If you like the idea of working out more often, increasing strength and flexibility, all while eliminating boredom, cross-training is for you! This type of fitness training involves developing a routine that incorporates several different forms of exercise. Technically speaking, it’s been defined as “training in two or more sports to improve fitness and performance, especially in a main sport.” The fitness enthusiast (or athlete) will combine a variety of exercises from various disciplines. For example, if you are a long-distance runner, you might cross train by adding cycling, swimming or weight training to your workout regime.
Cross training shares the cumulative stress of training hard across the body – as a greater number of muscles and joints become exposed to impact or strain. It builds strength and flexibility that would not be possible through one activity alone. Last but not least, cross-training is fantastic for preventing boredom or worse – burnout.
One of the benefits of cross-training for exercise enthusiasts is that you can exercise every day, as long as you switch disciplines, mixing things up a little every day. For example, you might run on Monday, do yoga on Tuesday, swim on Wednesday, run again on Thursday, workout with weights/elliptical trainer/exercise bike Friday, run on Saturday, and long distance cycle on Sunday. Another practical advantage is the added flexibility to your timetable. For example, if it’s raining you can hit the gym; if the pool is closed, just get on your bike.
Reduced risk of injury
Partaking in more than one exercise activity means that there is much less chance of injury. This is particularly true for runners, athletes or fitness fans who partake in a lot of lower limb activities, making knees, ankles and hips more prone to developing problems. These individuals can benefit from introducing cross-training activities such as swimming, water running, cycling or yoga. However, cross-training is not an antidote for overuse. If you are training too much, you are training too much. It’s important to remember that rest is an essential part of getting fit.
Improved overall fitness
Cross-train regularly and it’s likely that you will feel fitter all round. Your muscular strength and muscle conditioning will improve, making you feel more energetic and capable. These results will far outweigh the benefits gained by an individual who performs one activity only, such as running or lifting weights.
Significantly assists weight loss
Research now shows that for many, the best way to lose weight is to exercise in relatively long durations – more than 30 minutes – at a moderate level of intensity (somewhere between 60 to 85% of your maximum heart rate). For beginners or those a little overweight, this can be a problem. Working out for a full 30 or 40 minutes on the one activity might be too much. Instead, 10 minutes on an exercise bike, 15 minutes walking, then 15 minutes on an elliptical trainer will have your heart beating for a good 40 minutes – without feeling like you’ve run a half marathon!
Fights boredom – and injury
Research has shown that crosstraining increases ‘exercise adherence’, which is a fancy way of saying that you are less likely to quit. Many individuals find that doing only one type of exercise too dull, and consequently drop out; while other single-activity exercisers are forced to hang up their shoes because of injury. Spicing up your routine with different activities not only keeps things interesting, but reduces the chance of injury.
Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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