I’ve been substituting my regular run scheduled for Thursday evenings with 7s rugby practice for the summer. Thursdays aren’t really long runs, so I figure I can go out and burn more calories playing rugby while having fun and getting a good run in. It’s good cross training because it works every muscle, especially core muscles. I end up spiking and recovering my heart rate instead of keeping it steady like a would in a normal training run too. It’s just fun to mix it up, and I love playing rugby.

Plus there is beer afterward.

I’ve discovered Coach Brett over at ZenTriathlon recently, and I’ve really been enjoying his podcasts. There’s some really good stuff in there about triathlon in general, and his style totally vibes with the way I like to train. One of the things he talks about are “Push/Pull Workouts” where he’ll do a 6 mile run, stopping at each mile to do pushups, squats, pullups, etc. I realized that’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been doing at rugby practice, although the intervals of running are much shorter intervals and at a much higher intensity.

I wore my heart rate monitor for the first hour of practice last night and kept splits just to get an idea of the intensity of the non-contact drills we were doing. I averaged right at 135 bpm for the first hour of practice (that included water breaks and the dynamic stretching warmup), but I spiked it close to 180 during the two most intense periods.  I know it got at least that high later in the practice when we were scrimmaging and I had long sprints.

A bonus in disguise was that I forgot my rugby boots at home, so I trained barefoot. I haven’t been doing much barefoot running at all, and it was probably good for me to get a good two hours of action without shoes. The only part of practice I skipped was the repetitive tackling drill, but I made good use of the time, doing “Jacos” around the field during that period.

Jacos is a fitness drill we used to do in college. Many rugby teams do variations, but we called the drill “Jacos” in honor of the coach who brought it to our club. It’s a not-so-fun way to run laps.

You start in one corner at the goal line, sprint to the halfway, jog to the opposite corner, stop for exercises–pushups/situps/burpees/squats/jackknives/mountain climbers–jog across the field to the opposite corner for a different exercise, and so on. So it’s sprint, jog, exercise, jog, exercise, sprint, jog, exercise, jog, exercise….

You get the idea, right? This is a great rugby fitness drill because it simulates a lot of stuff that’s going on in a game–high intensity bursts with lower intensity recovery runs and “lifting” sprinkled in. Lots of moving your own body weight around and getting up off the ground.

Keeping my triathlon goals of getting a core workout and staying in a training zone in mind, I like to add two exercise stations at the halfway line on either side of the field and substitute the jogs and sprints with a steadier, more intense pace. I got in four laps of that (about a mile) barefoot while the tackling drill was going on. Sounds a lot like a modified Push/Pull Run, huh? That’s what fitness end of rugby training is like for the most part, and why I think it’s a good substitute for at least one of my workouts each week. It also does me a lot of good mentally because it throws a curve into my training and involves something I really love doing.