Hello! I’m here to talk to you about that thing we know we should be doing but that we most likely aren’t doing. Cross-training. And NO I am not talking about Crossfit…that thing that ends up in injury because form isn’t the focus.
Hopefully, we all know what cross-training is. If not, I’ll give you the low down. All it is, basically, is doing more than one sport. I personally consider it doing multiple sports consistently and with an underlying motivation to protect another sport and our bodies.
So take me for example. I’m a runner. But running takes it toll and has its specialized group of muscles it uses. To protect myself and to prevent injury, I started biking. Now, I absolutely love it so I do it primarily because I want to get better, faster, all that jazz but it’s still in the back of my head that my biking supports my running and that now my running supports my biking.
I also lift weights. Mainly because I want to and it’s challenging but also because it helps protect my joints when I’m in a lock or getting thrown around at my dojo. On my list of other things I do, yoga, martial arts, and specific stretching routines. And each one of these exercises helps and supports another. Right?
Plus you know, it’s fun.
But that’s only one benefit of cross-training! There are so many more benefits that we see rise up in our physical life from cross-training.
There’s a DECREASE in injury.
Especially true when we add in activities like yoga that require stabilizer muscles, prevent stiffness, and stretch out our tight places. Yoga helps lengthen and stretch out our muscles which become tight but not in a balanced way. Take running for example. Runners often have tight hamstrings and weaker quads which means that we are immediately setting ourselves up for a bad time without some active stretching program. There’s also this…balanced muscle groups. Each form of exercise has its own issue and its own set of muscles it works on. This means that when we combine two like running and cycling, we are able to balance out our muscles.
Where running tightens the hamstrings, cycling loosens the top parts of it from the stretch. Where running might leave weak quads, cycling strengthens it. Where running has impact, cycling has none. But where cycling might encourage bad posture and elbow pain, running straightens you out and reduces pressure on the neck. Perfect partners!
Finding a balance helps prevent injury.
It actually HELPS you recover.
Active recovery is different than when we take a day to rest. When we take a day to rest, which we need to do, our body sits, maybe we stretch a little. But we are trying to let it rest. Active recovery is doing light exercise either after your big workout or on a rest day. What you end up doing, is helping your body understand that you have to recover.
You have a BACKUP PLAN.
Injuries do happen even if we’re careful. We can all twist our ankle or fall off a bike no matter what. But when we cross-train, we have a wider selection of things we can do and substitute. A few months back I got a cold and I could absolutely NOT run and I could NOT get out on my bike. But I could do yoga. I could lift weights, granted it was lighter than usual. I could even sit and spin on our indoor bike a little. It helped me feel better. It helped me feel like I wasn’t just lying around losing what I worked for.
And it did help me sleep better during my cold because I was still exercising however light it might have been.
The same is true for an injury. It might take us away from one exercise, but another might be perfectly fine.
Here’s another deal: It keeps us INTERESTED.
I don’t care who you are. Doing the same thing over and over and over forever drains your motivation. Spicing it up with a bunch of different things keeps your mind and body ready to go. Our motivation won’t dwindle the same way. We’ll want to keep doing what we love because it continues being fun!
Variety in our workouts is important. It’s the reason why I don’t run the same route every day. Or why every few months I reevaluate all my workout plans and schedules. Mixing it up keeps your brain in the game.
You LEARN new things.
This one is important to me. We might come into exercise as a “I have to do this, so I do this” kind of thing so if you’re like that, this isn’t for you. But I tend to take my exercise very seriously and I want to become the best I can be. That means that when I learn about pressing up and out of my hips in yoga, I’ll test that in running. And cycling. And on the mat.
What I learn in one sport, I learn in all my sports. And not everything transfers but my body is my body and it only moves in so many ways. The crossovers between various sports is absolutely amazing. So while you’re studying yourself and your technique, when you make that next discovery, try and take it into another area of your life.
Those are only a few reasons why we ought to cross-train. The whole goal here is balance. We want to be able to find a healthy balance in our lives both physical and mental. This is why it’s so important to look at where we are lopsided. Some of us need yoga, others need swimming. Some need both! There are so many good exercises out there that can help balance your body and balance your mind.
As you leave this article today and as you enter your next workout think about what hurts, what bugs you, what’s tight. What can you do to loosen it up?