Years ago, my only form of exercise was running. I would swim once in a while or stop by at a gym to do a couple of barbell squats. I treated my gym days as they were rest days, because when I wasn’t running, it was almost like not working out at all.
I would occasionally take out my road bike, which I really loved, but riding a bike was never comparable with running. In my mind, nothing else counted as a workout.
No Strength, Skill or Flexibility Training
I used to run all of the time, without paying any attention to strength, without having any interest in learning new skills or improving my flexibility. I thought I didn’t need any of those things, because pretty much all I needed – or thought I needed – was being skinny. That was my goal and with running I was able to keep it that way.
I was never one of those women who is afraid of muscles, but I just couldn’t see a reason why I needed to get stronger. I thought that my legs are strong anyway, so why bother?
Little did I know… Even now, after about 1.5 years into bodyweight and strength training, I’m still struggling with doing a single pistol squat.
I didn’t care much about flexibility either. I didn’t really miss it. Being more flexible than average person, that was never an issue. I was always able to do bridges and put my palms on the floor when standing, so I didn’t worry about it.
What My Workout Schedule Looked Like
So, running was my main form of exercise, with occasional swimming or bike riding and in winter, cross-country skiing, thrown in.
I used to run a lot and I loved it.
At one point, it started taking too much of my time, but I figured that there was no way back. Once my mileage was 50 a week, there was no way that I would decrease it. So I tried to keep it up and if possible, even run more.
I took 1-2 days off a week, but I ran hard the rest of the time…
Here is what my typical week looked like:
Monday: 10 km run
Tuesday: 12 km run
Wednesday: 10 km run
Thursday: 1 hour swimming
Friday: 15 km run
Sunday: 15-20 km run
As you can see, there was not too much variety. My 10k runs took me about 50 minutes each, and the long Sunday runs close to two hours. When I was training for marathons, my mileage was even higher, making my Sunday runs last up to three hours.
How Did I Feel?
Did I enjoy running that much?
I would say both, yes and no, but definitely more yes. I couldn’t have done it that much if I didn’t enjoy it.
Running is a highly meditative activity for me. I used to run in the early morning, and there are not too many equally beautiful things in the world than hitting the pavement when the sun is slowly coming up. It’s probably the most gorgeous moment of a day.
What I didn’t love was the obsession that I created for myself. There were days when I didn’t want to go out for a run, because I was tired, in a need of rest, or I just hadn’t slept that well (which I now think was, at least for some part, the result of over training).
I also didn’t like how tired and hungry I was. Not everybody who runs gets so hungry and tired, I just did it wrong. I should have trained smarter, meaning, running less but better, done some cross training and strength work, and eaten more and better. My energy expenditure and calorie consumption were completely out of balance.
How My Training Changed
It was in fall 2013 when I started thinking about getting a gym membership. I had read Tina’s blog for years, and she had talked a lot about CrossFit. I was curious, because CrossFit didn’t seem like a typical boring gym workout that consisting of x reps of x biceps curls — a type of working out that I absolutely hated.
The more I read her blog and the more I learned about CrossFit, the more curious I became. I looked up tons of information and watched hundreds of workout videos on Youtube, then went to a regular gym and tried them out.
I learned to love strength training. It was fun!
At first it got me sore for days, but I soon found myself doing half of my workouts at a gym and half running.
Getting Into CrossFit
For the longest time, there was no CrossFit gym in Tallinn, where I lived back then. However, I kept learning so many new to me workouts from the free Youtube videos and putting them into use at the gym.
I noticed that I was the only one at the gym doing high intensity workouts, like kettlebell swings and barbell thrusters. I was in and out of the gym in 30-40 minutes. I loved how quickly I was done and how great workout I got in, without spending hours at the gym.
I fell in love with high intensity training. When they finally opened the CrossFit box in Tallinn, I was hooked!
I loved it, trained there three times a week kept running two to three times a week.
The Awesome Outdoors
When I moved to California, it became clear to me pretty soon: I want to be outside as much as I can. That included working out.
Coming from a country that has only about three months of enjoyable warm weather and where the degrees drop to as low as -10F in winter, the ability to work out outside all year around was a huge thing.
I had learned much about CrossFit and realized that there are so many elements that I can take from there and use in my outdoor workouts, without having to join a box. Because let’s be honest, CrossFit is expensive. I could have joined a regular gym, but then again, if I have the chance to be outside and workout there, will I actually ever use the gym membership?
I bought a bunch of home workout equipment, like a doorway pull up bar, couple of medicine balls, some kettlebells, adjustable dumbbells, sandbag, jump rope etc. and started working out with these and adding in bodyweight workouts.
I don’t really miss going to a gym and I get all that I need done with just these things.
What Does My Workout Schedule Look Like Now
Right now, my main workouts are a good mix of HIIT workouts and strength training, with one or two longer runs added in. Here is my typical workout week:
Monday: HIIT workout, usually about 20 minutes
Tuesday: Kettlebell Training, 30-40 minutes
Wednesday: HIIT, about 20 minutes
Thursday: 45-60 min run OR rest
Friday: Short HIIT, about 10 minutes + 15 minutes yoga
Saturday: Kettlebell Training, 30-40 minutes OR 60-90 minutes run
This schedule varies from week to week, but that’s pretty much what it looks at this point. Compared to times when my only form of exercise was running, there are some pretty remarkable differences:
- I am way stronger.
- I probably weigh more, but it doesn’t bother me, as I have more muscle than before.
- I save about 3 hours less a week on working out than I used to when I was running.
- I am physically less tired as my workouts are shorter.
- I am mentally less tired as I keep things more exciting.
- I am learning new skills now, which is something that I wasn’t interested in before.
- I am better runner!
- I have expanded my knowledge about various ways of exercise.
As you see, running is still there. I have noticed that running helps me to maintain lean physique. And of course, running was my first love and I still enjoy doing it. But there is so much variety compared to when I used to only run.
Also, there are weeks when I take 3-4 days off. That usually happens when my workouts last week were very intense. While two-three years ago I would have never allowed myself to take that many days off, I do it now with no guilt if that’s what my body needs.
My workout schedule has changed quite a bit in past couple of years or so. I have learned that bringing variety into my workouts has helped me to get stronger and faster.
Also, I am mentally not that trapped into working out. Working out is more interesting to me now than it was before and lot of times it’s easier to get it done when I know that I’m back home in 20 minutes.
I think it’s important to learn to find a good balance in our workouts. We need little bit of everything: strength, endurance, various skills and flexibility. By working on all of those things, we also keep us from getting bored.
Question: What do you do to keep your workouts balanced and exciting, physically and mentally?