Hello 2015. Hello Cross Training.

By Hayden Shearman // Usually at this time of the year I’m plotting races and looking to cram as many running miles into each week as my body, the summer heat and my schedule allows. This year I’m aqua jogging.

Cross Training for running_1

As many of you will know, last November my achilles went “ping” at the 35km mark in the Queenstown Marathon. For the next three works I drove my wife crazy as I mopped and hobbled around our Auckland apartment, confined to a moon boot and crutches.

Thankfully I’m out of the moon boot and back to walking almost limp-free. But I’ve been given another six weeks at least before I can run again, so I’m having to bite the bullet as I stare down another couple of months of cross training.

Here’s what I’ve been doing so far and a few lessons I’ve picked up on the way while taking this rather unwanted detour into the murky waters of cross training for running:

Cross Training for running_2Swimming

For the first two weeks this was all I could manage and the kicking had to be at first non-existent and then very light (to protect the achilles). Like most runners, I find swimming about as exciting as reading books on watching paint dry—choking on chlorinated water while staring at a black line is hardly thrilling stuff.

Like I’ve mentioned in my triathlon training posts, my key with swimming is to take it just small chunks, but to do it regularly. I’d rather go everyday and do just 500m or 1k than conjure up the guts to swim for a mind-numbing 2-3k in a single session. I also try to swim outside if the weather’s good (as it makes it feel that little more free and less chlorinated) and at a pool that has a spa (this is a great reward at the end of my measly 10 or 20 lengths).

Now that I’ve started to regain some strength in my calf and achilles I’ve introduced intervals (100s and 300s usually) and drills to add some variety and intensity.

My Training: 3 or 4 times per week (about 3-6k per week)
Pros: Wifey likes what it does to my lats and swimming is good when injuries require no weight-bearing.
Cons: It’s another rung down from watching paint dry.

Cross Training for running_3Aqua Jogging

Strangely enough I couldn’t aqua jog for the first couple of weeks after my injury. The calf was that sore that the movement through the water and mild force exerted through the ankle joint just made it really uncomfortable.

Once this pain came right I introduced interval workouts of 30mins maximum, using the principle of quality over quantity.

This has been my typical aqua jogging session:
– 500m swim (may as well fit in a little extra swimming while I’m at the pool!)
– 5min moderate intensity aqua jog focusing on full leg swing, upright posture, good arm drive (cheek-to-cheek: bring the hand out of the water and then back to just past my butt check)
– Ladder Aqua Jog Session (all at about 90% intensity): 30sec, 30, 30, 30, 60, 90, 120, 120, 90, 60, 30, 30, 30, 30 (each interval followed by 30secs very easy intensity but with a very long stride as though I’m doing slow motion sprinting)
– 5min moderate intensity aqua jog to warm down

Minus the swim, the workout takes exactly 30mins and definitely cranks the heart rate up. The key is to focus on good technique and picture yourself running somewhere ridiculously scenic the whole time.

My Training: 1 or 2 times per week (20-30mins each time)
Pros: Replicates running as far as technique goes and you can maintain a lot of running fitness.
Cons: The rung up from watching paint dry.

Cross Training for running_4Core and Conditioning

One of the bonuses of not running is being able to build muscle and not just waste it all away on your two-hour Sunday long runs. So I’ve been doing a reasonable amount of upper body weights and will start in a couple of weeks on squats and dead lifts once my achilles lets me.

I’ve also instituted a New Year’s resolution of 5mins of core to start the day. I’ll share more of this in a future post, but essentially I just slap on a 5min countdown on my phone and do non-stop crunches, planks and gluteus exercises until the buzzer goes. It’s great way to start the day.

My plan is to get in the most highly-conditioned shape possible by the time I return to running again.

My Training: 5mins of core daily, plus weights 3-4 times per week.
Pros: Look out Instagram my guns are coming your way.
Cons: Look out Instagram my guns are coming your way and doesn’t do a lot for balancing out the calories-in-calories-out equation.

Cross Training for running_5Cycling

As a little Christmas present to myself, two weeks ago I took the bike for a spin to test out the achilles. It was okay, but definitely flared up going uphill.

So, after getting the all clear from the doc, I’ve been able to do some good sessions on the flat and am feeling more and more comfortable on the uphills.

My typical ride takes me down to Tamaki Drive where I can’t help but get into the aero position and push hard between beaches (typically Mechanics Bay to Okahu, Okahu to Mission, Mission to St Helliers and back). I don’t know whether it’s the threat of SUVs taking you out from behind on every bend or the smoothness of the road, but I always push these Tamaki Drive sessions hard and come home well-worked jelly-quads.

My Training: 4 rides in the last week (30-60mins each, but will up the duration next week).
Pros: Great for smashing myself (hopefully not literally).
Cons: Cars, trucks, opening car doors, and remembering to unclip before reaching the lights. 

Cross Training for running_6Surfing

The ultimate Christmas present has been getting out in the waves for some super fun surfs over the holiday period.

Although I haven’t been able to do much on the waves and initially could only surf right (as going toe side would put too much strain on the achilles) I’ve absolutely loved getting my annual dose of salt water forced up my nostrils in white water hold downs.


I’ve come a long way in the last seven weeks. From a 5min hobble down the street on crutches to an epic 30min battle up Mt Eden, again in crutches (a great way to build upper body strength). And once the crutches were gone I’ve been incorporating daily walks of 10-60min just to ease the achilles back into things and to gee my eight pairs of running shoes something to do.

As runners, we have to learn to deal with the odd injury or niggle and I believe you should always have a form of cross training to turn to if and when these arise. I’m enjoying the massive variety of cross training at the moment. And, although I’m sure I’m losing running fitness by the week, I’m still maintaining general cardio fitness and should return to running as a stronger, better conditioned runner—which should mean less injuries in the future.


5 responses to “Hello 2015. Hello Cross Training.

  1. Man you are taking this all so well, very admirable. I wish my aqua jogging belt looked like ammunition rather than a foam back-nappy. My glutes are about three times the size after six months of no running, not sure if lard or muscle?

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