Cross training is the new hot fitness buzzword.
You hear about it from professional athletes, trainers of the stars like Teddy Bass who is probably best known for sculpting Cameron Diaz’s killer body, and even from certified personal trainers, coaches, and medical professionals worldwide. Cross training programs are one of the best ways to enhance your athletic performance while also minimizing risk for injury.
So what exactly is cross training?
There are a dozen definitions out there, but we loved how Wikipedia summed it up here:
“Cross-training is athletic training in sports other than the athlete’s usual sport. The goal is improving overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of one training method to negate the shortcomings of another.
There are literally hundreds of ways to incorporate a cross training program to prevent imbalances in training. We’re going to give you ideas for how to do it no matter what your main sport is.
Cross Training Program for the Runners and Walkers
Our Advice: Add Endurance-Based Strength Training
Athletes who do a lot of running or walking for cardio can see improved performance and a decreased risk of injury by complimenting their cardio endurance activities with strength training.
Endurance focused strength training, as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine, means completing two to four sets of 10 to 25 repetitions at no more than 70 percent of your 1 rep max.
For many, these reps can be done at bodyweight or with light weights to get a great effect.
Check out this at-home bodyweight workout for some great ideas to get you started!
Cross Training Program for the Cyclist
Our Advice: Add Hill Sprints
In general, becoming a stronger cyclist requires cycling more. Because it’s a low-impact activity with generally little risk of injury (assuming you have a good bike fit, the right equipment, and don’t get hit by a crazy driver on the road), it might be tempting to just cycle all the time.
However, even professional cyclists reach a point of diminishing returns in training- the point where cycling more doesn’t mean getting any better.
An excellent cross-training solution is running hill sprints.
According to a 1999 clinical study, running can result in the improvement of your VO2 max across sports and can result in improved cycling performance. What’s more, the physical action of running up a hill can mimic some of the movement patterns that your legs would do on the bike through a pedal stroke, while still challenging those muscles in different ways.
If you’re new to running or it isn’t something you do often, start off slow with 30 second uphill sprints at 90 percent of you max effort with a nice long recovery in between.
If you’re looking for a workout you can do on a treadmill, check out this favorite hill interval workout from a Fitness Friday.
Cross Training Program for the Weight Room Gym Rat
Our Advice: Add Yoga
If your middle name is bench press and you carry protein shakes with you everywhere you go, it’s pretty likely you fit into this category. And dude, there is nothing wrong with that. Lifting weights has so many health and fitness benefits that we couldn’t even list them all in one article.
But, if you’re an “all lifting all the time” kind of gal or guy, you might be creating some muscle imbalances that could easily be corrected by adding some flexibility training into the mix. In fact, by helping your muscles to be more flexible you will move more easily through a complete range of motion and may find that you’re able to lift MORE weight due to a better body position on your lifts.
There’s no need to be intimidated if you’ve never done yoga before. The whole idea is that it’s a “practice” and it welcomes students of every level. Check out your gym schedule for a class to try, and check out our guide for first-timers so you know exactly what to expect when you go.
Cross Training Program for the Yogi
Our Advice: Add Some Outdoor Cardio
Yoga is a pretty incredible sport. It offers you this amazing mind/body connection while also giving your muscles a serious workout. Depending on what type of yoga you practice, you’re likely getting a dose of body weight based strength training and a bit of cardio built right into your sequence.
Many avid yogis also participate in other sports, but if you’re someone who only does yoga, add some outdoor cardio into the mix.
In most classes, you won’t get the recommended 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular activity (defined as 60 percent of your max heart rate or above) during one practice. To supplement what you’re doing in class, and to appreciate nature and do a workout that allows you to foster a connection with the world around you, take your cardio outside.
It doesn’t matter if you’re biking, hiking, running, swimming in a lake or the ocean, or playing with your children or dogs at a park. If you get moving in the outdoors you’ll reap the benefits of doing cardio, and enjoy it too.
Cross Training Program for the CrossFitter
Our Advice: Add Mobility Work
CrossFit, by definition, is all about the idea of cross training. By offering a different workout every day, and cycling through a combination of body weight and weight-bearing movements at a variety of reps and weights, plus adding in cardio like rowing or running, you’re getting an extremely well-rounded workout on the daily.
However, if your box or programming doesn’t include at least 10 to 15 minutes of foam rolling or mobility work before or after class, you might be missing out on potential gains!
Spending time daily working on mobility and flexibility can improve your overall position in movements, and also help with muscle soreness and injury prevention after a hard day.
Not sure where to start? Ask your coach, or check out our guide to mobility for a few great ideas.
Cross Training Program for the Class Taker
Our Advice: Add in a Day of Lifting Heavy Weights
Group exercise classes are awesome. Trust me, I know — I teach a half dozen of them every week and love every minute of it. They’re a great way to make friends, burn calories, and get in a great workout without feeling like you’re working out!
The one downside of a group exercise scenario, however, is that it’s impossible to get in a good, solid weight lifting session. Even in a BodyPump or strength-based class format, chances are good that you won’t be using dumbbells or barbells that exert your muscles at 80 percent or more of their max ability, which is necessary to build muscular strength.
Building muscular strength is important as it supports better bone density, revs your metabolism, assists with weight loss, and it makes you stronger overall.
By adding in even one session per week in the weight room where your focus is lifting one to three sets with 8 to 12 reps and going to fatigue on each of the sets (as in no, you couldn’t do one more rep), you’ll start to see some amazing benefits.
If a class setting appeals to you, try reaching out to the personal trainer at your facility for guidance on how to get started, and inquire about small-group training sessions. You can also check out any of our awesome workout guides, like this one for a great full-body weight training session that you could do in the gym or at home with just a few pieces of equipment.