Benefits of Cross Training


Cross training is a technique where you utilise a wide variety of activities and training methods to develop a broad base of fitness.

Cross training can also make your training more enjoyable and improve your performance.

It’s often used by professional athletes to prevent overuse injuries, instead of continually stressing the same muscles and joints. For example, a runner could add cycling and swimming to their routine to strengthen muscles not used in running while still maintaining their aerobic fitness. But it can also be used by everyone to help maintain motivation and boost their interest in exercise. Following are eight reasons why cross training can benefit you and help achieve your health and fitness goals.

1 Motivation

No matter how motivated you are to lose weight, get fit and stay in shape, if you do the same exercise over and over again, chances are it will eventually become boring.

Boredom has been identified as one of the main reasons people quit exercise. You need variety to prevent monotony and maintain interest so you can stick with your program and get results.

Motivation is one of the major benefits of cross training, because you focus on doing different activities and mixing up your routine. Variety keeps your body and mind fresh, and keeps you coming back for more.

2 Prevention of injury

Doing the same exercise repeatedly can lead to overuse injuries, which can occur because of poor technique, muscular imbalances and a lack of recovery time between training sessions. By performing different cross-training active ties, you get a break from the normal impact of training and participating in a specific sport or activity. Cross training distributes the stress of exercise more evenly, and gives your muscles, tendons, bones, joints and ligaments a rest. It allows you to train hard all year round while reducing overuse injuries.

Another way cross training works to prevent injury is by reducing or reversing any muscular imbalances in the body. It can prevent muscle strains and tears that occur when one dominant muscle group exerts more force than its opposing, weaker muscle group can handle. For example, a tennis player may develop an imbalance in their back or shoulder because one side of their body is so much more active than the other, pulling the body out of natural alignment. Cross training can even out the muscular strength in both sides of your body and also improve the stabilisation around your joints by strengthening supporting muscles.

3 Improved balance and skill

Balance can be improved through participation in a variety of activities, which can boost your athletic performance in many sports. Balance can be stationary and dynamic, as it affects your ability to manoeuvre around objects, walk on uneven surfaces, and reach for things that are high, low or out to the side. Good balance can help you avoid a fall or break a fall and minimise injury.

Because cross training allows your muscles to experience different forces and angles from a range of activities, it can also help to improve skills such as your agility, coordination, reaction time, speed and power. Activities like Pilates include a lot of balance and flexibility exercises, and can be a beneficial addition to your cross-training program.

4 Enjoyment

To make health and fitness a regular part of your life you must enjoy it. If you include a variety of activities that are fun, you will be more likely to incorporate them into everyday life.

You will also be more likely to continue exercising or playing sport, and develop healthy lifelong habits. Cross training can also add enjoyment to your exercise program by giving you flexibility.

It’s hard to motivate yourself to swim on a wet, miserable day, so substitute a workout at the gym instead.

Another source of motivation is the opportunity for social interaction. A swimmer whose normal training is very isolated can still improve their fitness with a game of soccer, while mixing with other people. It allows you to involve family and friends in your health and fitness routine, and even meet new people.

5 Learn new skills

Cross training allows you to try new exercises and training methods outside the normal routines commonly associated with your dominant activity.

You can develop a wide range of skills, such as cognitive (requiring a group of thought processes), perceptual (interpreting presented information), motor (movement and muscle control by instinct) and perceptual motor (thought, interpretation and movement).

By participating in different sports, you will learn a range of new skills and improve your hand–eye coordination. These skills can then cross over and improve your performance in other sports and activities.

6 Develop a broader base of fitness

Because general fitness includes cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, muscle strength and flexibility, participating in a wide variety of activities can produce better results for most people.

Aerobic fitness, muscular strength and flexibility are highly transferable capacities between sports and activities, so improved fitness can lead to a greater level of enjoyment from a wider range of activities.

Another way to cross train is to vary the different parameters of exercise to make your set activity more interesting.

For example, you can alternate between lower and higher intensity activities, vary the duration between short and long training sessions, or vary the frequency of exercise by training on more or fewer days of the week. One possible exception to this is elite athletes, who need to focus more on the specific muscles, movement patterns and energy systems for their chosen activity.

7 Improved recovery from injury

If you have some muscle soreness or an existing injury, cross training is very beneficial. It allows you to perform an activity that puts a minimum amount of stress on the parts of your body that need rest, while putting a moderate amount of stress on other body parts that are not fatigued. You can then maintain a certain level of fitness and prevent the accumulation of body fat, which may otherwise occur because of an enforced lay-off from your preferred or primary exercise.

This is sometimes referred to as an active recovery, where a runner with shin splints can train on a punching bag or a swimmer with a shoulder injury can use an exercise bike.

8 Greater fat burning

If your goal is to maximise weight and fat loss, then it’s important to exercise on most or preferably all days of the week. But at the same time, it’s also important to stay mentally and physically fresh as you strive to improve your activity levels and eating habits.

Cross training allows you to stay active by choosing exercises that target unused body parts, and rest fatigued muscles. If cross training can prevent injuries, keep you motivated, add enjoyment and improve your level of fitness, your levels of fat and weight loss will only improve. Just make sure your dominant activity is long, rhythmic, continuous and weight bearing, such as walking and running, to maximise fat burning.

fun cross training Bushwalking Team sports Kayaking/canoeing Swimming Mountain biking Surfing/ bodyboarding/ bodysurfing Weight training Rollerblading Martial arts Golf train well When trying new activities, begin slowly, and gradually increase your duration and intensity over time.

Intersperse your cardiovascular exercises with weight training and stretching.

Include activities and sports you enjoy or have always wanted to try.

If your exercise routine includes high-intensity sessions, schedule light-training days or even complete rest days to help your body recover.

Don’t hesitate to get professional help from a personal trainer or lifestyle coach for extra guidance.

now try this . . .

This sample cross-training program is ideal for fat loss and improving general heart health. You may want to add strength training or team sports if you don’t have a lot of body fat to lose. Make sure your dominant activity is most likely to help you achieve your goal. For example, if your goal is fat loss, you should make walking and running your dominant activity, but if your goal is muscle strength, your dominant activity should be strength training. National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

DAY ACTIVITY Sunday Kayak paddle or swim laps Monday Walk/cycle Tuesday Aquaerobics Wednesday H ill walk or stretches Thursday Beach run/walk on soft sand or go for a bush-walk Friday T eam sport (volleyball or basketball) Saturday Rest day; stretches or take a light walk

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