December 07, 2009

Taking the "Cross" out of Cross-Training

(Steph spotted this and you can find more here.)

So last week I was griping about heel pain from a self-diagnosed case of plantar fasciitis. You all gave me TONS of great suggestions in the comments, as well as lots of sympathy and encouragement, and this is of course why I love Cranky Fitness readers so much.

As you may recall, I said that until my foot got better, I was going to stop running entirely, and even curtail my long walks. Instead, I planned to stick to the elliptical machine and start bicycling up some hills for cardio.

Long-time readers may have been very suspicious about that breezy declaration.

Because y'all know that anyone who hates change as much as Crabby McSlacker is not going to leap cheerfully into a whole new exercise routine. You had to figure there would be some serious whining and protesting coming along soon.

However, instead of merely complaining, I thought I'd try to make the best of it! I've been busy slaving away in the heavily-guarded inner sanctum of the Cranky Fitness Laboratories, developing my own soon-to-be-trademarked motivational system.

It's a plan especially designed for injury-induced cross-training situations. Because surely I can't be the only one who's been forced to switch to a new activity because I overdid my favorite? I figured others out there could use some help too.

(And yeah, ok, so it's only been a week or so and I haven't actually motivated myself to do much of anything yet. But if Kirstie Alley could start marketing her personally-designed weight loss program before she actually lost any weight, it seems perfectly legitimate for me to start selling people on my new motivational system before I know if it's actually gonna work.)

So, in the spirit of my Somewhat High Intensity Interval Training program, I'd like to officially announce a brand new Cranky Fitness motivational tool. It's called Cognitive Restructuring, Amplifying Positivity®!

Would you like to know more about how this C.R.A.P.® system works?

It starts with a simple idea, borrowed from just about every self-help paradigm you'll ever encounter: when something sucky happens, you gotta hunker down and find the positive aspects rather than abandoning your goals. But unlike most cheerful self-help advice to "turn that frown upside down," the C.R.A.P.® program allows you to be as pissed off and resentful as you like! Here's how it works.

Step One: Gripe!

With the innovative C.R.A.P.® approach, you don't have to pretend to be happy about the situation. Because injuries hurt, and change blows! Go ahead and allow all those negative, grouchy, disgruntled thoughts and feelings rise to the surface. Seriously, if this new cross-training activity was really so wonderful, you'd have already been doing it, right?

Step Two: Layer on the C.R.A.P®.

Yep, once you've fully aired your frustrations, now is the time to smear positive thoughts all over each and every one of them.

Many of your grievances will be specific to your new activity, and I'll provide a sample hypothetical below, but there are some general all-purpose Positive Perspectives suitable to slather on most injury-induced cross-training complaints.

1. You should be cross-training anyway, doofus.

You know it's true. There are a million studies and articles out there that advise you to cross-train. Yet most of us don't bother because it's easier to just keep doing what we like. So the injury could actually be a good thing if it doesn't last too long, but gets you motivated to start doing something different!

2. Things that seem awkward or hard when you start do not stay that way forever.

This may seem obvious, intellectually. But it's really easy to get that "frozen in time" perspective. If you go out and try something and you suck and it's miserable, it can be really hard to trust that you'll get better and maybe even start to enjoy it. It may be helpful, at this point, to recall the many steps it took to get good at your favorite activity. You did not emerge from the womb with the ability to run 5 miles at a good clip or turbo-kick your way through a 60 minute class. It took time and practice!

3. Learning to accommodate unpleasant changes and obnoxious compromises with some degree of grace is a valuable life skill you're gonna need.

Unless you're planning on never getting old. Or if you can guarantee nothing bad is ever going to happen to you. Good luck with that!

Gigi recently had a great post about resilience--and she points out that the ability to bounce back from adverse events is something you can learn. So, hey, might as well start practicing!

4. Variety keeps you motivated to keep exercising for the long haul.

New routines, new equipment, new setting, new rules, new goals--these things can all seem like intimidating barriers to trying a different activity. But once you get more comfortable, the novelty can pump new motivation into your routine. Otherwise, one day you will wake up and think about doing your favorite old activity and suddenly realize: "screw it, I don't want to do that anymore, ever!" The trick to staying fit for a lifetime is to develop alternatives to burnout before you become totally demotivated. And an injury-induced change of scene can actually keep things fresh.

Step Three: Repeat steps One and Two--Over and Over and Over again.

Because more complaints will inevitably arise, and you'll need to layer some C.R.A.P.® on your negative thoughts repeatedly until you actually brainwash yourself that the injury was a good thing. Or maybe you'll get better first, whatever. But you'll feel SO much better doing even a Lame Substitute exercise than you would by making your injury worse, or by sitting on your ass and feeling sorry for yourself.

