Black or white. Republican or democrat. CrossFitter or powerlifter. Runner or bodybuilder. Triathlete or weight lifter. Our society loves to put people in groups. As if it's ok to overlook the obvious, I.e we're all pink and squishy on the inside, we're all pursuing our own happiness and there are certainly many more things that unite us then separate us. Ignoring these uniting qualities isn't just ignorant it's robbing yourself of a more complete human experience.
Ok, let me bring this conversation out of Washington D.C. and into your gym. I have personally been blessed with the abounding quality of being a hyperthymic AKA I possess an exuberant amount of energy to try a lot of new tasks, or as my girlfriend puts it, "I get bored far too easily and tend to jump around a lot!" Semantics aside, this has inevitably caused me to play around with many different physical pursuits in my quest for health and you know what I've discovered? There are a lot of things that people don't do or take advantage of simply because it is frowned upon by their camp. So for those of you that powerlift and will never hire an endurance coach or for those of you marathoners that have never considered a 12 week squat cycle, let me be the first to reach across the aisle… or gym. Here are the three biggest myths when it comes to crossover application.
- The myth - Creatine is just for meatheads. While supplement companies have been trying for years to get young men to stack and cycle creatine in an attempt to get bigger, they have caused a stigma about the product that it is only for those wanting to gain size and strength. News flash: creatine is perhaps the most well known and effective product on the market for increasing endurance. In fact an argument could be made that it is far more effective for increasing endurance than it is for gaining size. The size you would carry from stacking it will assuredly go away when you stop using it in excess amounts and the amount that you need to take to gain weight could have costly effects on your liver and kidneys. Most endurance athletes won't utilize creatine because of this ill conceived marketing campaign. After all, endurance is about efficiency and extra weight via retained water isn't efficient. The fix - Utilize a quality brand of creatine monohydrate (the most studied version) and treat it like you would a macronutrient I.e. Take it regularly not in cycles. Don't buy a product with extra sugar or ingredients. Take 3-5g per day (3g may be better for smaller athletes but 5g is generally the sweet spot when studied) don't change anything else about your diet or exercise when you begin taking it. Track it to make sure the amount you are taking isn't making you gain access weight and tailor your dose based on what you find.
Pro tip: Take Your creatine dose in hot liquid like tea or coffee; the absorption is better and less likely to cause any kind of bloating.
- The myth - Strength athletes don't need to do cardio. I get it, you found your home under the iron and you despise running. Your favorite shirt says "lifting weight fast is my cardio." This isn't new. It is however selling yourself short. While lifting may be your love, your numbers can only go up given the right amount of aerobic capacity. When your body has the ability to better process oxygen via blood flow, you have more energy for your next set. Even if you are lifting in sets of 1-3 reps, the overall tax on your body can be significantly reduced resulting in a much better session in terms of velocity and power if your body has the ability to process oxygen more efficiently.
The fix - You don't have to start training for an iron man to take advantage of this. You simply need to start training your body to be able to sustain movement. The best part is, you get to pick your poison. It can be done via treadmill, bike, elliptical or the latest fold out Nordictrack they are currently hawking on infomercials.
Pro tip - An easy indicator for intensity is to conduct your cardio at a faster pace than a walk but slow enough that you can still converse without being out of breath. When you can hold that for an hour, you are giving yourself the ability to make huge strides in your lifting game. 3 or 4 times per week should be enough to satisfy your respiratory system and begin making real progress.
- The Myth - Runners shouldn't lift because they'll get to bulky. I have to say this flat out; your physique is a reflection of your entire lifestyle, not just what you do for an hour in the gym, three days a week. If you don't want the power gut, don't eat in a way that will give it to you. You aren't going to turn into the hulk because you found your way to the gym three days a week, especially if your furnace is running hot from all of your endurance training. You are however going to drastically improve your running capabilities if you work it right. For racers, it can be difficult to mimics the demands of race day in training. You usually can't match the intensity for the time period and in many cases you may not be able to the terrain in training. This is where the weights become your friend. Beyond that, putting yourself in time under tension aka lifting weights, helps to increase the strength of your tendons and ligaments, something that can do wonders at staving away knee and other joint related running pains. The fix - Make weight training work for you and take advantage of being a stronger runner later in the event. On your base building training days (not tempo or speed days) regularly utilize squats either before or in the middle of your workout. The increased load will tax the muscles. Not only are you making your joints more resilient to abuse, you are getting your legs used to working when they are fatigued. This will be evident when the hills begin to crush the pack. Lunges are also a no brainer for runners.
Pro Tip - Use a knowledgeable coach to ensure you have good form and are working in a way that is conducive to your specific event. They should have experience in both endurance as well as strength training so that they are able to tailor your training to meet the nuances of both disciplines.
The one thing that I have always admired about sport is it's ability to bring people together. During a turmoil election period, the olympics seemed to rise above the rhetoric as the entire country had their hearts stolen by the grace of Simone Biles or held their breath watching the living legend that is Michael Phelps. For a fleeting moment in time we were all very much in the same camp. We were all Americans. I see no reason why our pursuit of fitness should be any different. There are countless things that we can all learn from each other, regardless of what health looks like to us each individually. If you have the opportunity, extend an olive branch to see how the other half lives. If nothing else, it'll make you that much better in your own pursuit and open your view of fitness up that much wider. While there are literally millions of training aspects that we can learn from each other, these are just the top three crossovers that I see regularly neglected when working with clients and talking to people in their pursuit of becoming a better athlete. Although it isn’t easy to explore endeavors that run counterintuitive to your own, it is worth it. After all, you and I both know that greatness is never found within your comfort zone.