Tag Archives: cross training

Orange Theory: Who and what it’s good for


Got a few friends, both runners and non-runners, who are really into working out at Orange Theory, a chain of gyms built around a somewhat interactive, competitive series of high intensity aerobic circuit training workout classes.

Long story short, participants aerobically work out hard for about an hour between numerous stations, and the establishment keeps score of your vitals on a big monitor, along with esoteric stats like “splats” (a metric measuring how long you hit their key orange heart-rate level).

As with such gyms, pricing is a bit of an investment for most working class individuals. While OT gyms offer free introductory classes, taking any more after that at a given location requires a membership. They want you to make a commitment up-front, though if you buy a membership you are free to use it at any OT gym available.

Tiered memberships cost from around $60 for 4 classes a month to $150-175 for unlimited classes. The heart rate monitors require an additional $5-10 to rent (and you can outright buy them for around $75-100). Additional classes on limited plans can be purchased for around $20-30 each.

This pricing isn’t relatively outrageous considering yoga, Pilates and other workout studios ask generally the same amount. However, someone looking into a new gym habit probably will be somewhat averse to forking out $60-200 a month just to work out. Of course, while they can either join a gym for $15-50 a month, or go run and do bodyweight exercises on their own for free… the direction of a coach or teacher is a key reason people look to fitness classes in the first place.

… I guess that was a little long to be a long story short. Whoops!

I’m a supporter of group fitness classes. A lot of people could use better fitness, could use some coaching, and these classes provide valuable direction in both. Whether people prefer this, yoga, Pilates, dance technique classes, chic dance variants like Pure Barre, etc…. if you enjoy these group classes, can consistently do it safely, and it gets you to actually work out when you otherwise wouldn’t, then yes: DO IT.

There are certain people who benefit more from it than others, of course. And in the case of runners, it can absolutely benefit some of them. I’ve seen it benefit several I personally know. Likewise, I wouldn’t outright say to certain runners that they should stay away, but there are also some cases where it doesn’t work as well.

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Now that it’s cold, you need a better warm-up

As Chicago temps have now dropped to their traditional late-autumn 20’s and 30’s Fahrenheit, my hands and feet are now feeling quite cold at the start of runs.

Previously, it only took 1-2 miles before the generated heat of my running warmed my hands and feet back to normal. But during the last couple runs, I’ve found it taking as long as 30 minutes for my feet to warm up to normal.

That’s a long time to tempt frostbite in your feet. And keep in mind it’s been mostly dry. If I was running through slush or snow, the resulting moisture could have exacerbated the problem.

Did something change? Am I suffering from circulation problems?

No way. The answer is simple: I’ve gotten fitter, and that ironically has made warming up on cold-weather runs harder.

In previous years, regular runs required a greater effort from me than they do now. That greater effort means more heat, which with normal run-elevated circulation warms your limbs up sooner.

While better fitness means faster paces at easier effort, the easier effort doesn’t produce warmth as quickly, meaning those cold hands and feet are going to stay cold longer unless I push the pace hard (which for various reasons I’d rather not do in these runs).

Now, acclimation will help. As I grow accustomed to being out in the cold, my body will better sustain comfort or warmth in cold weather. By January I will probably not need 30 minutes of running to comfortably warm in clear conditions.

In the interim, however, this isn’t going to fly. With trail races coming up this winter, I will be facing some non-clear conditions and thus need to figure out how to warm up quickly.

I’m not about to tire and wear myself out with tempo sprints and strides before every long run, overheating myself before the real workout starts just to get my feet warm. There has to be a better way.

And there is.

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Circuit training, aka strength and cross training in the interim

So even though I still have a week of no-running left to go, nothing is stopping me from beginning my next phase of training.

So I went ahead and began this program this afternoon:


I had bought and followed Adam Rosante’s 30 Second Body a while back. The program did help me some, but was at the time challenging to follow.

It’s a full body circuit training program that mixes a variety of compound squats and plank movements (like burpees) done as fast as you can properly do them for 30-60 seconds at a time. None of the movements seem hard at first glance, or even as you begin the intervals. But after a few of them, the relatively untrained body begins to feel tired, and that’s when you realize you still have 15-30 seconds left.

Right now it’s probably a perfect program for me.

