Traditionally used by professional athletes, cross-training has become extremely popular in recent years. Here’s why you should try it:
Because cross-training involves so many exercises, it’s an excellent way to improve your overall fitness and strength. For example, a study by Hirofumi Tanaka of the Sports Medicine journal in 1994 found that cross-training may be 'highly beneficial' for the general population in terms of overall fitness. A 2018 study by the American Journal of Epidemiology also revealed that adding lifts to your cross-training workouts could even extend your life. The researchers found that those who did frequent strength training cut their risk of an early death by almost a quarter.
Cross-training routines strike the perfect balance between increasing your strength and maximising your recovery. Doing a variety of workouts helps you avoid over-training each muscle group, which can increase your risk of injuries.
Wearing appropriate footwear is also important for minimising injuries. Here are some recommendations on how to choose cross-training shoes.
Kerri Kramer Webb, a physical therapist, says that true rest 'isn't really helpful' when it comes to recovering from injuries. That might sound strange, but there's plenty of scientific research to back this up. Lower-intensity exercise like cycling and swimming help to introduce nutrients to injured muscles with increased blood circulation, which can improve the recovery process, while aerobic exercise promotes human growth hormone production, which is also important for healing.
A systematic review with meta-analysis of five studies found that strength training programmes comprising a mixture of low to high intensity resistance exercise and plyometric (jump training) exercises 2 or 3 times per week for 8 to 12 weeks can help advanced runners improve what's known as their 'running economy' (RE) - an important indicator of distance-running performance. RE is a measure of how efficient you are at converting oxygen consumption into forward motion. So, the less oxygen and energy you use, the better your RE score.
A stronger body helps you improve your balance and become more flexible. For example, a 2006 study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that power training among 112 healthy older adults (including a mixture of pneumatic resistance machines) significantly improved balance performance. Interestingly, it was the lower intensity power training combined with a high velocity regimen which resulted in the biggest improvement in balance performance.
Doing a broad mix of exercises and regularly altering your cross-training routine can help you stay motivated during your fitness journey. Doing the same workouts day in day out can get tedious, just like eating the same meals or buying the same clothes would!
Cross-training is a good opportunity to get to know other people who also want to lead a healthier, happier life. Many gym memberships now include complimentary group classes which are run by experienced personal trainers and can be a great way to meet people in your community.