You have probably heard the term thrown around a lot, and you may be wondering what cross training is. Or better yet whether you are supposed to be cross training, and if so what you should be doing.
Let’s take a look at what cross training is, why it’s important and how you can incorporate it into your fitness routine:
What is cross training?
Cross training is any type of training that is different from your main sport or main method of physical activity. For example, I’m a runner. Cross training for me is anything that is not running – spinning, yoga, barre etc. Obviously, there are better cross training choices than others, and each sports come with specific recommended cross training workouts that help in recovery repair while still developing muscle and strength. The idea behind cross training is that you give your muscles a break that are used to working the same way repetitively for the same sport, and you target other muscles that still help you improve in your sport without overworking your body or causing injury.
Why is cross training important?
- Helps give all your muscles a break that you use repetitively for your sport so they have a chance to recover
- Allows you to work accessory muscles that aren’t directly used in your sport, but which can improve your performance when strengthened.
- Helps prevent injury
- Provides different workout options which work your muscles differently and improve their efficiency and strength.
- Strengthens the body and improves overall fitness and performance
- Keeps us motivated and attentive to our fitness by mixing things up and preventing us from falling into a rut.
What are some good cross training options?
Depending on what your sport or main form of exercise is, here’s some cross training ideas for you:
Spin: This has always been my number one go to when I’m sidelined from running. It’s the only thing that I’ve ever found that comes close to working me as hard and it always leaves me a sweaty mess. On that end, it’s also a great way to maintain cardiovascular fitness if you are injured. Find a class and try it out, or give this workout a try at your gym!
Run: Running is a great cross training option when you spend a lot of time doing strengthening like barre and weight lifting, or if you regularly do low impact activities like yoga and pilates. No matter what your exercise preference, it is important to always get some cardiovascular exercise to give your fitness level a boost and to help prevent heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular related health problems. If you haven’t done much running, start here!
Barre: Don’t be fooled by Barre. It may look like small, simple movements, but the continuous repetitive movements like that really do burn! Barre seeks not to strengthen your big muscles like your quads, hamstrings etc. that you would work when you do weight lifting, but the smaller, less worked muscles that are still just as important but that may get overlooked.
Yoga: Oh yoga. From detoxing, to stretching, to strengthening, yoga does a lot for the body, no matter what your sport of choice. Yoga stretches out those hard-worked muscles, helps strengthen them to improve performance, and has a detoxing effect on the body from the twists (and hot yoga if you prefer), which can help rid our body of energy stealing toxins. Try to incorporate yoga into your fitness routine at least once a week, (even if it is at home!) especially if you’re bad at stretching.
Strengthening: If cardio is your jam, it’s important to throw in some strengthening such as weights, kettlebell, bodypump etc. Strengthening helps prepare our muscles for the increased load placed on them as we build up our cardio routine. For example, runners are often aiming to increase mileage and run more, faster, farther. But often when we try this, it ends in injury because the muscles are not prepared to accept the new load. Strength training lets us build a strong muscle base and increase miles safely and successfully. If you’re ready to give strength training a try, start with this bodyweight workout.
Skipping: Skipping isn’t just for kids. It’s a very effective cardiovascular exercise that burns a lot of calories in a short period of time. This translates to improving your cardiovascular endurance without the same demands on your body as other methods of cardio. Skipping makes a great warm up activity for strength days, or better yet, try out this tabata workout paired with 30-45 minutes of yoga for a well-rounded fitness session.