  • I want to improve upper body strength, core strength and overall flexibility that may help my running once I get back into training
  • I also want to improve my overall physique, which will never be a 10 out of 10 but could always use some improvement in muscle definition.
  • With marathon training complete, and no imminent goal races on the horizon prior to next spring, I have plenty of time to primarily invest myself in a valuable physical activity other than running.
  • I also am hesitant to re-invest in a gym membership (having let my most recent one expire right before the Chicago Marathon), and am not sure that pushing weight is the best way to improve my overall conditioning right now anyway. Eventually, I want to get back in the gym, but I think I can get more out of something else.
  • Plus, this allows me to develop some overall aerobic and anaerobic conditioning aside from running… which in a lot of ways should help my running.

Would I recommend it over other similar book/video-based programs like Body For Life, or 30 Day Shred?

It was very difficult for me to do, and stick to. Granted, while I wasn’t super active at the time I first tried it… I used to do yoga, Pilates, and perform theatre and dance, so I’m no stranger to intense floor exercise.

I still found the 30 Second Body workouts to be an ass-kicker. I found myself many nights turning to the stop-gap 5 minute workouts listed in the book, simply because after a tough workday I didn’t feel I had it in me to do a full longer workout. Being a lot better trained physically these days, I’ll probably stick to the full workouts every day this time around. But they are very demanding. They will loom large every night I go to do them.

Two things to Rosante’s credit:

  1. My difficulty despite my other experience is proof that the workouts will challenge anyone. Someone in great condition will be challenged by them just as much as someone who doesn’t exercise otherwise.
  2. The workouts don’t prescribe a minimum rep count: If for example it takes everything you have to do 2 of Adam’s designed 3-Point Plankers in 30 seconds, then that is all you need to do for that interval. You only do as many reps as you can physically manage with good form, as fast or as slow as you need to go.

The 30 Second Body still incredibly challenging, but it’s not like an aerobics class orĀ  a racing team workout where you may struggle to keep up with everyone else. You work at your own pace and capability, and that’s all you need to concern yourself with. In that sense, the workout plan can be done by anyone.

… provided you can safely do all the needed movements. Never mind good form (which Rosante doesn helpfully outline up front in the book). Some people can’t brace much of their weight on their hands for a plank movement. Some people’s knees or hips won’t allow for a compound squat exercise. Rosante does offer modification options for all the exercises to be done differently, but the more physical issues you have with key joints, the more likely this plan may not work for you.

I’m fortunate to be in good condition and able to do all of the movements, even if some moves are quite difficult for me. Some people meanwhile have wrist or shoulder or knee problems. Those folks, and even some who are not particularly athletic, may be better off with a more conventional workout plan.

Still, I really like the 30 Second Body program, and athletes looking for a cross training break from their pursuit of choice may get a lot of value from this six week program of intense circuit training. Non-athletes who feel ambitious, and promise to be careful about practicing the program, can also get a lot out of the 30 Second Body. That’s who Rosante originally designed it for, after all! Rosante is an accomplished personal trainer, so he has a pretty good idea of what people in general, let alone his clients, can handle.

As with any new exercise program, see your doctor, eat and rest right, be careful, blah blah blah: We’re adults. I think if you can handle doing a classic squat, push up, and burpee without your limbs exploding, you can get a lot of value out of Adam Rosante’s The 30 Second Body. I’m planning to do so myself this fall, starting about an hour ago.

Also, I need some bananas. My glycogen stores need some help!

The 30 Second Body is available at the link below:

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Ideas for marathon recovery

My only expertise with this, aside from cobbling together ancedotal evidence and glancing at research, is the fact that I’m feeling alarmingly well for two days after a marathon, and based on my experience recovering from other races and hard workouts.

This is aside from the obvious advice to take extended time off and to rest when in doubt.

Eat a lot of protein everyday

Eat more protein than you typically would. Eat as if you just did a hard workout, even though clearly you haven’t worked out today, and shouldn’t.

I’m eating around 150-180g a day. I usually eat closer to 130-150g.

Walk as much as you can get away with

Yes, generally you should rest as much as you can, and I’m not suggesting you go on a massive hike. But generating blood circulation and some (slight) added stress can help kickstart recovery processes in your body. A 10-30 minute walk, even multiple times a day if you can stand it, can help accelerate the rebuilding process.

Take it easy on the caffeine

Maybe you drink coffee or tea. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you used it in training or the race, and maybe you didn’t. Ideally, you took it a bit easy leading up to the race, and probably didn’t have a whole lot on race day.

