If you workout or exercise regularly, you should change up your activities every now and then to avoid injury and to reach new levels of fitness. Cross training combines two or more types of exercise into your physical activity routine. Repeating the same movements over and over can make you very good at a sport, improve endurance and build muscle. But it also can keep you from moving beyond a certain level of fitness. It can also cause injury from overworking the same muscles.
According to Laurie Tucker, MS, CHES, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, "Regardless of your age, you should incorporate activities which help you reach and sustain the four building blocks of fitness: cardiovascular endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. It is important to alternate the types of cardiovascular exercise you participate in each day."
Benefits of Cross Training
Besides relieving boredom and giving you a more balanced workout, cross training can help you:
- Become a more well-rounded athlete
- Learn new and different skills
- Have more flexibility with your workouts (For example, if the pool is closed, you can cycle or walk.)
- Continue being active even if you are sore or have a minor injury, by doing an activity such as swimming or walking which will not aggravate the injury
- Take a mental break from the stress of single-sport training or competition
- Improve your overall athletic performance
Here are some activities in each of the four major fitness categories that you can use to create some fun, new workouts:
- Running/jogging/brisk walking
- Rope jumping
- Cross-country skiing
- Stair climbing
- Court or team sports (volleyball, tennis, racquetball)
- Free weights
- Weight machines/circuit training
- Bands and tubes
- Boot camp/calisthenics (performing as many exercises such as pushups, pull ups, or jumping jacks as you can until you feel fatigued)
- Water workouts (aquatics)
- Martial arts
- Martial arts
- Tai Chi
- Dance (Tango and other types that require good posture and an awareness of the body's movements)
Another way to cross train is to prepare for a triathlon or other sports event. For a triathlon, your training alternates swimming, biking, and running or walking workouts. Training for a sports event is also a great fitness motivator that can be lots of fun, especially if you train with others.
You also could add more than one kind of exercise into a single workout session. For instance, rather than one hour of step aerobics only do 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of strength training and 15 minutes of stretching. To avoid injury, strength training should be done 2-3 times a week per muscle group.
So what are you waiting for? Design a cross-training program today, Regardless of the exercises you choose, remember to start a new activity slowly and gradually build on your routine. Allow enough time at the beginning and end of your workout to warm up and cool down. And consult your doctor before starting a new routine if you have specific health concerns.