What is cross training and why is it important?

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What is cross training and why is it important?

September 2, 2009

Cross Train

What is this cross training you speak of?

Cross training is typically defined as an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to develop a specific component of fitness.

What are the benefits of cross training?

Here are few of the numerous documented benefits cross training has to offer:

  • Reduced risk of injury. By spreading the cumulative level of orthopedic stress over additional muscles and joints, individuals are able to exercise more frequently and for longer durations without excessively overloading particularly vulnerable areas of the body (e.g., knees, hips, back, shoulders, elbows and feet). People who are particularly prone to lower-leg problems from running long distances should consider incorporating low-impact activities such as elliptical training, cycling and swimming into their regimens. It should be noted, however, that competitive cross-trainers can experience certain overuse injuries due to inadequate muscle rest, an unbalanced workout schedule, or both.
  • Enhanced weight loss. Individuals who want to lose weight and body fat should engage in an exercise program that enables them to safely burn a significant number of calories. Research has shown that such a goal, in most instances, is best accomplished when individuals exercise for relatively long durations (i.e., more than 30 minutes) at a moderate level of intensity (i.e., 60 percent to 85 percent of maximal heart rate). Overweight individuals can effectively achieve a reduction in body weight and fat stores by combining two or more physical activities in a cross-training regimen. They can, for example, exercise on an elliptical trainer for 20 to 30 minutes and then cycle for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Improved total fitness. Cross training can include activities that develop muscular fitness, as well as aerobic conditioning. While an individual's muscular fitness gains will typically be less than if he or she participated only in strength training, the added benefits of improving muscular strength and endurance can pay substantial dividends. For example, research has shown that resistance training can help individuals prevent injury, control body weight and improve functional capacity.
  • Enhanced exercise adherence. Research on exercise adherence indicates that many individuals drop out of exercise programs because they become bored or injured. Cross training is a safe and relatively easy way to add variety to an exercise program. In the process, it can play a positive role in promoting long-term exercise adherence by reducing the incidence of injury and eliminating or diminishing the potential for boredom.

Pretty impressive…how can I get started?

The essential fundamentals of cross training are the same whether you are exercising for improved health and fitness or for competition. Try varying your exercise program from workout to workout by engaging in different types of activities, or simply add a new form of exercise (e.g., resistance training, Pilates, a boot-camp class) to your existing workout routine.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate cross training is to alternate between activities (e.g., run one day, stair climb the next, cycle the next). You can also alternate activities within a single workout (e.g., walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes, exercise on an elliptical trainer for 10 minutes and cycle for 10 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes of exercise).

The moral of the story is that cross training can offer you a refreshing physical and mental challenge. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and give something new a try!

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