Cross training is a technique used by professional athletes to improve their long term performance and enjoyment of their chosen sport. But you don’t need to be an athlete to use cross training techniques or benefit from cross training. Those of us hoping to lose weight can benefit greatly from cross training too.
In this article we’ll tell you what cross training is, the top 10 benefits of cross training and how you can use it to help you to lose weight.
Exactly what is Cross Training?
Basically, cross training means mixing different activities into our regular workout routine.
Quite often people who want to lose weight rely solely on one exercise such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, rollerblading, yoga, Pilates, aerobics classes or weight training to meet all of their fitness and weight loss needs.
This is a mistake.
The Top 10 benefits of Cross Training
Benefit 1: Injury Prevention
Doing a single exercise or form of training can lead to ‘overuse injuries’.
Overuse injuries occur across a range of different activities including running, weight training, swimming and cycling, just to name a few.
An example of an overuse injury is a walker that pulls their calf muscle or a swimmer that develops a shoulder injury as a direct result of running or swimming too much.
Common causes of overuse injuries include inadequate recovery time between exercise sessions, biomechanical irregularities and muscular imbalances, and cross training can help to address these factors.
Benefit 2: Rehabilitation
When we develop an overuse injury, cross training helps in two ways:
1. By helping us to maintain our fitness and continue to lose weight despite being forced to stop doing our preferred or primary exercise, and
2. By helping us to correct the source of the injury.
Because different activities place stress on different parts of our body, including a variety of exercises in our routine usually provides the best possible overall fitness.
Because overall fitness includes cardiovascular (heart and lung) fitness, muscle strength and flexibility it’s not difficult to see how doing one type of exercise may produce inferior results while a variety of exercises done within the same routine can produce the best results.
Benefit 4: Active Recovery
Those of us exercising for weight loss and fitness face a contradiction of sorts in that we need to exercise on most days to maximise fat loss and fitness but at the same time we need to ensure that our body gets plenty of rest.
The solution to this dilemma is called ‘active recovery’.
Active recovery involves doing an activity that puts a minimum amount of stress on the parts of the body that need the most recovery while putting a moderate amount of stress on other body parts not already fatigued.
For example, a jogger whose upper body isn’t fatigued from their regular running program can swim in between runs. The swimming in this case exercises the runner’s upper body muscles and still helps to build their aerobic capacity while giving their leg muscles a well deserved rest.
Benefit 5: Motivation
No matter how motivated you are to lose weight and get fit, if you do a single exercise often enough the chances are it will eventually become tiresome.
Most people are stimulated by variety and turned off by monotony and providing variety and avoiding monotony is one of cross training’s greatest benefits.
When it comes to weight loss, anything we can do to enhance our motivation for exercise is worth doing.
Benefit 6: Periodisation
As well as helping us from week to week, cross training facilitates ‘periodisation training’ which involves doing different exercises at various times of the year.
For example, jogging in spring and autumn may be good but may not be as appealing in summer and winter when swimming and indoor activities may be more inviting.
Benefit 7: Enjoying Other Sports
Aerobic fitness, muscular strength and flexibility are highly transferable capacities between sports and activities so the fitter we are normally the more likely we will be able to perform well and therefore enjoy the widest possible range of activities.
Benefit 8: Improved Workout Flexibility
Sometimes we need to be very flexible about the form of exercise we do to lose weight and get fit.
For example, if we have planned to do a run today and the weather turns grim it is better to pull out an exercise video or DVD and do an aerobics workout or yoga session than it is to do nothing at all.
Being flexible in this way helps to ensure that no matter what obstacles daily life presents, we will be able to work around them and get our exercise in anyway.
Benefit 9: Improved Skill, Agility and Balance
As well as ensuring a great balance between aerobic fitness, muscle strength and flexibility, cross training also ensures a good balance between things like skill, agility, balance, eye-hand coordination, etc, all of which can be useful in other areas of our daily life.
Benefit 10: Increased Sociability
As well as boosting motivation, overall fitness and weight loss results, cross training has the power to provide social benefits as well.
Swimming laps at a pool for example is a very lonely activity and doesn’t provide the opportunity to really catch up with people and enjoy their company.
Cycling or walking on the other hand does and these are pursuits that can be regularly done with family and friends.
How to get the most out of cross training
To get the most out of cross training be sure to:
* Change up cardiovascular exercises (walking, jogging, cycling, etc) with weight training (barbells and dumbbells, machines, exercise bands, etc) and flexibility/stretching exercises (such as yoga and Pilates).
* Choose activities or sports you find pleasurable or have always wanted to try.
* Ensure that your routine includes some days of purecomplete rest to ensure total recovery and provide true life balance.
* Whatever activities you choose, always start slowly and build up your exercise time and intensity gradually.
* Learn about any new activity or sport before you try it; in other words, do some research.
* Consider getting some coaching from the likes of Personal Trainers, Gym Instructors, Swimming Instructors, Pilates Instructors and the like before you try doing things on your own.
* Make it fun!
Cross training is a technique used by elite athletes and others to improve their long term performance and their enjoyment of their chosen sport or activity.
But you don’t need to be an athlete to utilise cross training techniques or benefit from cross training. Those of us wanting to lose weight can benefit greatly from fitness equipment too.
In this article we explained what cross training is, what the top 10 benefits of cross training are and how you can use it to help you lose weight, improve your fitness and become the happier, healthier person you know you can be.
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