Trying to recover is almost as much work as trying to train for a fast marathon: it requires much discipline, it takes time, cross-training helps. I’ve never really been a huge fan of cross-training. In my mind – most of the time – if you want to get better at something, you practice specifically at that one thing. If you want to get better at math, you don’t practice spelling. Running is a little different than that analogy, but not totally off. Sure biking helps leg muscles, and maybe weight training helps with posture and form late in a race, but the question is whether or not the time spent on the bike or in the gym wouldn’t have been better spent on the trail. The catch is that for some of us, there is no choice. We put work in on the bike or at the gym because our bodies couldn’t handle it if we put that time, effort and work into running. I know for me, my Achilles would quickly return to it’s broken status.
In an attempt to keep the Achilles safe, but still put some miles and work on the muscular and cardiovascular systems I hope to once again push, I’ve taken to cross-training. I’ve done a little weight stuff here and there but most of my cross-training has been time spent on the bike cruising at a whopping 18 mph, or power walking at a killer 12:00 minute mile pace. In truth, I don’t altogether mind the biking or walking; it gets me out the door and can even help me break a sweat, but after a time, there is only so much one can do.
I know I’m not traveling that fast on the bike. In fact, I’m pretty slow, but all the same, it’s too fast. Pedaling down the road, pushing down the hills, even crawling up the hills, it’s too fast. For the most part, I ride with my head down, looking slightly forward. My view includes asphalt and a white line for the duration of my ride. Sometimes, I can catch a sight or two out of the peripheral, but if I actually turn my head away from the road ahead to glance at something more interesting, I find myself drifting towards those yellow lines in the middle of the road and I don’t foresee that ending too well. So instead I keep my head down, and follow the white line.
I don’t just run for the health benefits, I run to explore as well. Biking doesn’t allow for this. I suppose it could, but that would require another bike and trails upon which to ride. I’m not buying another bike, and I can’t really build a trail network. I could however explore on my walks. And so I’ve gone to the woods to do my walking, but while the bike is simply too fast to appreciate the natural beauty, a walk is too slow. Trees can be a magnificent installation on the landscape, but after staring at the same piece for a while, it’s time to move on. Walking doesn’t provide this, at least for me not quickly enough. While I enjoy getting out and getting the heart rate up a bit, I find myself almost bored with how long it takes to get from point A to point B.
For me, running is where it’s at. It’s just fast enough to keep things fresh, but not so fast as to require a helmet and all of my attention. I can explore at will. Running seems to be quick enough and technical enough to free my mind of any thinking, but at the same time, allow for it if I want. Walking is too slow for mental freedom, and the bike too basic. I suppose when I get healthy again, I’ll still do some cross-training, but I don’t ever foresee a replacement for just-rightness of running.