Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Importance of Cross Training

You consider yourself to be in better than average shape. You run several times a week for health and fitness and maybe do an occasional fun run on the weekend. You play sports or practice martial arts several times a week. You decide to go skiing, snowboarding or surfing for the weekend. After a few days, you felt like you’ve been run over! What’s wrong?

You may be in great shape for the exercises you do routinely. But if that's ALL you do, day after day, you may be setting yourself up for injury or mental burnout and that is not a good way to get fit. What can help prevent injury and burnout? Cross training.

The term cross training refers to a training routine that involves several different forms of exercise. While it is necessary for an athlete to train specifically for their sport if they want to excel, for most exercisers cross training is a beneficial training method for maintaining a high level of overall fitness. For example, you may use both biking and swimming each week to improve your overall aerobic capacity, build overall muscle strength and reduce the chance of an overuse injury. Cross training limits the stress that occurs on a specific muscle group because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways.
Cross training is a great way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills, and reduce boredom that creeps in after months of the same exercise routines. Cross training also allows you the ability to vary the stress placed on specific muscles or even your cardiovascular system. After months of the same movements your body becomes extremely efficient performing those movements, and while that is great for competition, it limits the amount of overall fitness you possess and reduces the actual conditioning you get while training; rather than continuing to improve, you simply maintain a certain level of fitness. Cross training is also necessary to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse.

**Runners, how many of you have knee or hip injuries?? Cross-training is essential to any running plan because it gives your joints a break. Running is incredibly hard on your body- your feet hit the ground an average of 800 times per mile, which is not great for your knees or ankles. Cross-training is an awesome way to get your heart rate up and increase your endurance while decreasing impact.**

**Capoieristas, if you haven’t already started experiencing knee pain for the countless squatting, lunging, twisting or turning, how long do you think it will take before your incur an acl or meniscus tear? You are constantly working your dominant quad and glute muscles but neglecting the hamstrings, adductor and abductors!**

Incorporating different exercises into your fitness schedule will give your body a more balanced workout and make your body stronger overall, instead of just working one particular set of muscles. For example, if you only run, you will have a strong legs and good cardio but your core and upper body will be weak; if you only lift weights, your cardio will be weak so that even a quick jog to catch your dog will make you tire very easily. The ideal fitness routine would be to include exercises that will build your cardio, strength, endurance and balance. This may seem like a lot but varying your workout in the week with different types of exercises will improve your fitness. For example, you can take an aerobics class for cardio, pick up some weights to improve your strength, try some yoga moves to increase your flexibility and balance, and run for endurance. The more variety you bring into your workout, the better.

Exercises you can do for cardiovascular activity can be running, spinning, elliptical, stair climbing, jumprope, rowing, swimming, sports and martial arts.
Strength training would be calisthenics (pushups, pullups, squats, lunges using bodyweight), free weights, machines, tubing and bands.
Pilates and Yoga can be incorporated for core strengthening, posture, alignment, flexibility and lower back conditioning.
Speed, agility, balance drills, circuit training, sprinting and plyometrics are other forms of skill conditioning than can help improve your level of fitness and what I incorporate in my bootcamp
Kettlebell training is a very functional method of strength training in a very non traditional manner. a kettlebell looks like a cannon ball with a u-shaped handle where you learn to use your entire body as a unit. You swing, press, and clean, executing power movements to build your strength, flexiblity, core, balance, coordination all in one workout. It comes from Russia and is very popular amongst mixed martial artists to enhance their fitness level. I have seen the results on myself and my clients in a very short period of time using this method of training. For more info, go to "kettlebell training" in this blog.

Exercise can strengthen the cardiovascular system, bones, muscles, joints, reduce body fat and improve flexibility, balance and coordination. But if you want to see all of these benefits, you'll need to start cross training!

Join me in for Central Park bootcamp Tuesday and Thursdays 630 and 730pm and Kettlebell Saturdays 9am (beginner) and 10am (advanced) off the West Side Highway if you want to be fitter, stronger and leaner!

Cindy Lai Fitness

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