements. Sometimes I incorporate treadmill speed and other times I stick to more of a HIIT session.

One of my newest things is barre in our bonus room! Kelly rearranged that room and moved our computer into it. Turns out wainscoting is a perfect barre replica! I just find a video on YouTube and have my very own class.

barre

After last Saturday’s race, I discovered a few more things I need to work on. My hamstrings were so sore, like bordering injury. I think it was a result of faster running, running outside (lots of treadmill lately), and snow underfoot. Although the conditions were good, even running fast on tightly packed snow can be tough.

My hips, and in particular my left hip, still need a lot of TLC. I do physio exercises a couple days a week but could bump that number up.

I also realize I need to work on racing and not simply running! After doing major endurance events the past couple years without time or placement goals, I’m just not that competitive. If I want to run shorter races, I need to get that edge back!

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately!

What’s your cross-training of choice now? Does it change with the season?

I really miss cross country skiing but the conditions just haven’t been very good this year.

Change the Pace – cross-country skiing

The blinding white beauty. The silence amongst the giant trees. The swish of skis gliding over the snow. Cross-country skiing bliss.

Silverstar

If you read my blog, you know that I love to cross-country ski. It’s one of the few things I love about living in a winter city. And it’s also one of the few activities that comes even remotely close to my love of running (although I’m a rookie and do it simply for pleasure).

XCAbbyNov13

History
Cross-country skiing has been used for thousands of years as a way to get around in the snow. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that it became a sport. It was a contest in the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, and women began competing in Olympic cross-country  skiing in 1952 in Oslo, Norway (source).

Styles
There are three types of cross-country skis: classic, skate, and touring. (There are variations of these with differing lengths, camber, wax or waxless, etc.)

Classic skiing is typically done on tracked and groomed terrain with a stride then glide motion. Skate skiing is done on groomed terrain with a skating motion. Touring is for people who do most of their skiing on ungroomed trails, and these skis generally have metal edges.

Many outdoor stores rent skis (REI or MEC) so you can give it a try without having to invest in a pair.

Benefits
Cross-country skiing is a whole-body exercise that targets nearly every muscle. It’s also easier on the body than many other cardio activities. Your joints don’t take much impact, and it’s functional in that you move in a way your body is meant to move.

Some people say it’s as good a workout as running, but I say it could be. You need to develop the skill first. The people I see that know what they’re doing are definitely working as hard as runners. Kelly and I have often discussed taking lessons but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I think the biggest benefit is for the mind. You’re outside in beautiful crisp and snowy conditions, without the noise of any traffic. It’s kind of like trail running!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My experiences
I use classic skis and love slicing through a groomed trail on them. There are various groomed trails in and around Edmonton. We’ve also cross country skied at ski resorts (Silverstar in BC and Northstar in Lake Tahoe), cross-country ski centres, and made our own trails.

Cross-country skiing in Tahoe

I  can’t stop smiling when I’m skiing and would recommend it to anyone.

Have you ever tried cross-country, or would you? Best memory of it? 

I easily have two: spending last New Year’s Eve cross-country skiing with Kelly and Harold and laughing until I cried in Lake Tahoe with Kelly while xc skiing down pure ice.

Winter wonderland – cold in Canmore

We spent this past weekend in Canmore, the picturesque mountain town just outside of Banff National Park.

The reason for the trip? Kelly was taking an ice climbing course and I tagged along. He had two full days of learning how to ice climb properly, so  I had two full days to enjoy the mountains.

Thankfully we’re used to harsh weather so have the proper gear to withstand the cold. The temperature ranged from -35C (-31F) on Saturday and warmed up to -23C (-10F) on Sunday, with a cold wind chill making it feel much worse!

I went on glorious runs both Saturday and Sunday mornings. My mom asked how running in that cold can be fun, but I swear it was magnificent.

Once I got out of town and on the river path, there wasn’t a soul around. The trees were covered in hoarfrost, steam was rising from the river, and the mountains towered around me. My hand braved the elements to snap a quick photo.

Taken with a phone and totally unedited

Taken with a phone and totally unedited

On Sunday, I didn’t take a camera and just embraced the beauty of the run. Despite numb toes, the two runs were a reminder of why I love running so much and the simplicity of it.

After my runs, I went back to the hotel to thaw out before heading out for excursion number two: cross country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was the venue for all cross-country and biathlon events at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and continues to host world-class events. They have miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and in summer they open for mountain biking and hiking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The cross-country skiing did not disappoint. I fall more in love with it each time I go. (Even when it’s so cold I turn into a snowman!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Sunday I left my camera again to just enjoy the ski and breathtaking views.

