The How and Why of Cross Training


The How and Why of Cross Training

Steve has been running 5kms every weekday for about 10 years. He runs the same route at the same pace, taking just under 30 minutes. Steve is really good at running 5kms in just under 30 minutes.

I recently met with Steve as he is frustrated that he isn’t running faster. As he exercises regularly, Steve expected to perform pretty well in his health assessment.

His cardiovascular fitness was OK, however he was surprised to find that his upper body strength, core strength, muscular endurance and flexibility were all below average.

Now this is not to say that running is a waste of time. Running is fantastic exercise. However, what is not optimal is doing the same exercise day in and day out, over and over again.

This is a common trap many people fall into when beginning an exercise program. Initially, you become fitter and stronger. After a few weeks of the same routine, your fitness will plateau as your body gets used to the exercise routine. You may become really good at specific movements, but doing the same exercise over and over limits the potential for overall fitness and health.

Think of it like eating a head of broccoli every morning: broccoli is healthy, but if that’s all you eat you are missing out on a lot of different nutrients. The same goes with running every day. You will have strong leg muscles, but what about your core and upper body?

Cross training refers to the practice of engaging in different types of exercise in order to improve your fitness or performance. Undertaking a range of activities has a number of benefits:

  1. Varies the stresses placed on your muscles reducing the possibility of overuse or injury.

  2. Reduces the chance of you getting bored from repeating the same activity day in and day out.

  3. Cross training improves your fitness on all different levels and helps avoid muscle imbalances that can come from focussing too heavily on one muscle group.

  4. A range of fitness activities improves your overall mobility, balance, flexibility and agility.

  5. Variation and flexibility in your training program allows you to adjust your plan if the weather or life gets in the way of your workout.

Include interval and sprint training

You can’t just go out and run 5kms faster than you did yesterday. In order to improve your speed you need to run / swim / ride in short, fast intervals, training your body to move at the increased speed for longer periods of time. For example run repeats of 400m hard with 1 minute recovery, swim 50m sprints with 30 seconds recovery, ride 1km hard every 5 minutes. Adding short, fast spurts of speed into your training will improve your fitness, increase your speed and initiate fat burning.

In order to run faster you must run faster.

Include aerobic and strength training

People who focus on the cardiovascular system (i.e. long distance walks, runs, swims etc) without any strength training often end up injured as they fail to provide a strength base for the repetitive moments. Those who just lift weights without any cardiovascular training may end up with great muscle bulk, but no endurance. It’s essential to combine both cardiovascular and strength training into any fitness program.

Change your routine regularly

So many people work mindlessly through the same exercise routine week after week and wonder why nothing changes. Your body gets used to exercise and it’s essential that you keep challenging your systems in order to keep seeing changes. Use different equipment, increase your weights, introduce a new activity, throw in a different challenge. Keep your body guessing to avoid becoming stagnant and bored.

Include circuit training

Circuit training is the perfect way to cross-train as you hit a whole range of muscle groups in the one session. Moving quickly from a leg exercise to an upper body exercise forces the heart rate to increase in order to shunt the blood and oxygen around the body. Alternatively, moving from a strength exercise, such as a push-up to an aerobic exercise, such as sprints, places a high level of positive stress on the body. These are both highly efficient ways to improve fitness levels.

Repeating the same activity over and over is a simple way to become bored, unmotivated and stuck in a rut. Get your body moving in different ways at every opportunity. Go rock climbing with your friends, play soccer with the kids, hire a paddle board, swim through the waves. Mix up your training sessions as often as you can in order to get maximum results and most fun. As soon as you conquer an exercise, change it up to make it more challenging. As our Fit My Day team know all too well……

What seems impossible today will one day become your warm up

by Angie Black

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Hey! I’m Angie. I’m passionate about fitting exercise into your life, for the rest of your life.