What’s your favorite way to stay in shape? Are you a runner or do you prefer strength training and a yoga workout afterward? If you cross-train, you don’t have to choose. You can do them all at different times or even in the same workout through circuit training. There are some advantages to cross-training too. Not only will you gain more satisfaction using this mode of training, but you can also potentially make greater gains.
What is cross-training? It’s a workout approach that uses multiple training modalities to achieve a higher fitness level. Rather than doing a single type of exercise, you incorporate a variety of exercises and movements into your fitness routine. These days, more coaches and athletic trainers are using cross-training to get athletes into tiptop shape and keep them motivated. They believe using a cross-training approach keeps athletes on top of their game. Let’s look at five advantages of the cross-training approach to get your fittest and why you should consider it when you work out.
Cross Training Will Help You Stay Motivated
One reason people abandon their workouts is boredom. When you first start exercising, your motivation level is through the roof. You’re learning something new, and the exercises and movements are novel to you. You also get the satisfaction of challenging yourself in a new way. But if you stick with the same workout all the time, your motivation level may wane, and you’ll start making excuses and skipping your workouts. You might say a lack of time is keeping you from working out, but boredom may be the real culprit.
By including a variety of exercises and training modalities in your routine, you’ll stay more motivated and challenged and feel less bored. Stagnation is a motivation killer, and cross-training keeps your workouts fresh and interesting. With so many ways to stay physically active, there’s no need to do what no longer brings you joy.
Lower Risk of Injury
It’s not just boredom that stops people from working out; an injury can take you out of commission too. The most common types of injuries are overuse or repetitive use injuries, those that come from doing the same movements over and over without giving the muscles involved in these movements enough rest and recovery time.
For example, runners are prone to overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinitis that can keep them on the sidelines for weeks. Cross-training lowers the risk of injury by working your muscles using a variety of movements and modalities. Such variations in movement patterns reduce repetitive stress on your muscles and joints. It’s a healthier approach for your musculoskeletal system and joints and one that will keep you from being sidelined with an injury.
You’ll Develop More Balanced Fitness
Doing the same type of training over and over means you become fitter and better at doing one thing. That’s because adaptations to exercise training are specific to the activity you do. For example, runners get faster, gain stamina and build greater cardiovascular fitness and lower body endurance but may lack upper body strength and flexibility.
Fitness comes in different forms: strength, endurance, agility, balance, and flexibility. By including various forms of exercise in your training, you’ll develop more balanced fitness. For example, runners can benefit from strength training and yoga for flexibility and balance. If you run or strength train, you can also include plyometrics drills, like squat jumps and platform jumps, for agility.
The take-home message? Mix it up! By engaging in various movements and modalities rather than a single one, you can build greater strength, endurance, coordination, agility, flexibility, and lose weight too. It’s all about building balanced fitness and doing it with the fewest injuries.
Cross Training May Help with Weight Loss, Too
When you vary the exercises that you do in a single workout, you may not tire as quickly and can sustain your workout longer since you’re incorporating various movements into your training. That increases the calorie burn and may give you a modest weight loss advantage.
Also, your body gradually becomes more efficient at doing whatever movements you do during your routine workouts. With increased efficiency, calorie burn drops and that can reduce the number of calories you burn and the amount of body fat you lose.
Prevent Muscle Imbalances
Muscle imbalances occur when one muscle group is stronger than its opposing muscle group. For example, you might have stronger biceps than triceps or stronger quads than hamstrings. You can also have a stronger lower body than an upper body. These are classic examples of muscle imbalances, something you don’t want. Muscle imbalances are particularly common in runners since they mainly use their lower bodies. Such imbalances increase the injury and can indirectly make it harder to build strength by affecting your form when you train. Cross-training is one way to avoid this problem. When you do a variety of movements and exercises, you work more muscles, and that helps prevent muscle imbalances.
The Bottom Line
Hope this convinces you that you need to cross-train. You’ll quickly discover that there are mental and physical benefits to doing so. Getting started can be as easy as choosing two or three fitness activities and alternating between them within the same session or on different days. For example, you might do 15 minutes of plyometrics followed by jogging on a treadmill for 15 minutes. The next day might be strength training followed by yoga. Enjoy the variety! Be consistent, but don’t be too much of a creature of habit!
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