We ate dinners and walked around both Canmore and Banff. The only thing better than mountain towns are mountain towns decorated for Christmas! It was such a fun weekend getaway, and Kelly was thrilled to take the course and learn how to safely ice climb.

Do you run outside when the temperature dips? Tell me about your last run that reminded you why you love it so much.

Winter weekend in Jasper

Kelly and I had last weekend’s getaway on our calendars for quite a while, and it did not disappoint.

Although Jasper is lacking snow, the beauty of the town made up for it! I can’t decide if my favourite part of the weekend was the peaceful cross-country ski, winter hike, day of downhill skiing, Moonlight Madness shopping, or delicious food and après ski drinks and laughs.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

XCAbbyNov13

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our XC ski on the Jacques Lake Trail was indescribable: no tracks, not a soul around, surrounded by giants (both trees and mountains). The silence was almost deafening.

WinterHikeKNov13

WinterHikeNov13

Our hike felt more like spring with the rushing river!

MarmotAbbyNov13

MarmotAKNov13

Marmot Basin ski resort is celebrating its 50th season. I didn’t get out downhill skiing last year, and I forgot how much I love it.

Do you ski? What’s your favourite mountain to ski?

A happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow) to all my American friends and readers! I hope you spend time with family or good friends and eat a lot of tasty food!

What are you thankful for?

In the off season

My bad tan lines have faded (my burn line is still there), my black toenail has fallen off, and my pants are mighty snug.

It has been eight weeks since Ironman Canada and I think I’ve mastered the recovery period…maybe a little too well.

I took a week completely off exercise, other than a little walking and fun activities. I took two weeks off running. I travelled a little. I indulged a lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Classic Beignet from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans

Overall it has been fantastic.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel a constant yearning for long training weekends, exhausted legs, and a full Garmin Connect calendar. (Dramatic, yes, but also true!)

But after a physically and mentally taxing few months a recovery period is important.

Here are my top four recovery/off-season tips:

Give yourself a break. Take time totally off of training, be it a week or two. Catch up with family and friends you have most likely neglected. Take care of the yard work you’ve ignored. Sleep in!

I read after Mirinda Carfrae’s first Kona win she took two weeks completely off, another two weeks easy, then eased into training. If pros take time off, shouldn’t every day athletes afford their bodies the same respect?

Mix it up. Once you’ve enjoyed some time off, challenge yourself. I don’t mean challenge yourself in the same activities you normally do. Try something different and try an unstructured training plan.

AbbyDownhill1

I love to mix it up in the off-season. I cyclo-cross and/or mountain bike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, and even tried rock climbing last year. It’s fun and it makes those runs and bikes much more enjoyable when you’ve had some time away.

XCSki

Get stronger. Hit the weights (without a fear of bulking up). Run and ride short and fast to boost your lactate threshold and power output.

I’m trying out increased strength training and some speed. I hope to reap the benefits come spring!

Don’t worry. If you gain a few pounds, you’ll lose it. If you feel like you’ll never be where you were before, you’ll get it back.

Don’t let fear get the better of you and try to maintain peak fitness into spring. By summer your body will be begging for a break. I’ve been there and it isn’t fun to feel trashed when you should be in top form!

How do you do with recovery and off-season? Do you take one?

Friday faves – version three

This week went by super fast since it was only four days! But I must admit I am more than ready for the weekend!

Here are a few things making me smile lately.

Fat lump – Harold’s biopsy results came back and it was just a fat lump! I’m so happy he’s a healthy pup! (However, none of us are happy about the cone for another week until his incision is healed!) They also told us it will likely grow back and with age he’ll probably get more. Good to know before I panic about other lumps.

HaroldCone

Fall weather – We have had a fabulous fall so far: crisp days, sunny blue skies, and beautiful leaves. By this time last year we had snow that stuck around until spring! I’m celebrating each nice fall day with a run on Edmonton’s incredible trails, a long walk with the pup, or just a quick breath of fresh air at lunch time.

Taken on Wednesday's trial run

Taken on Wednesday’s trial run

Ski season – I just said I’m happy about fall and the lack of snow so far, but…I’m also really looking forward to ski season (both cross-country and downhill)! We didn’t downhill ski once last year so are going to make an effort to get out at least a couple times this season. I also can’t wait to cross-country ski again as part of my training!

100_1312

National Geographic’s adventure blogBeyond the Edge is an awesome read. I especially love the cycling Alaska’s Lost Coast series but have been awestruck by almost every post from big wave surfing to skiing and exploration.

Toughen Up Tuesdays – I worked us hard this past Tuesday. Both Kelly’s and my legs were shaking by our last set of exercises. I’m still loving the change of pace from our regular workout routines!

What are some things you’re loving lately?

Who is racing this weekend? Good luck!