Spice up your workout routine with cross training for whole-body fitness that mixes aerobics, strength training, and flexibility. Varying your workouts is better for you. By using different muscle groups, you reach a higher level of fitness and keep things interesting. A sample cross training schedule could look like this:

  • Monday: Swim laps
  • Tuesday: Lift weights at the gym
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Fitness class
  • Friday: Running
  • Saturday: Lift weights at the gym
  • Sunday: Rest

You can also mix in different strength and aerobic exercises for a full-body workout. Choose exercises and activities that you enjoy doing, so it’s more fun, and less of a chore. Include at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on most days of the week, and at least two days of strength training. And try to stretch every day, even on your rest days, to help your flexibility.

If you’re new to fitness, modify the programme to suit your fitness level. Start slowly with low-impact exercises like walking or swimming, and use light weights for toning. You can make your workouts more challenging as you get stronger and fitter.

Which activities can I do to work different parts of the body?

Cross training is all about doing a range of sports, activities and exercises to work different parts of the body, for a full workout. It’s important to think about the different areas of your body when you’re planning your weekly workout regime.

  • Core: Sit-ups, planks, and other core exercises should form part of your cross training programme.
  • Arms: Strength training should include biceps, triceps, and other arm exercises using hand weights, weight machines, and resistance bands. And if working out at home or in the park, use your own bodyweight for resistance by doing exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, and chair dips.
  • Legs and Glutes: Include strength training exercises like lunges and squats to work your leg muscles. You can also go climbing, running, and cycling too.
  • Back: Include kettlebell swings, pull-ups and the lateral pulldown to improve the strength in your back.

Start slowly, and master the simpler exercises, and ensure you’re focusing on using the correct form. Keep track of your workouts (exercise, weight, number of reps etc.) so you have them to look back on, and you can see how you're progressing.

What’s the best diet for building muscle mass through cross training?

It’s important to take a look at your daily nutritional intake in order to support your new, more active lifestyle. There’s no perfect diet which suits everyone, but there are some guidelines which you should follow:

  • Cut out the junk: The first thing to do is to remove fast food, sweets, and sugary drinks from your diet. This processed, calorific food not only packs on the pounds, but you’ll also fill yourself up on ‘empty calories’, preventing you from getting the nutrition you really need.
  • Up the protein: Muscle is protein, and in order to repair muscles effectively, your body needs the right amount of protein. Try to get more lean, protein-rich foods like chicken, tuna, lean beef, and low-fat dairy into your diet.
  • Increase your fibre: Most people don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables each day. And unless you eat a lot of wholegrain-rich foods, chances are you’re not getting as much fibre as your body needs. Fibre is vital for keeping your digestive system running smoothly, so try and eat fibre of some form with each meal. 
  • Stay hydrated: If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll feel tired and sluggish. You’ll also be prone to headaches and you’ll find it extremely tough to stay motivated and perform at your best. Make sure you’re drinking regularly on rest days too to help your body recover.
  • Eat regular meals: Try and get into the habit of eating several smaller meals rather than a few big ones. This will help stabilise your blood sugar levels to ensure you have a continuous flow of nutrients.
  • Carbs for fuel: It’s important to eat healthy carbohydrates such as fruit, veg, beans, nuts, and whole grains for fuel before your workouts. But avoid them late at night as they’re more likely to be processed and stored away as body fat as there is no immediate need for the extra energy. If you want a late-night snack, go for something high in protein such as eggs, mixed nuts, hummus, Greek yoghurt, or low-fat cheese.

Can I take supplements while cross training?

Sport supplements can be a great help in achieving your health and fitness goals. Not only can smart use of supplements ensure you get enough of all the nutrients you need to function well, but you can even give yourself an extra edge in terms of strength, recovery speed, and injury prevention. Understanding which supplements to take can be daunting, but you only really need multivitamin tablets, and some type of supplemental protein (if you want to build muscle mass).

Multivitamins

Your body needs all its daily vitamins and minerals to function properly, and unless you spend some serious time planning and preparing every meal of the day to ensure you get enough, you’ll need to take a supplement. Go with a decently priced multivitamin from a reputable company. The important thing to look for is that you’re getting all or most of the RDA of all the vital vitamins and minerals. Take your multivitamin with breakfast to make sure you remember to take it.

Protein supplements

The main purpose of a protein supplement is to provide more "building material" for your muscles. Muscle tissue requires protein to repair itself and grow, so your diet needs to reflect this increased need for protein. The most common form of a protein supplement is a simple powder that you mix with water or milk, but you can also buy pre-made drinks and protein-rich sport bars.

There are three basic types of protein powder; Gainers, meal replacement, and pure protein. If you're someone who finds it difficult to put on weight through food alone, buy a gainer and try to drink as much as you can between meals. The meal replacement drinks are suitable when you're on the go and don't have time for an actual meal. And pure protein drinks can be taken as part of a snack, to boost the protein content of your breakfast, or right before bed as a way to give your body some extra help in growing.

It’s important to take supplements or protein drinks as part of a healthy balanced diet, but you should not get into the habit of skipping meals as these should be your main source of nutrition. Before making significant changes to your diet, you should always check with a doctor or nutritionist.