A few weeks ago I got my ass handed to me when The North Face Mountain Athletics training program came to town. The Mountain Athletics series was designed to help endurance athletes with their overall performance. You know, cross training. To make you stronger and faster. The very thing I always neglect to do. Since Dean Karnazes is a North Face athlete, he came along to stand around, look pretty, and talk about the importance of full-body workouts.
I signed up for the running clinic thinking that we’d chat about ultrarunning and endurance and do sprints and whatnot. Instead, we combined classes with the peak bagging/mountain climbing group and did a series of strength circuits. I’m actually happy that I got to do a Crossfit-like workout, because it forced me to do something other than run. The overall message was that you need to strengthen all your muscles to be healthy and at the top of your game. Hey Tanya, hear that?
We met at Railroad Park in the rain, which only added to the badassery that was about to go down. Mountain High Outfitters, The North Face, and ClifBar were all there with fun products and samples to test and take home. You know I was all over the North Face shoe testing!
From what I could tell, the class was filled with a mix of runners and Crossfit junkies. It’s always entertaining for me to work out with Crossfit people, because while they always show me up strength-wise, I can run circles around them with endurance. Stamina, baby! But alas, having both strength and endurance make a well-rounded athlete.
We started the class with a warm up of push ups, sit ups, and weighted and jumping squats. I learned that I squat like a runner (need to go deeper) (that’s what she said), my groin didn’t like the added weight, and I do push ups wrong (need to tuck my elbows in).
One of the circuits had this exercise where you toss a weighted duffel bag over your shoulder, fall down, then stand back up. As gracefully as possible. Holy hell—after a few rounds of those I felt like a toddler was pinning me to the ground! But it was goofy and worked all of my muscles.
We then strapped on some weighted packs and did step ups, sit ups, and squats continually for 20 minutes. I lasted about 5 minutes before I decided it’d be more fun to take the time to chat with Dean about ultrarunning. I’m convinced he’s more robot than human, which explains how he does these superhuman feats like running around the world in a single day without shoes. Or something. Talking to Dean was a lot of fun, because he asked questions about my training and upcoming races and offered words of encouragement and basically looked like a sculpture of a Greek god. He didn’t have much to offer in the advice department though and talked about racing 50s and 100s like you and I would talk about talking a walk down the street—he just seems too far removed from the average runner (or human) to be able to relate to their challenges. The ultra community has a love-hate relationship with Dean, but no matter whether you cheer or boo at him, you have to give him credit for being one hell of an athlete.
Our “cooldown” was a Jane Fonda-esque workout—targeted moves like leg circles and butt kicks to make your side ass sexy. We finished with this move where you squirm around on the ground like a dying cockroach that supposedly the military uses and engages our abs, but I think was actually a reason for others walking by to point and laugh.
Overall I had a blast! I’m glad the class was a workout that didn’t include running. It got me out of my comfort zone and reinforced that you need your entire body to be a strong, effective runner—not just your legs. The Mountain Athletics Training Program travels around the country—check their site to see if you can play with Dean too!