Building Strength: A Personal Running Story

Jonathan Black, a writer with Working@Duke, starts cross training with Duke’s Run/Walk Club

Jonathan Black does a push-up during a strength class part of Duke's Run/Walk Club.
Jonathan Black does a push-up during a strength class part of Duke's Run/Walk Club.

I never enjoyed being yelled at while working out until a recent Thursday afternoon on Duke’s East Campus. 

With sweat dripping down my forehead and arms, I tried to maintain a plank for 30-second intervals as Tim Bisantz shouted to hold the position.

He got me through it.  

Bisantz, operations manager for LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke’s employee wellness program, leads a weekly strength class for Duke Run/Walk Club participants. The club meets through Oct. 31 for low-pressure workouts ranging from a steady walk to group-paced runs on East and West campuses. All fitness levels are welcome.  

As a participant in this fall’s Run/Walk Club, I’m writing about my experiences with the program, and I invite you to continue following me while I share my joys, pains, insights and discoveries during the program. For this installment, I’ll focus on cross training.

Cross training involves alternating workout routines – like lifting weights, swimming and yoga – to increase your overall fitness without completely stressing your body. It’s beneficial to runners and walkers because the activities fight off injury, shorten recovery time and make you faster. 

Since the club focuses on cardio through running or walking, Bisantz’s sessions build strength in shoulders, triceps, abs and thighs. 

In the recent session, I could tell I’m doing a poor job cross training. After an hour of lunges, squats, push-ups and planks, my thighs ached, and my shoulders quivered. It felt wonderful. 

Bisantz divides his exercise routine in three elements: strength training, cardio and stretching. He lifts weights three days a week and gets his cardio from playing soccer twice a week. 

“The idea is to never get into a rhythm of just one type of exercise,” he said. “Cross training designs your body to support daily life and movement.” 

When I discovered the importance of cross training, I immediately knew I should reach out to Kara Bonneau, director of the North Carolina Education Data Center at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. She’s a familiar face to the Working@Duke family. Bonneau frequently submitted photos of her workouts during the #DukeTimeOff photo contest this summer. 

Kara Bonneau hikes outside of Lake Tahoe in Utah.Bonneau, a triathlete, started incorporating cross training such as swimming and cycling about a decade ago to improve her overall fitness while preparing for a marathon.  

“Building my strength and aerobic base translated to improving my running,” she said.

Bonneau exercises twice a day because she’s currently training for the Ironman Louisville: a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. She either swims, cycles, runs or practices yoga in the morning and does another exercise after work. 

“Each year I set a new goal and work towards achieving it,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to be able to look back and realize that I’ve done something that at one point I would have thought impossible.”

Read my other columns in this series:

Building a Habit

Building Mental Toughness

Maintaining Momentum

Got a personal Healthy Duke fitness story, please share it with us.