Cross-training involves engaging in different types of physical activity and brings multiple benefits. It is an excellent way to prevent sports-related injuries, improve your skill in a variety of sports and improve your overall health–all while keeping workout boredom at bay. A good cross-training program improves all three elements of fitness: aerobic endurance, flexibility and strength.
You can cross-train within the same workout (e.g., doing a combination of stretching and a strength-training class) or by alternating activities throughout the week (cycling one day, jogging the next, taking a dance class over the weekend). It’s especially helpful to switch between high-impact workouts (running, tennis, racquetball) and low-impact activities (swimming, recumbent cycling), since combining the two will increase endurance, build muscle and improve cardiovascular health–all while avoiding repetitive strain injuries.
How exactly does cross-training offer sports-related injury prevention? Let’s say you are a competitive runner. You run every day, never allowing your body to rest and recover. You overuse certain muscle groups and ignore others, causing an imbalance in your body that can easily lead to strain. When cross-training, you space your runs out to every other day, and on your “off” days, you alternate yoga, a Pilates class and a short workout on a recumbent bike at your gym. Your sore lower back and tight hamstrings start to abate, as you stretch these key muscles in yoga. Pilates strengthens your core and minimizes the impact to joints and soft tissues. And your stiff knees benefit from the safe strengthening offered by the recumbent bike.
Runners aren’t the only ones who can benefit from cross-training. Professional athletes are fond of this type of training (we’ve all heard stories of football players taking up ballet), but nonathletic types will find it equally beneficial. The beauty of cross-training is that simple, fun activities apply. Taking a hike with your dog one day and attending a swing-dance class the next qualifies as cross-training. The goal is to enjoy 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, and to make sure you tackle strength training, flexibility and exercise.
Talk with us about designing a cross-training program that works for you. After all, the key to a successful fitness program is making it fun and pain-free!