Cross-training is defined as an exercise regime that uses several modes or approaches of training to develop a specific component of fitness. It can be any sport, activity or exercise that is used to supplement your main sport.
The benefits of cross-training include:
- A reduced risk of injury
- An improved overall fitness
- Balanced muscle groups
- Added variety to your workout to keep exercise enjoyable, staving off boredom which can lead to stopping exercise
- A mental break
One of the easiest ways to start cross-training is to alternate between activities or exercises. Not only can this keep your workouts interesting and enjoyable, it also reduces the risk of constantly using the same muscle groups. For example, if you run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and lift weights on Tuesday and Thursday, the muscles used for each activity will be able to rest on the alternating days. This allows your muscles to rebuild and repair themselves and minimises the risk of overuse injuries.
For runners, here are some popular cross-training activities:
- Swimming: A non-weight bearing activity to give your joints and connective tissues a break from the impact of pounding the pavement.
- Water running: Highly mimics running on land without the same impact on joints and is a great substitute for injured runners.
- Elliptical trainer: Also mimicking running, this low impact activity is a great way to focus on improving your core, arm muscles and leg muscles.
- Walking: A great activity to substitute for an easy running day, especially if you are recovering from a tough workout.
- Rowing: A low-impact cardiovascular activity that strengthens the hips, buttocks, and upper body.
- Weight training: Provides opportunity to improve muscle strength, which helps runners avoid fatigue and maintain their form.
- Yoga: A great way to improve flexibility and give your muscles a well-deserved stretch.
Remember that cross-training should not replace a scheduled day off. Rest and recovery is vital to your training program! It is during period of rest that your body undergoes adaptation to make you a more efficient runner.