Mix it Up! The Importance of Cross Training
Are you bored with your workout? Injured? Have you hit a plateau? Are you part of the 80% of Americans whose New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and get healthier fell flat by February? The solution might be the same for all of these common fitness foes—cross training!
So what is cross training? Typically it is defined as a fitness program that uses several types of training to support or improve performance in another. It’s NFL players doing Pilates. It’s tri-athletes practicing yoga. It’s Figure Skating meets Ballet. In short, cross training is king!
Here are just a few of the numerous, documented benefits of cross training:
Increase weight loss. Yup. You read that right. If you’re looking to lose weight, chances are you will need to sustain relatively long durations (i.e., more than 30 minutes) of exercise at a higher intensity. This is more easily and effectively achieved if you vary activities, for example, 20 minutes of elliptical, followed by 20 minutes of walking on a treadmill, then 20 minutes of cycling.
Reduce injury. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Use it, or lose it,” but what about, “Overuse it, and lose it?” Participating in the same activities day after day can lead to overuse injuries by excessively overloading the more vulnerable areas of the body like the knees, hips, back, shoulders, and feet. By spreading out your activities, you can dramatically decrease the risk of overuse injury by giving over-used parts of your body a chance to rest and under-used areas a chance to catch-up. Moreover, if you are already injured, cross training can help you maintain fitness levels despite being forced to alter your fitness regime.
Improve total fitness. By performing a variety of exercises from different disciples, you are demanding more of your body than with a traditional approach. Increased variety leads to increased capability. With cross training you can gain muscle, lose fat, increase your cardiovascular capacity, find greater balance, and more—all in one workout.
Maintain your workouts. No matter how passionate you are about your favorite class or activity, if you do it often enough or with excessive repetition, it will become boring. Cross training helps you maintain your enthusiasm for your fitness choice, making it possible to train harder and more consistently and ultimately to perform better overall.
The point is, the body needs change. It craves movement of all types in all planes, which means challenging the big and small muscles, moving forward, backward, side to side, and even upside down, working your muscles and your heart in every way possible. You never know how it will affect your body and your overall health and wellness. So go on, get out there! Try something new!