If you like it, don’t give it up, but stick to your cut-back volume for now, while you’re not planning on being particularly active. It can interfere with sleep if you re-up your intake while your body’s not burning as many calories as usual. And this is a time where sleep is very valuable for you.

The more you’re on your feet, the better your soreness will feel

The worst your soreness will feel is if you’ve been stationary for a while, and then decide to get up. As you’re on your feet for some time, the soreness will not be as present and noticeable. Again, circulation helps. And so does warming up those damaged muscles a bit. Also, the more activity you can manage during the day, the easier it will be to get to sleep, which again is important to recoery.

So make sure to get up and move around with some regularity, soreness or injuries permitting.

Once your 1-2 week rest period has passed, consider another form of fitness training in the short run.

While you could certainly get back to running once you’re ready, and perhaps you even have a race to train for right away… if you’ve got time before your next training cycle has to start, it may be beneficial to switch things up and train in something different, whether it’s weight training, circuit training, yoga or Pilates, a squats or push up challenge, playing a sport, etc…

Giving your body a different kind of workout not only promotes overall fitness and perhaps develops your running ability in different ways, but it also strengthens your core, a valuable asset once you return to training primarily as a runner.

I’m starting to feel better already, and I’m thinking in part it’s from having done a few of the pre-training ideas.

If you’re on the mend following a marathon, some of these ideas may be worth trying. Consider them.

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My simple strength training routine

Since my previous workplace provided relatively cheap access to local gyms (access I still have for at least the next few months), I decided to take advantage and bookend many of my runs with a brief strength workout… or as I call it, swolework.

I have an on-again off-again relationship with strength training. I first started pushing weight while living briefly in San Antonio during 2000, as my apartment complex had a freely available fitness room with weights and I wanted to take advantage.

I sampled various fitness books on lifting weights at the store and bought the simplest, most accessible yet comprehensive volume I found: Bill Pearl’s Getting Stronger. Even today, you will not find a more comprehensive and point-blank summation of all the different functional barbell, dumbbell and machine weight lifting exercises you can do for every major muscle group than you will in this large paperback book.

Sexy basic workout plans like Stronglifts and Starting Strength are obsessed with heavy compound lifts like squats/deadlifts/benching at max weight. But I still find the approach of training more specific individual muscle groups at a manageable weight the real winner for most non-bro, non-powerlifter trainees. I’ve always found the most results keeping a workout plan simple.

Throughout the subsequent 18 years I’ve stopped and started strength training workout plans depending on my situation or needs. I’ve also done various Bodyweight resistance training plans, from comprehensive programs like Mark Lauren’s You Are Your Own Gym or Adam Rosante’s 30 Second Body… to simple barebones programs like One Hundred Push Ups or the RCAF’s 5BX.

I’ve seen results with all of them, though they’re fairly tough to follow (even being able to do them at home), especially if you’re doing anything else… such as running every day.

Once I got into running it became impractical to compound fairly taxing miles of running with any strength training beyond the basics. Even a relatively slight strength training routine can cause enough upper body and midsection soreness to compromise my running and other day to day life if I’m not careful.

But it’s not like I avoided it completely. Sometimes after a store fun run we would do some basic core exercises. Runners do benefit some from supplemental strength training. I just didn’t want to do too much and compromise my running.

Once I regained access to the gym about a year ago, I rarely did more than spend a few minutes on the exercise bike or rowing machine, or perhaps some basic stretching.

After a while, I drifted back towards the machines and weights and started doing a slight amount of post-run lifting. And I mean a single set of six relatively light reps for each of what I consider the basic upper body muscle groups (Chest, Shoulders, Back, Triceps, Biceps), before stretching or hitting the exercise bike to cool down.

After changing jobs my access to the gym got curtailed, so I didn’t strength train for a while. But recently the bobsled skids to the gym were greased again and I’ve decided to step up my strength training. I experimented with and eventually adopted an adapted approach of what >Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes has referred to as the 320 Method.

In Cortes’ 320 Method, you start with 3 sets of 10 reps total (spread in any combination among the 3 sets, like 3-4-3 or 5-3-2), using the maximum weight you can push for 5 reps. Then you work your way up to 20 reps spread over 3 sets (hence the term 320). Once that becomes easy, you add weight and go back to 10 reps over 3 sets, repeating the process.

