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Cross Training Explained

You have likely heard the term “cross-training” for the past several years, but you may not be clear on what this fitness term actually involves. Cross-training simply means that you engage in physical activity or sport that is atypical of what your usual physical activity entails. 

It’s quite likely that you have cross-trained at some point but weren’t really aware that’s what you were doing!

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Cross-training is not just for elite athletes, and with a little thought and planning, you too can add cross-training into your schedule.

  • If you stick to only one sport or activity, your body systems become super-efficient and may reach a plateau; cross-training offers your body a fresh fitness challenge.
  • Repetitive movements also increase your risk of an overuse injury.
  • Even when training for a specific sport, a higher level of general fitness can be reached by adding cross-training into the mix.
  • Cross-training can introduce you to new and innovative ways to stay fit, improve body composition, meet new people, and expand your skills and knowledge. 

Cross-training should complement your fitness or sports goals, so it’s best to consult a personal trainer on what types of alternative activities would be ideal for supporting these goals.

It’s important to remember that, for elite and competitive athletes, “principles of specificity of training tend to have greater significance,” meaning that you must train according to the sport you are competing in. Consideration must be given to supporting your goals using cross-training while avoiding overtraining.


Suppose that you are currently training for a triathlon.

  • An excellent option for cross-training might be yoga; all that biking, swimming, and running will develop your cardiovascular and muscle endurance, while a few days a week of yoga will stretch muscles, improve flexibility, and center your focus.
  • So, in addition to the specificity of training for the triathlon, a couple sessions of yoga per week will round out your fitness goals by improving your mental focus, balance, breath control, and flexibility. 

Adding some variety into your workouts by engaging in cross-training offers several benefits. By mixing in some alternative movement patterns and ways to challenge your cardiovascular system, you can increase your strength, power, agility, endurance, and balance. 


Cross-training is a fantastic way to target different muscle groups than you usually hit and offers a change in the way you stress your cardiovascular system.

In order to prepare for mountain biking season, I cross-train by performing a few weekly sessions of intense core training so I can better manage my bike over technical terrain.

 

When you factor in the lowered risk of injury for those who do various activities, the concept of cross-training is a sure bet. 


If you are recovering from an injury, cross-training can offer you an alternative to stay active. For example, if you are a runner recovering from an ankle sprain, taking up swimming will be a great way to challenge your cardiovascular system and develop upper body strength while recovering from the sprain. 


  • Cross-training is an exciting way to avoid the boredom that comes with doing the same sport or activity all of the time. 
  • Research suggests that “For the general population, cross-training may be highly beneficial in terms of overall fitness.”
  • Evaluate your own training, and look for gaps such as flexibility and balance that will be addressed by adding in some cross-training. 

Does your current workout include elements of speed, balance, and coordination, or agility?

Are you challenging and training all muscle groups and incorporating new exercises regularly?

 

Evaluating your exercise and activity routines periodically and reassessing your fitness goals at the same time is essential to making the gains you want and expect from your training. Cross-training can refresh your outlook on exercise and provide you with the variety you need to stay engaged. 



Sources

  • NIH, National Library of Medicine

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