Often we find ourselves caught up in “our” thing. My thing is running; although I have made attempts to make my thing triathlons, I am still a work in progress. It is easy to get pulled into the mindset that to be a better runner, I simply need to run. I have lately found that by incorporating swimming and biking, and even weight training into my rotation, my running performances have improved. This really made me think about the benefits and importance of cross training.
It is a fact, in order to perform well in sport; specificity in training is the key to that success. If you are a runner, you run, swimmer swim, dancers dance. You need to train to fine tune the skills directly correlated to your specific chosen sport. Cross training, on the other hand, is basically another activity, which is not specific to your sport, but will compliment your training. Cross training conditions muscles that may not be utilized during specific training. Cross training can then improve your bodies overall condition, building muscle that will support harder worked groups, and create more efficient muscles throughout the body.
Incorporating different activities into your workout regimen will help avoid burnout, and the dreaded plateau. Burnout is basically when your body, mentally as well as physically, is “over it.” You may no longer have an interest, desire, or motivation to perform, or worse – you see a decline in your performance despite increased training effort. If you have even an ounce of competitive spirit, you always want to do better, whether it is in comparison to others or to your own past performance. Cross training could be just the thing to renew your interest, reignite your passion, and get you back to making progress.
Adaptability is inevitable. We all know that if you do the same workload to the same muscles repeatedly, you will likely see a plateau in performance. Muscles are intelligent in the respect that they form a memory. This is where cross training can be beneficial because it allows you to engage the muscle in a new way, and ultimately allow your body to push through a plateau. Keep your body guessing by rotating through various other activities.
Sometimes as athletes we are thrown into cross training due to injury. As a runner, I have had to deal with a stress fracture and tendinitis. So what can you do if you are a runner who can’t run? Well, something that falls within doctor’s orders. It was suggested to me that I find a pool. Swimming and water running are good ways to keep up my training without the impact on my feet. Luckily you don’t have to wait for an injury to explore other activities.
Cross training is valuable since it allows you to design a well-rounded workout regimen that provides overall conditioning to your entire body. A well-rounded fitness program should include both cardiovascular and resistance exercises, as well as exercise focusing on flexibility, balance and agility.
How hard is it to find these other activities? Not hard at all really. Depending on what you consider your sport to be, there are complimentary activities. I am a runner, so I cycle, swim, and do the elliptical. I also lift weights and try to conquer the BOSU. There are so many activities that you can do to keep your body guessing, there things you may not consider off hand like inline skating, water aerobics, or even skiing! Remember that not all exercise has to be done on a machine or in a gym, and yes, it should be something you enjoy so you will look forward to it!
I’m a wife, mother of two, running enthusiast, computer nerd and so much more. Seeing numerous family members suffer from chronic yet preventable illness, I decided to return to college for a BS in Exercise & Sport Science, Health Promotion minor. Follow my adventures at SportyMom.me.