Everyone has a favorite type of exercise. Some people walk into their gym, do a few miles on the treadmill, and call it a day. Others may find themselves getting their 30 minutes a day by playing sports or from a mindful yoga practice. While there isn’t necessarily a wrong way to incorporate exercise into the daily routine, repeating the same workout each day may limit athletic potential. Studies have found that cross training, or incorporating different workouts to one’s regime, offers more health benefits than sticking to the same gym routine.
Cross training is recognized as a major step both in athletic training and overall health management. Studies have shown that using different muscle groups in varying types of exercises can accelerate weight loss. However, mixing up the regular workout offers far more benefits than that. Cross training has also been found to improve other aspects of health such as balance, coordination, strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. Adding variety to one’s daily workout can also reduce the risk of injury. Rotating exercise routines disperses the stress of exercise to other muscle groups and joints throughout the body. This reduces strain and overload, allowing the body to continue daily exercises without injury.
Surprisingly, it is much easier than it sounds to incorporate cross training into each individual’s fitness routine. Cross training is not a specific exercise schedule or class – it is meant to be personalized to each persons’ preferences. Because the goal of cross training is to counterbalance one’s typical workout, whether it is running or swimming, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. To get started, it is important to consider what the body does in a typical workout session and which types of exercises will expand on the movement and muscles used. For those who are unsure as to where to start, consider mixing up the workout with these five exercises:
Yoga is a great addition for runners or strength trainers. Yoga poses allow the body to move in different planes of motion than running and strength training. This will help balance any muscular imbalances and develop flexibility.
Cycling provides the body an opportunity to incorporate cardiovascular endurance and leg strengthening. It also is great for heart and lung health! Cycling is beneficial for yogis and strength trainers but can also be a low impact option for runners. The option of cycling backwards also allows for a new range of motion and other muscles to be used.
3. Rock climbing
For those who already are cycling regularly, rock climbing is a challenging addition to the routine. Rock climbing requires moving in different planes of motion and relies on strength in hands, arms, and legs. It is a unique way to incorporate strength training to cardio routines.
4. Martial arts
Many runners and athletes can benefit from practicing martial arts. What martial arts lacks in cardiovascular endurance, it makes up for by utilizing lower body strength and balance.
Getting in the water for a few laps is a refreshing way to exercise the entire body. Runners, strength trainers, and athletes of all kinds can benefit from swimming. It is a low impact exercise that gets the heart rate up while giving the legs a break.
Mixing up a regular exercise routine is a great start to cross training, however, many experts recommend changing up the cross training schedule each month! Though it is not necessary to discover brand new exercises, continuing to mix up the intensity and frequency of workouts is beneficial. However, if one may choose to cross train, one thing is for sure – the days of boring workouts are certainly in the past.
Burke, E. R. (1994). The wisdom of cross training. Strength and Conditioning, 16(1), 58-60.
Iglayreger, H., Muth, T., Robert, C., Peterson, M., & Gordon, P. (2012). Recumbent Cross-Training is a Viable Exercise Option for Overweight Adults. Medicine and Science In Sports And Exercise, 44, 911-912.
Oʼshea, P. (1990). PRINCIPLES OF PROGRAM DESIGN: The science of cross-training: Theory and application for peak performance. National Strength & Conditioning Association Journal, 12(6), 33-38.