The benefits of cross-training
Cross-training for athletes involves them participating in a different training activity to their usual discipline with the aim of improving overall performance. The idea being that including different types of exercises will mean they are able to use all their muscle groups in a more balanced way. The advantage most often associated with this is a reduction in injuries.
Runners, for example, will find that adding cycling to their training schedule can help their endurance. Strength training with weights will also complement their running, as will yoga and other types of flexibility sessions. Cross-training should however complement your main activity, not detract from it, so once or twice a week at a moderate intensity is usually sufficient.
“What if I am not an athlete?”
Cross-training is beneficial to anybody doing physical activity at any level. This may be achieved by doing workouts such as bootcamps or other HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes that combine cardiovascular and strength training into one session, doing a group cycling class alongside a weights workout or alternating yoga with running sessions. Here are just some of the many benefits of cross-training:
- Variety keeps things fun and interesting which is important when motivation may be low - and you may find that by experiencing new activities you discover a new passion!
- Rehabilitation – if an injury does happen, cross-training enables you to maintain a level of fitness and endurance while resting and recovering. For example, runners can, in some cases, cycle while recovering from an injury to a knee or ankle as the impact will be greatly reduced during this activity. Using weights and stretching can also help to rebuild strength in a specific area after injury.
- Active rest is a very important part of any training regime – cross-training allows this to happen. While outright rest is sometimes necessary, maintaining some level of activity when resting can be more beneficial. For example, a leisurely cycle or participating in a yoga class on rest days can enhance recovery overall.
- Injury prevention and improved fitness – overuse of particular muscles or parts of the body can lead to injury; muscular imbalances can occur which is why incorporating as many different muscle groups as possible is beneficial. Cross-training, when used effectively, can increase strength, power, flexibility and endurance which are transferable across activities.
Having a training goal is essential when it comes to effective cross-training - it means you will be doing more than just randomly varying workouts. If you focus on a specific goal, you can then choose other types of exercise that best support your main type of training.
Are there any risks?
As with everything, moderation is key – over-training is a risk factor for injury. Cross-training isn’t about trying to do as many different sports and activities as you can, but rather picking a couple of different ones that complement each other, to alternate between, whilst sticking to a sensible schedule, allowing yourself to rest and always listening to your body.
Disclaimer: The content of this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.