Have you ever heard of RAGNAR? It’s coming up for me, my first ever, and I am giddy with excitement about it! So what it is? From their own website:
“Here’s what we do: long distance, team, overnight running relays that take place in the most breathtaking places in the world. Teams come together to conquer a course over two days and one night, and push their limits, on little amounts of sleep, with friends and a community of runners by their side.
Your Ragnar experience is as competitive as you make it. Rally your team and battle the other teams in your division for the top ranking, or simply make it your goal to cross the finish line together! Ragnar is about coming together and accomplishing something we could never do alone. From an elite runner to the generally active individual, Ragnar is the perfect race for anyone.”
Ok, if you love running, tell me that your heart rate didn’t increase just a bit reading those last two paragraphs. Getting together with other crazies to do the thing you love in a beautiful setting over two days and a night?? How awesome is that? Oh, but I also just found out my running assignment, and learned that over the course of this fun adventure, I’m going to be running 17 total miles, in 3 segments, with one of those being a 9-miler classified as VH: Very Hard! Better get training!
I’ve been exercising consistently, and always have some kind of focus, but when I am working toward a specific goal, like training for the Ragnar, I like to set up a schedule for myself. Because, like we all know, a goal without a plan is just a wish. And then I take that plan and tape it up on my bathroom door that I pass through multiple times a day. I can write on it, make changes, record my results, and improvements….it just works for me! Here’s what it looks like up there:
What does this plan do for me? 1–It eliminates the decisions I have to make each day. Who loves having pre-made decisions and having leftover brain power for when it’s time to decide which new pair of shoes you want most? (But that is another post in itself.) 2–It motivates me and keeps me on track while moving toward the goal. I don’t want to get to one week before the race and freak out because the furthest I have gone so far is just 8 miles! And 3–The final thing that a training schedule does for me is help me see if I am using a balanced approach. In the world of fitness training, this is called integrated training.
Now, you don’t need to read over my entire schedule, but take note of one thing. For each day’s workout, there is a training type, on the top in all capitals. So you see things like SPEED, HILLS, TEMPO, and LONG RUN, which all indicate types of runs I will do to train the different systems I will need during the race. But that’s not all. Do you also see UPPER BODY/CORE, LOWER BODY, AGILITY, and FLEXIBILITY/BALANCE? I am convinced (and it is supported by principles–remember those?) that an integrated approach to my training will not only help me achieve better overall fitness, but it will also help me reach my goals better than running alone.
But I didn’t always understand this. In fact, four years ago, I had just started training for a half marathon. I really wanted to try to run one faster than I ever had before, and so every time I went out to run, I pushed myself a little bit more. I started getting faster, which was super exciting. I ran 5-6 days each week, just at a steady but fast pace, the same pace every day, and felt super ready for my race. The race was fabulous! I ran a PR, faster than I had even trained for! A week later, I decided to enter a local 10k race. I was excited to try out my newly-acquired speed with a shorter distance. That race went very well too, but then a couple days later, I could barely walk. The dreaded overuse injury! I limped my way through the rest of the summer, hoping that eventually my IT band would stop keeping me from doing the one exercise I loved so much.
I read some things, talked to a few people, and ended up doing some stretching and mostly just resting a lot to try to take care of the problem. It subsided for awhile, I got pregnant and did a lot of easy jogging, and after I had the baby, I felt ready to start getting faster again. And guess what? My IT band flared up again right away! I wanted to cry! (Actually, I’m pretty sure I did.) And then I started reading again.
I learned about muscle imbalances, and how when certain muscles are too tight or too weak, other muscles will have to compensate. And when they start trying to carry loads they aren’t meant to carry themselves, all kinds of problems happen. This is just what was wrong with me. And so I started doing strength training along with flexibility in order to correct the problem. And with that strength training, I made sure that I was moving efficiently, maintaining good form so that I wasn’t causing further malalignments and imbalances. Soon I was back to running! Happy dance!
