Fitness Update

Fitness Update: Unconventional Cross Training

When I committed (again) to improve my overall fitness, my cousin encouraged me to take measurements. I’m glad she did! I measured my waist, hips, right thigh, and right bicep. I measured again a couple of days ago and I have lost a little in every area, totaling 4 inches and the scale is slowing counting down as well.

As you know, I am working on eating well and getting back into my running grove. I write about stories from my runs on another day, so today, I want to talk about cross training.

From what I understand from reading blogs and articles and from my own conversations with runners I know, people don’t often see the benefit of cross training. Even if they know the benefits, it is just easier to fall into the same old workout routine, so they never really give it a chance to see how well it works.

I am guilty, too. When I ran six days a week I didn’t do anything else for exercise. I got up, put on my running shoes, hit the pavement or the mill, stretched, and was done for the day. I read about the benefits of cross training, but I just didn’t want to do anything but run. Once I finally tried cross training, I saw a real difference. I saw muscle tone develop and I started running a faster pace. For me, that was all the evidence I needed to keep changing it up.

Cross training can almost be anything other than what you normally do. For example, since I am a runner (aka cardio), I try to make sure I have a few strength training sessions during the week. That doesn’t necessarily mean I hit the weights.

I’ve written about unconventional cross training before. After I read an article about using housework as cross training I gave it a whirl. I mean, why not? The worst that could happen would be that I have a clean house afterward. That hardly seems like a bad thing.

It seemed to work. I felt myself using muscles I may not ordinarily in my workouts. Plus, there was a lot of stretching and bending. It made cleaning house actually kind of fun since I was not “cleaning,” I was “cross training.” The downfall was that it took three hours to do tasks that should have taken half that time. I was concentrating on engaging muscles and tightening my core and stretching just a little bit farther.

For a quicker cross training session that involves a different household chore, try mowing the lawn. Most lawns can be mowed in about an hour, so it isn’t quite as time consuming and you have the added benefit of cardio options. Plus, you get to be outside.

I am not a fitness expert, though I may know more than the average person, but I can see clear results from mowing a lawn. Especially if your lawn has hills, either gradual or steep. Of course, this only works if you use a push mower. Riding lawn mowers don’t count.

Let’s break it down.

If you are like me, you push and pull the mower. Doing this allows you to work different muscles in your arms. I also push down on the handle to make the front wheels rise for tighter turns. Pushing down works more muscles in your arms and shoulders. (Here is where it is obvious I am not a trainer. I can’t tell you the exact muscles, I just know it works.)

Pushing the lawn mower, particularly uphill works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. If you have a steep hill, you will get and upper arm and upper back workout in, too. Make sure your core is tight and you have yourself a total body workout.

That’s not even mentioning the cardio aspect. Pushing a mower up a hill, even a gradual one, is hard. If you do it with any type of speed, you’ll get your heart pumping pretty quickly. To get added benefit, don’t use the self-propel feature on your mower, if you have it. Mow your yard under your own power.

According to Map My Run, I burn over 450 calories doing “general lawn mowing.” That count is based on my height and weight, so your burn will likely be different. Besides, it is likely going off an average since it has no idea what kind of terrain I am mowing, so I could be burning way more calories than it tells me. Still, I love to list any exercise I do in the app and, of course, map my runs. Mostly, to keep a record.

Since most of us have a lawn that needs mowing, why not use it to your benefit? Make it a workout instead of a chore.

I am not a fitness expert. I write about what I’ve learned through the countless documentaries I’ve watched and articles I’ve read and my own experiences. You should not take what I say as medical advice. Please do what is right for you and your body and always check with your physician before starting any new exercise or special diet.

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