Cross Training

By Rob McWilliam and Larry Duguay

The weather has improved and the trails are dry and scenic. You may have noticed more people out running and riding their bikes on the roads and trails the rites of spring for active minded Yukoners and an inspiration for those of us who may be in the slow-starter category. This week saw the first Yukon Riverbank Fun Run of 2001 (every Tuesday night, at F. H. Collins School) and the first mountain bike race of the season. There have already been two or three races in the Yukon Cycling Association Road Bike series. And last weekend saw the very important Run for Mom to raise money for breast cancer research and prevention in the Yukon. When you stop to think about it, the Yukon has a lot going for it in terms of ‘life sport’ opportunities, and community spirit.

One of the rites of spring has become the annual bike race to Haines. All up and down the highway in the Whitehorse area you can expect to encounter ‘packs’ of biker riders practicing their drafting techniques, as well as individual riders struggling to cope with those frustrating head winds. So what does all that have to do with trail running you might well ask. The answer is that biking is an excellent form of cross training for running, and this article will talk about cross training, with a focus on the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay on June 16 th.

Cross training refers to participating in a sport that is different from the one that you consider as your main recreational and/or fitness activity. There are many reasons for cross-training injury prevention or rehabilitation, personal interest or enjoyment, training for a multi-sport event such as a triathlon, supporting a local organization or cause, and complementing your main activity to provide more total-body fitness benefits, just to name a few. For example if you’re a runner with sore legs or a minor muscle injury, you may want to cut back on your running for a while and spend more time swimming or biking. Swimming and biking provide similar fitness benefits to running, but without the associated stress and pounding on joints and muscles. Similarly, a runner may decide to lift weights once or twice a week to exercise different muscle groups and promote more all-round fitness. In many cases, thoughtful use of cross training can enhance performance in your favourite sport.

From the perspective of the Yukon River Trail Marathon, the sport that most closely parallels the physical and spiritual aspects of trail running would probably be mountain biking. Mountain biking requires aerobic and muscular fitness and takes place on the same terrain with the same hazards as trail running. And just like trail running, the Yukon provides a multitude of world-class mountain biking opportunities virtually right outside your back door. Just a cautionary word from a mountain bike neophyte be careful mountain biking requires a whole lot more skill than trail running especially those steep, bumpy and technical downhill sections. Road biking is a less technical alternative to mountain biking (although you still must exercise care and caution in traffic situations) and provides many of the same fitness benefits. It too, is a complementary sport to running and a good cross-training exercise. You may not be right on the trails, but you’ll still get a great workout and see some beautiful country.

One of the Yukon’s premier sporting events, the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay, is a great motivator for cross training. This 245.4 kilometre road-bike relay runs between Haines Junction, Yukon and Haines, Alaska is scheduled for June 16 th. The course is divided into eight stages and riders may participate in a number of racing formats eight, four and two-person relays and this year, in a one-person category. The stages vary in length and degree of difficulty, but they all share one common feature natural scenic beauty second to none. Overall, the course is beautiful, skirting Kluane Park and the Saint Elias Mountains, crossing the Haines Summit, passing through the Chilkat Eagle Preserve along the Chilkat River, and finishing at historic Fort Seward in Haines, Alaska. It’s not a stretch to think of this course as a long trail that you can enjoy with your friends from both the seat of your bike and from the comfort of your support vehicle. The scenery is so beautiful that it really does conjure up a good trail run along your favourite forest path. It also has that special feeling to it of a community event a credit to the hard work of the organizers and volunteers and to the positive attitude of the participants. If you’re looking for a great cross-training opportunity and a fun event to incorporate into your fitness training plan, you will want to give the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay a close look. For more information call 633-2579, in Whitehorse.

Happy trails.