I like to change up my workout routine with the change of seasons. Whether you’re an athlete or everyday gym class goer, you probably have a particular physical specialty. But, if you only focus on one major exercise style or developing a particular set of skills, you may find that you are limiting your capacity for improvement.
The benefits of cross training allow you to strengthen new parts of your body other than the same muscles, joints and ligaments used in your primary athletic activity.
Research shows that runners who cross train are often faster and less prone to injury than athletes who only run. Doing alternative exercises in your workout program can improve your performance and your specific field of interest.
Less overuse injuries
Overuse injuries are quite common, especially if you only use a specific muscle group. Athletes looking to improve their skills may be tempted to keep practicing until they beat a personal record or complete a session, but this can lead to wear and tear on those particular joints, tendons or muscles. This could lead to injuries that halt your athletic training entirely. Instead of using the same joints over and over, cross training allows you to employ a variety of muscle groups in different movement patterns.
Increase your aerobic capacity
One of the benefits of cross training is a greater aerobic capacity. This is because when you limit yourself to a particular activity, you’ll burn out after a particular period of time and can only stop and recharge. If you’re cross training, you can switch to a different exercise when a particular part of your body is feeling sore, allowing you to continue the length of your training and increase your stamina. By expanding your aerobic capacity this way, you can find over time that your stamina throughout your workout improves overall.
Strengthen your entire body
Cross training, for most athletes, means incorporating strength training into your workout routine. For athletes who focus on stamina or aerobic capacity, strength training often provides a sharp boost in performance. That’s because strength affects virtually everything you do—stronger arms means you can throw a basketball farther, while stronger legs means you can jump higher and run faster. By incorporating resistance into your routine, you’ll improve your performance more than simply practicing your athletic skill of choice would. All the running in the world won’t offer you the immediate gains that resistance training does.
Develop dynamic flexibility
Flexibility is developed after performing a particular exercise over and over again, slowly pushing your body’s capacity to reach new lengths. When you cross train, a whole new set of joints, ligaments and muscles are stretched out, which means you will have more flexibility throughout your body. This can reduce internal resistance in your body, making you faster to respond and adapt as you workout or compete.
Alternative exercises not only give your body the opportunity to heal from previous activities, but helps stretch and strengthen other parts of your body that are causing pain. Cross training enables your body to recuperate faster from injuries, in some cases because other exercises can directly improve the condition caused by your regular activity. For example, Achilles tendonitis, caused by overuse, can be improved by eccentric strengthening of the calf muscles.
Cross training makes you a stronger, more flexible and more well-rounded athlete. Although you may have a particular favorite exercise or sport, varying your routine will improve your performance much more than sticking to one workout ever could!
Laura Conley is a nutritionist at Heritage LifeFit Fitness. During her twelve years as a private fitness and wellness coach, she specialized in functional fitness, sports performance and holistic nutrition. Laura strongly believes that by incorporating the body, mind, and spirit we can all truly transform and thrive.