I wanted to go to the gym before work in the mornings again. This is also because I wanted to cut down on going out for coffee in the mornings. I didn’t want to sit at home and commute during the rush hour either. A key reason I leave early for work (as well as work out right after work) is to avoid the heavier traffic.
But as I ramp up my mileage in base training, I notice that even simple low-impact spin bike workouts left me unduly worn out each day. Runalyze training stats also showed my TRIMP/monotony/workload-ratio ran unsustainably high when I combined both.
So I cut out cross training aside from strength workouts twice a week. I also cut down on the length of my walks during work breaks.
With this, and without the morning gym workouts, my training stats all fell back in normal range. While demanding for now, my added mileage felt reasonably comfortable.
But I still wanted to make use of the gym in the morning. There had to be something low-impact I could do without it being mind numbing (I can’t lay down and stretch for 60 minutes). Yoga’s a bit too much. Strength workouts are 20-30 minutes and not 60 for a reason. The elliptical and spin bike again were too much. Even a normal treadmill walk was a bit too demanding.
I decided last week to start with reading my Kindle on a treadmill while going as slow as reasonable. The default at the gym is 1.0mph, way slower than usual for me, and I just kept it there while reading. This went okay, but towards the end I got an idea.
I’ve dabbled occasionally in my lifetime with walking backwards, both out in the world and on the treadmill. It certainly isn’t super challenging. I’ve occasionally seen people at the gym do it on the treadmill as training.
I decided on impulse to try it during my last few minutes on the treadmill, and turned out it worked fine. Minimal impact, super easy, no real danger. My Garmin showed it was much lower in effort than normal walking.
Next time out, I tried walking 1.0mph backwards on the treadmill for a whole half hour. Went fine, and Runalyze showed the TRIMP impact is about 40% lower than a normal walk of the same length.
It turns out that walking backwards not only has known training benefits, but also benefits those with lower back and hamstring issues.
The often-constricted hamstrings move more eccentrically in a backward walk, improving their range of motion and better engaging them. Recall that I had serious hamstring problems both last year and in 2019. I’ve had none since, but I certainly don’t mind preventative work to avoid them with better hamstring fitness.
Backwards walking also reduces dynamic stress on the knees and improves motor function of the surrounding muscles, not to mention the frequently neglected tibialis muscles along the shin.
So, I started doing treadmill backwards walking on weekday mornings. It does sometimes leave me a bit weary, though that could also be the cumulative effect of the other running. I still strength train in addition a couple days a week, but other than that (and short walks on breaks) no cross training.