From that time until now, I have continued to learn more about integrated training and why it is so important. Integrated training will help improve performance, improve your overall fitness which helps you meet the demands on your body in everyday living, and help prevent injury.
An integrated training program includes the following elements: flexibility; cardiorespiratory; core; balance; reactive; speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ); and resistance training (strength). In the next several months, I plan to do a series of posts that highlight each of these training elements individually, and really help you understand how important they each are and how you can incorporate them into your fitness routine.
But for today, let me just highlight some of the benefits of an integrated approach, all of which I have personally experienced in the past couple years of integrated training.
- Improved cardiorespiratory function (run and talk at the same time??)
- Increased metabolism (think burn more calories when you’re NOT exercising)
- Increased strength in muscles, tendons, and ligaments (skiing, anyone?)
- Increased bone density (think about your 75-year-old self)
- Decreased body fat (with no magic potion)
- Increased lean muscle mass (“Welcome to the gun show!”)
- Improved flexibility (increased range of motion helps me run faster–bonus!)
- Better balance (I just carried two kids, a backpack, and a sack of groceries up my stairs and stayed upright!)
- Enhanced endurance (in case you want to run 26 miles one of these days)
- Improved speed, agility, and quickness (like a cat!)
- Greater strength (to match our spirits)
- More power (to match our womanhood)
Pretty sweet list, right?? (Credit to my NASM Personal Fitness Training text book, commentary added.)
So, are you convinced yet? It took me many years, plus an injury to decide to take a new approach. But it wasn’t too late. And it never is. Depending on your goals, you may spend more of your time on strength training, reaction (plyometric exercises), or flexibility than I do. But that’s the idea! And integrated training approach is never “one size fits all.” It can be adapted to your individual goals, and take you from where you are to where you want to be.
I was able to put mine together on my own after some experience with different types of exercise programs, and I know that it could probably be a lot better, due to me not knowing everything. (Contrary to what my 4-year-old thinks, I really don’t know it all! But my 13-year-old doesn’t think that anymore. Weird…) Maybe you can put one together on your own. Or maybe you know even less than I do, and would need some direction.
One of my very favorite programs is called P90X3. Produced by Beach Body, these are 30 minute workouts, perfect for busy people like you! And if you follow their suggested schedule, they hit every aspect of integrated training AMAZINGLY well!! Just doing their program would give you a good taste of what this integrated fitness approach is all about. And why I’m a Tony Horton fan.
Another option for those who like to exercise at home is an app I recently purchased called Aaptiv. They have all kinds of workouts–treadmill, outdoor running, elliptical, strength, stretching, yoga, stairclimber, indoor cycling, walking, and even meditation–that you listen and work your way through, complete with tunes and a personal trainer. When you break down the cost per month, it is far less than a gym membership.
If you are a gym-goer, or want to be soon, hiring a personal trainer is a great way to start using an integrated approach to improve your fitness and reach your goals. These people are trained to do exactly that!
And if all of those approaches are just more money than you are willing to spend at this point, YouTube is abounding with workouts of all varieties. Just search for the type of workout you are interested in, and be amazed at the options available!
And to help you put it all together I have created a FREE workout calendar for all my readers! It is a pdf file that you can download and then either type in, or print it out and pencil in, your workout plan. It fits 10 weeks, but you can just print the first page and work in shorter phases if you’d like. Fill it in a week at a time, a month at a time, or print out two copies and have a plan for the next several months! It is certainly individual. Just click on the link to download the calendar. I hope it helps you be able to focus in and achieve your goals!
Finally, I’d love to hear from you! Do you use an integrated approach to fitness? If so, what do you see as the benefits? If not, are you ready to try? What are your concerns? Are there any questions I can answer? I am currently studying this exact thing for several hours each week and would love to use some of this newly acquired knowledge along with my personal experience to help each of you. You guys are awesome!
Love your body, and your body will love you. ♥