Why We Can’t Just Run: It’s Not One Thing

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One of the reasons that I run is to be healthy and physically fit, but that is not something that we can achieve by running alone. Many people have their favorite physical activity or training, and whether it is running, weightlifting, yoga, or something else, they tend to think that is all they need to do.

Cross Training is one of the major categories of this blog because being healthy and physically fit involves more than one kind of training. I ran across this description in an old Army manual about physical training.

“Since physical fitness includes strength, endurance, agility, and coordination, it is apparent that no one activity is sufficient for its full development.”[i]

As part of my training, I try to include weight lifting, calisthenics, stretching, swimming and fencing. Of course, the running also complements those things as well, promoting cardiovascular endurance. I don’t stretch enough, and sometimes it is hard to fit in all the different kinds of training that I would like to do, but the goal is to avoid being one-dimensional. The goal is also to be the best person that I can be.

Here is a quote from a book on kung fu, which I think nicely sums up what health and fitness can be.

“The second great benefit of practicing kung fu is health and fitness. By health, I do not mean merely being free from illness; I mean an ability to eat with relish, to sleep soundly, to work energetically, to think clearly, and to be calm yet alert. By fitness, I do not mean just the brute strength to do heavy work; I mean the ability to run and jump, to withstand heat, cold or wind in the open, to react speedily, to endure hard work, and to concentrate for some time without feeling fatigue.”

Sounds like a good way to live, doesn’t it? At the same time, I know that it can sound overwhelming. So where do we start?

One good starting point is the Presidential Fitness Test. It is the adult version of the one you may have encountered in school (if you went to school in the United States). The test measures four things: cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. You can find the test and a way to see how you measure up at http://www.adultfitnesstest.org

It makes a distinction between different kinds of fitness and lets people start off at whatever level makes sense.

Cardiovascular fitness is measured by a mile and a half run. You can also do a walk test if you are not at the running level yet.

Muscular strength and endurance is measured by push-ups and sit-ups. Push-ups are a good way to test upper body strength. They have the added benefit of being the way you catch yourself should you fall. For a good article on the value of the push-ups, look at this: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/health/nutrition/11well.html

(I will probably need to devote a post to push-ups, but we’ll save that for another time.)

Flexibility is measured by the sit and reach test. While this seems really basic, there have been some studies that suggest a link, though not necessarily a causal one, between flexibility in your limbs and arterial flexibility. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19666849 )

Body composition is one of the reasons a lot of us start running in the first place. We want to lose fat and trim down. Eliminating abdominal fat can be good for you, so this is an aspect of the test that is influenced by the others, but is probably more directly related to diet.

As we go along, I will do this test from time to time and see how the results are. Here’s hoping that I can maintain enough consistency in training for steady improvement.

Let me know what kind of cross training you do and how you measure your progress.

 

 

[i] War Department Field Manual FM 21-20, Physical Training (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1946).

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