Practical Example of C.R.A.P.® in action!

Let's just say, purely hypothetically, that a cranky health blogger has injured her foot and has had to switch from running at a favorite pretty reservoir to riding a 20 year-old borrowed 10-speed bike that is not in mint condition. Said blogger is discovering that biking and running are different activities.

Initial Observation #1: How the f#ck are you supposed to do consistent cardio on a bike? My legs aren't strong enough to pump fast enough on flat ground; I need hills. Uphill is hard and gets my heart rate up, but I can't do that for very long. Then when I go down hill, I'm just sitting there not moving at all! It was so much easier to go running; for me it's always aerobic!

Now apply some C.R.A.P.®: The need for 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted cardio for it to "count" is old school! Cardio is still cardio even if you're putting together several 10 minute series of aerobic hills separated by down hill rides. Stop being such a crank and just enjoy the downhill parts. Whee!!!

Initial Observation #2: The uphill gets my heartrate going all right, but OWWWW! My legs aren't that strong and they hurt and this sucks.

Apply more C.R.A.P.®: Well, duh. This will be a great way to build up your leg strength! Maybe, as a bribe, you can even skip some of those icky leg press exercises at the gym for a while.

Initial Observation #3: I can't listen to music like I can when I'm running. I NEED music to motivate me!

C.R.A.P.® to the rescue! Remember how you tried a spinning class once and liked the music but nearly died of leg-misery and swore you'd never come back? Well, if you bike up hills for a few months, you probably wouldn't find a spinning class nearly as miserable and then you can have music AND a change of pace from your normal cardio even once your foot gets better.

Initial Observation #4: It's freezing-ass cold going downhill and too hot going uphill! When I'm running it's easier to layer for the weather.

Try some more C.R.A.P.®: Taking off layers of clothing is a great excuse to stop on a steep hill when your legs are about to give out. Pretend you're only stopping because you're hot, not because you're about to fall over.

Initial Observation #5 It's at least a 20 year old bike and it's not mine! The gear-shirt lever is in the wrong place way down where I can barely reach it, and the gears are all crunchy and there are only ten speeds!

Hang on, C.R.A.P.® can help: Just think how happy you'll be to get back on your own 12-year-old bike, which you also complain about--at least it has 21 speeds and you can find the gears to change them because they're right on the hand grips.

Initial Observation #6: Every week that goes by without running will make me slower and I'm getting out of shape for running and old ladies on walkers will be passing me on the trail!

Try a little more C.R.A.P.®: But meanwhile you have new biking goals that you can focus on. You know you want to make it from Chabot Road all the way up the hill to Skyline Blvd--even though the first time out you could barely reach Uranus!

(And yes, I am still 12 years old and laugh to myself every time I see references to Uranus. And Uranus Ave is exactly where I stopped my first time, I'm not making that up).

Initial Observation #7: On a bike, you have to share the road with cars! Cars are dangerous and they're always running over cyclists and killing them. It's much safer on the sidewalk where you can't ride if you're on a bike!

Yep, that sucks, no amount of C.R.A.P.® can help with that one.

Initial Observation #8: My ass hurts from the bike seat!

One last time and then shall we give this C.R.A.P.® a rest? Yeah, but your butt will get used to it over time. And on the bright side, at least you don't have to wear two running bras to keep your boobs from bouncing.

And there you have it--that's how to use the "Cognitive Restructuring, Amplifying Positivity" approach to motivate yourself to crosstrain!

Anyone else ever tried to talk themselves into a new cross-training activity? Any luck?


  1. This was great. Here's some C.R.A.P. for your biking woes: Maybe the leg muscle you build while biking will help you become a better, faster runner.

    Ever since I injured my knees, I've had to deal with switching up my exercises. I can't run anymore so I stick to the elliptical and bike. At first I cursed the bike because I felt like I wasn't getting a workout. But after a month or so I started noticing that my leg muscles were getting stronger than they had while running. Besides, cross training makes it less likely you'll hurt your heel again. So, there you go, more C.R.A.P.

  2. I'm a card-carrying C.R.A.P. member and am just returning to the workout world after an elbow injury (induced from keeping personal space invaders at bay) and am suddenly all intimidated by the weight machines again. But I gave them a little whirl this morning for the first time in months and am in love again - but not before implementing the C.R.A.P. method and almost talking myself out of it.

  3. Making it all the way up to Skyline! That's incredible! And very good exercise.

    If the seat doesn't get less painful, can you try swapping out the seat?

    If all else fails, you could try my patented RICE method (Rest,Ice, Complain, Eat).

