Are you stuck in a workout rut? Biking the same route four times a week but not getting any faster? Worried your recurring hip pain will slow you down in that 10K next month?
If you’re like most fitness enthusiasts, your goals include getting stronger and faster, improving your athletic performance and avoiding injuries. And these goals are easy to achieve – if you vary your workout regimen. Here are four major benefits of cross-training to get you in gear:
Sprained ankles, pulled hamstrings, shin splints, sore quadriceps – the list goes on. Aches, pains and injuries are a reality when it comes to exercise, and frequently stem from overuse. For many injuries, continuing your normal exercise regimen can make matters worse. So if you’re forced to hang up your running shoes for a few weeks? Try something new! With your doctor’s consent, cross-training can be an ideal way to stay active as you heal. Depending on the type and severity of your injury, biking, swimming and yoga or Pilates are great low-impact options that will keep you in shape throughout your recovery. Cross-training can actually speed up recovery time by increasing blood flow to damaged muscle tissue.
The most commonly-cited reason to cross-train is to reduce your risk of getting hurt. Completing the same physical action over and over puts tremendous strain on your joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons, so it’s helpful to give them a break now and then. Runners, for example, put major stress on their legs through repeated motions. Mixing in other forms of exercise can help your body recover between runs, which is especially important when training for a race, or running long distances. Yoga and Pilates are especially complementary to running as they build core strength and improve flexibility – a major benefit as runners often suffer from tight hamstrings, calves, and hips.
Improved All-Around Fitness
If you always work the same muscle groups in the same ways, your body will get used to the routine and your results will reach a plateau. But if you mix in different types of exercise, your body will be kept guessing, and will continue to improve. Changing up your routine is also a chance to activate under-used muscles. Runners and bikers can use swimming, boxing, or weight training to cross-train their upper body muscles, allowing them to catch-up to their more-developed leg muscles. By increasing total-body strength, flexibility and stamina, cross-training can enhance your overall fitness and help you thrive at your primary sport.
Doing the same exercise over and over is not only an easy way to get hurt; it’s also an easy way to get bored. Workouts should be challenging but also enjoyable, so choose cross-training activities that you genuinely like doing, not just those that target your neglected muscle groups. How about Zumba, salsa lessons, geocaching, rock climbing, or playing tennis with a friend?
What are your favorite cross-training activities and how has cross-training helped you? Let us know!