Admittedly, that’s not exactly how I do it.

Like before, I train chest, then shoulders, then back, then triceps and biceps in that order. Starting with my chosen chest exercise (usually a chest press, but I’ll switch to flys or something else as desired), I choose a weight I find challenging to lift but that I can capably push for 10 reps (if needed I’ll do a preliminary test rep, to gauge if possible, and may reduce weight if needed before beginning).

1st set: 10 reps at that weight.

2nd set: 6 reps. If the 1st set was easy enough, I add weight for these reps. If it was fairly challenging, I’ll stay at the previous weight for the 6 reps.

3rd set: 4 reps. Again, I’ll add weight if the previous reps were easy enough to indicate it’s possible. Otherwise, I stay at the prior weight.

  • I always try to do the sets as 10-6-4. I am open to changing the number of reps for a given set as needed, but my goal is always to do 20 reps spread over 3 sets (3-20). And typically, you want to do the most reps during that 1st set and the least reps during the last set, as subsequent sets should become more difficult.
  • I never try to max out with these lifts. Since it’s supplemental, I’m not aiming for GAINZ or to get SWOLE AF with these lifts. It’s entirely possible I do all three sets with the exact same weight, or even that today’s workout was lighter than the weight I used in the last workout.
  • In fact, to take a page from Planet Fitness and their somewhat silly Lunk Alarm policy… I don’t want to ever grunt while lifting, or use momentum to jerk the weight up or down. I want all movement to be in clear control from start to finish. If I have to grunt or jerk, the weight is too heavy. If I’m really struggling I’ll end the set early and reduce the weight. Unless the grunting/jerking happens during the last rep and I know it’ll be easier to lift the next set after some rest, I may reduce the weight before the next set.
  • I want to finish the last set feeling like I could do another set or two if needed. Usually, I’ve run several miles prior to this workout, plus I plan to run some more the next day. I’d rather not work too hard on lifting and need a lot of additional recovery.
  • Some people thrive on slammed workloads, but also get to sit around a lot more than I do outside of training. I commute on foot, on top of running home from work. I need to be able to walk out comfortably, get out of bed comfortably the next day, and get on the road to run comfortably the next day. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody in the gym.
  • Afterward I may dynamic-stretch with some leg swings, possibly plank a bit or work the abs for another 3-20 segment on the sit up machine. Since my core’s already doing substantial work to maintain balance and form during my runs (which often occur right after an 8 hour day at work), I’m not looking to seriously bomb them ahead of another run the following day, any more than any of the other muscles I’ve worked out. If I feel my core hasn’t been engaged much that day, I’ll give it a bit of a workout. But otherwise I’ll let it be.

How often do I train at the gym? Right now, about twice a week. If I have a killer weekend run or a race planned, I may only go once, and not at all during the 2-4 days leading up to the big run. Again, this is supplemental, and about augmenting whole body health as well as my running. The bell curve threshold before it begins to hurt my training and life is pretty shallow, so I don’t want to overdo it.

A typical workout:

Chest Press on machine (70% max) – 3 sets, 20 reps total between them

Shoulder Press on machine (70% max) – 3 sets, 20 reps total

Lat Pulldowns on machine (80% max) – 3 sets, 20 reps total

Tricep Pushdowns on machine (80% max) – 3 sets, 20 reps total

Bicep Curls on machine or w/dumbbells (80% max) – 3 sets, 20 reps total

30-60 seconds rest between all sets and weight workouts. Use your judgment.

Dymanic Leg Swings – 3 sets, 6 each side.

Rowing Machine – 20 minutes

  • Doing the lats and arms closer to my max is nothing more than a personal choice based on my capabilities and feeling they can more comfortably handle weight closer to my max without risk of injury than my chest or shoulders. Those numbers are not hard and fast: I just find that the weight I typically use for those workouts are at that proximity.
  • This weight workout takes about 15-20 minutes, with rest breaks. The leg swings take maybe a couple minutes, and the 20 minutes on the row machine is also just a preference. Some days I won’t do any in-gym cardio or stretching at all, and just leave after that. It can depend on a variety of factors, including how difficult my prior run was.

None of this was to get all Bill Phillips on you and give you a comprehensive strength training program for runners. I just wanted to show you how I handle strength training, based on my needs/limits and my past experience with other workout plans.

It works for me. Maybe something like this can work for you.

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