How to Improve your Fitness with Cross-Training.

Cross-training featured image.

A lot of people typically find one training type they like to stick with. As in, some people like to lift weights and stick to that while others may prefer yoga. Whatever it may be, a lot of people normally choose a single training type and stick to it as a part of their fitness regiment. However, have you ever considered cross-training?

Cross-training is, simply put, training within multiple different disciplines of exercise. That means, even if your main exercise type is weight lifting, you might throw in a good swimming or cycling workout. Cross-training can be a great way to diversify your workouts or even your clients workouts and keep motivation high.

What is Cross-Training?

Cross-training is a training method used to prevent injury from repetitive movement, improve performance, and keep motivation high. The concept is rather simple. Let’s say you are a runner. Most runners will stick to primarily running as their main source of exercise.

The reason being is running is a great way to get better at… you guessed it, running. Just like weight lifting is great if you want to get better at weight lifting.

With each training type comes its main goal. To get stronger, to get better cardio, and so forth. Based on this, many people take their fitness goal – to get stronger for example – and pick the training type that best suites them for that goal.

However, going back to the runner example, there are many ways you can improve your cardio or even get better at running, while not running. For example, swimming can be a fantastic way to supplement a run as a good cardio exercise.

This is the essence of cross training. Taking a diverse approach to training.

What are the benefits of Cross-Training?

A major reason why cross-training is great is because it can help work other muscle groups your traditional training doesn’t hit. For example, as a runner sticking to the same type of running workouts, will work the same muscle groups the same way.

However, introducing swimming as a cardio exercise can be beneficial because it can still be a hard cardio workout but it also works your muscles in different ways.

In doing so, you are working different muscles in different ways while still achieving the overall goal of working your cardio. Additionally, you can reduce the risk of injury from the repetitive use of muscles when training within the same discipline.

Aside from this, cross-training also helps you in many other ways:

  • Reduces the likelihood of you getting bored of your training.
  • Gives some muscle a break while others are still training.
  • Improves your all around conditioning level.
  • Can improve your skill and mind-body connection as you are focusing on other exercises and muscle groups.

How to diversify your workouts.

If you want to diversify your workouts into a multi-disciplinary approach, then there are countless possibilities. There are many different ways to approach it and different goals your can accommodate.

Your reason doesn’t have to be anything super specific to want to take a multi-disciplinary approach to your training. Your reason could be you are getting bored of your current workouts or you want more well rounded conditioning.

First start off with why you train the way you do to begin with. Many athletes have an overall goal, as we have discussed earlier. This is their primary reason for training. Whether it be get better cardio, get stronger, to be more athletic, or any other reason, make sure you have yours identified. This way you can train within other disciplines but still be working towards your overall goal.

Here are a couple cross training ideas by training type:

Cardio

If you’re primary focus is cardio training, here are a couple ways to train cardio while mixing it up:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Jump Rope
  • Basketball

Strength

The main goal of strength training is to strengthen muscle and bones. Strength training also includes improvements in balance and coordination. Here are some additional options:

  • Calisthenics – Push ups, crunches, pull ups…
  • Free weights
  • Weight Machines
  • Using bands for resistance exercise
  • Olympic Lifting

Using Cross-training in Active Recovery.

Active recovery is essentially where you give your body time to recover through low-intensity exercise. When we think of recovery, many people think of taking time off from exercise all together. However, according to sports medicine experts, this might not be the best case.

Many people distinguish recovery and exercise as two different things. But the more and more we learn about how our body responds to stimulus, we are learning that active recovery may be the better option (in most cases).

Active recovery should come in the form of an active cool down post-workout or as an active recovery day.

Benefits

Studies show there are many benefits to active recovery including increased endurance and faster recovery times. Here are a couple benefits:

  • Helps reduce lactic acid build up.
  • Reduces inflammation due to increase blood flow.
  • Can help reduce soreness.
  • Betting condition level then passive recovery.

Related content: Blood lactate clearance after active recovery.

How to integrate Cross-training as an active recovery routine.

There are three primary types of active recovery. Here are their differences:

As a Cool down

Lets face it, after a tough workout, we all want to lay down and watch the sky spin. While this is an entertaining option, wouldn’t you rather recover better? After a hard workout, try hopping on a cycle or treadmill and go at a light to medium pace for anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes. The goal here is to keep your heart rate up just above your resting heart rate.

Where cross-training comes in is dependent on the type of training you are using as your cool down activity. If you are strength training, try hopping on the treadmill for a light jog or even hop in the pool for some light water jogging or go for a couple laps.

This is great because you will still recover but while still training.

Interval Training

The idea here is to implement active recovery in between bouts of intense activity during a workout. For example, as a runner, your workout might be to do 12 x 200m sprints with 30-45 seconds break in between each sprint.

Try jogging in between sprints at a very light pace. If you are on a track, job back to the start line before starting another sprint.

As a weight lifter, try doing some light jump roping in between sets or low weight repetitions of exercises of your choice.

Active recovery during a rest day

The day or two following a hard workout or competition, try going for a long walk, light jog, or an easy bike ride. This will help get the blood flowing and your muscles will recover faster.

Using Cross-Training as a Personal Trainer

As a personal trainer, cross-training can be a great tool to use to help clients recover faster and stay motivated from workout-to-workout.

If you are able to mix up their recovery days with fun exercises that still target their goals, they may be more excited about each workout.

Additionally, as a trainer, you want to maximize the recovery your clients are seeing because this means they can adapt faster and increase the intensity of their workouts.

Related content: 10 tips for increasing client motivation

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