I want to lose weight and improve my running speed. Is running + yoga + swimming enough?
I just can't make up my mind about what direction I want to take my exercise regime in this new year. Looking for advice. Apologies that this is somewhat convoluted, but I am considering a lot of different factors.
I ran my first marathon last weekend. Yay! But at 160 lbs, I am also the heaviest I have ever been. I am a 31-year-old female, 5'8". My family is all skinny and I have always been effortlessly slender my whole life. I didn't take up exercise until I was in my mid-20s, and only then I did so for fitness, not weight loss.
I have been running seriously for about four years. I have run three half marathons and now, one marathon. My time has gotten progressively worse, in spite of the fact that I have become more dedicated to my training. My first half in January 2012 was 2:27. My last half (in December) and my marathon were 3 hours and 6 hours respectively.
The healthiest I've ever been in my life was when I lived in Korea and took tae kwon do, which consisted mostly of body-weight exercises and cardio. About a year ago I started an outdoor Crossfit boot camp, where instead of Olympic lifting we used kettle bells and body exercises. I went 3x a week. It was challenging but gave me that good "I worked out hard" feeling that I missed so much from TKD, though I was often sore.
In that year, I did not see a major change in my weight, thought I did see slight changes in my muscle mass.
Around November, I stopped going to boot camp, partially because of travel for the holidays, and partly because of time constraints. I sometimes have to work late or work events, and work combined with my marathon training (30-40 miles a week) was taking up much of my free time, plus I was often so sore after boot camp that running speed work or long runs was daunting. Doing the marathon was my primary fitness goal for the last quarter of 2011, so it took priority.
Now I can easily bust out 10 miles without thinking about it. My only bummer was my time. I would like to maintain the endurance I've built up, plus improve my time to get below a 9-minute mile. I know this will take time, but I'm positive I can do it.
While training for my first half I was in a running training program that met 3x a week. My best race time ever was a 4-mile race during that time where I averaged a 9:45 mile. I miss those glory days! With the marathon achievement bolstering me, I'd like to re-enroll in that training program. But there are two complications: it meets the same time as my XF boot camp, and the program is now two days a week with the group instead of three — hills on Monday, supported long runs on Saturday, with provided do-it-yourself speed training on Wednesdays. Cost for this program is $100 for 10-weeks.
For the last two years I've been using downloadable training programs from Runner's World on my Garmin for speed work and tempo runs, and a part of me thinks that it's a waste to pay $100 for training when I could keep using the Garmin. Then again, I've been getting slower, not faster, training on my own, even though my endurance has greatly improved. (I used to not be able to run 3 miles without walking.) I do not know if the slowness is due to a lack of training, or due to overtraining with XF.
There is one more complicating factor. I have a membership to the YMCA heavily subsidized through my work. $16 a month, taken straight from my paycheck. And the Y is a brand new facility, with a huge weight room, swimming pool, classes, etc. It's also a mile from my house, and literally right next door to my work building. I can't believe I haven't taken more advantage of it, but I am the kind of person who does best in an environment where I'm led and not so self-dependent. The old Y had an awesome weight-lifting class, but the instructor left when the new Y was built, and most of their classes cater to beginners or the elderly, with the exception of their yoga and pilates classes, which areAWESOME and challenging.
I've done yoga off and on through the years. I love the way it makes me feel and I love the serenity benefits, but I've never done it regularly enough to see any physiological changes. Between boot camp and running I often lamented the lack of time to take in yoga. I also love to swim and want to work up to swimming a mile using this 6-week program
My boot camp is $150 a month, meets at 5:30 p.m., which is often hard for me to make right after work, and is a bit of a drive away. So it seems like a natural solution to just drop the boot camp, go to the Y for swimming and yoga, and either run on my own or pay $50 a month for the run training, right?
Except I also really need to lose 15 lbs, and I'm not sure I can do it with just swimming, running and yoga (ashtanga/vinyasa/power) alone. I am worried that I need the kind of hard-core muscle confusion of XF WODs to get the job done, but I'm also worried that's hurting my running.
FWIW, I'm also cutting down on calories, starting a South Beach-style and drinking less alcohol. I am thinking maybe the best solution is to do the running training through April and see if it helps, then decide if I want to go back to XF, and maybe join a gym closer to me. Money is not a HUGE issue but it would be nice to save some, especially since I already have one gym membership essentially free.
So my questions are:
A) are running, yoga and swimming (three exercises I very much LOVE) enough to help me lose 15 lbs, or do I also need to do strength-training beyond body weight exercises?
B) Is running a sub-9-minute mile a realistic goal to embark on alone, or is it worth it/necessary to pay for run training 2x a week to get there?