As you can probably tell, I’m a very big fan of cross training. When I first began the journey to improve my overall level of fitness four years ago, I promised myself that it would be a lasting change, with a focus on altering my lifestyle, not my weight, and I wanted the change to be permanent. I initially started with running. Running is an activity that can be done alone, and it doesn’t take a huge capital commitment to get started. The downside to running is that, unless you have a partner, it can get boring. And let’s face it — sometimes it just plain hurts.
It’s easy to become bored with your workout routine. I eventually reached a point where I was having a hard time getting motivated to go run. That was when I decided to add swimming to my routine. I was fortunate enough to have a pool ten minutes from work, and mixing up my routine helped keep it fresh. Eventually, I decided to do a triathlon and added cycling to the mix.
What is cross training?
At its core, cross training is the combination of a different exercises to work different muscle groups. Triathletes are, by definition, cross trainers. I’ve found that the cross training approach to physical fitness offers a lot of advantages over focusing on a single activity. By mixing up my routine, I reduce the chance of overuse injury and burnout. It is also a better approach to total body fitness, as it works a variety of different muscle groups. The more modern approach to physical conditioning often incorporates cross training into workouts of elite athletes. You can find cross training ideas for marathon runners here.
Cross training for fitness
For those of us with the responsibility of full-time jobs, families, and homes, we must make the best use of our time to stay fit. Cross training offers great benefits in maximizing the time we have available. One downside you may have to accept though is reduced performance in a given area. For example, if you consider yourself a “runner,” and you can only fit four workouts a week into your schedule, making the decision to substitute one of those workouts for strength training may reduce your running efficiency. We’ve already gone over the potential benefits. Only you can make the decision whether that change is worth the it. I found that it works well for me.