    Good luck!

  4. I'm trying to introduce cross training to myself. After a long hiatus from exercising (and gaining a ton of weight) I began walking a few months ago. Once I was able to do an hour on the treadmill at a speed of 3.2 to 4.0 (with an incline occasionally) I added in weights.
    I hate the elliptical machine because my legs don't want to work properly on it and I fell off the last 4 times I tried it...

    I am trying to jog now, but am not sure if there is an easy way to get into that - any tips? I am also going to start doing sit ups, crunches, and attempt to do push ups.

    I have lost 18.5lbs so far and have about 108 to go before I get to 140lbs which is the weight my doctor has told me that I need to be.

  5. OMG I LOVE the C.R.A.P. method. This post was enjoyable to read.

    FYI coming from a woman who bikes all the time I can tell you it does get better with time...especially the hills and the butt hurting from the seat.

    We should trade tips cause I would love to cross train using running but everytime I go out to try that I find it sucks for me and then I don't try to do it for a long time and it continues to suck cause I don't get past the adjustment to doing it. I think I need to institute C.R.A.P. and I'll actually do it!

  6. Nothing to add, but I love the C.R.A.P. method.

  7. Nice. The butt does get better. Is swimming something to add? It's a pile of CRAP for me, but word on the street it's great for learning how to breathe.

    I swear I've been breathing for over 41 years.

  8. Right now I'm just trying to use the C.R.A.P. method to get my @$$ off the couch, away from the cookies, and into the office to set up the treadmill and get back to working out. 6 weeks is probably enough being lazy... This baby belly isn't going to disappear on it's own (oh how I wish).

  9. I love your C.R.A.P. method! I'm still a little skeptical of the whole getting used to the bike seat thing though. Oh, and I wish my boobs were big enough to need two sports bras. One is more than enough.

  10. You always have the best C.R.A.P. ;)

  11. I really think you could market this - I would totally choose a workout called "C.R.A.P." over just about anything, simply for the giggles!

    Yeah, that bike butt soreness - it's a tough one to get over, but once it's gone it seems to stay gone. If the bike is so old, maybe you need a new comfy seat? Or a fantastic new bike? I am all about the bribes when it comes to exercise!

  12. AHAHAhahahahahaha!!

    You said "Uranus."

    *snicker, snort*

    Oh, and I love the CRAP system, too.

    *wanders off, still snickering*

  13. Nothing to add, but LOVE the C.R.A.P. method- will be implimenting it myself!

  14. More evidence, from the labs at Cranky Fitness, that whining and complaining can be useful and good for you! At least, good for your funnybone.

    I like your style.

  15. One of the best parts about cross-training is it reminds you why you picked (and prefer) your original sport.
    My knee injury has forced me into the swimming pool and I swear I'll never bitch about running again!

  16. I was forced into cross-training when I did a sprint triathlon this fall (which I complained I mean blogged about extensively), but now that I'm aware of the CRAP method, I'm sure it'll be easier to get back into it.

  17. Don't you mean the front butt? And Skyline? My GAWD you must be in great shape.

    Funny post. Made me laugh!

  18. Any regimen that requires griping works for me. Also, taking long (SLOW) bike rides with the kids and their damn little legs has taught me to ride in a ridiculously low gear so that I can keep a quick cadence. It looks to passers-by (by that I mean people actually passing us on foot) as if I'm actually riding a stationary bike.

    Oh, and as far as Uranus - this is the kind material my kid tries out on me as I drive him home from school everyday - a little gem from a few weeks ago:

    *There's a boy that loves outer space more than anything else that you can think of. Every morning before he leaves for school, he even makes sure to kiss all of the planets on a poster over his bed. One day, he was running really late for school and his Dad came into his room to tell him that it was time to leave. The boy said, "Dad, I'll leave as soon as I kiss Uranus." *


  19. I just do not know where to start!! It all is too friggin funny & true too.. so many valid & important points in here! I hope everyone reads this closely & gets that!

    Uranus.. I am with you on that & Kirstie Alley... I am really tired of her & all her BS talk & it is CRAP but not in the way you wrote about it!!!

    Me, yes, I have had to talk myself into new training activities all thru the years. When I was young & stupid, I did not listen.. now I am a bit better but still "cranky about it" but glad when I do it!

  20. Hee's some good old C.R.A.P. that got me back at working out again after a summer injury that led to laziness of long and extreme porportions.

    I never gave it such a truly awesome name though.

  21. Hola!!! Great post, I never knew it was this interesting and funny too. You made my day. I am currently on a bit heavy diet, i have targeted myself to loose weight, appx 5 pound more in a month.


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