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What is cross training?

July 22, 2021

What is cross training?

Cross-training is an exercise regimen consisting of various types of exercises to reach your fitness goals. By varying your daily cardio exercises and incorporating strength training in your running/walking weekly routine, cross-training can help improve overall performance, prevent injury and help you stick to your program!

Improve Overall Performance

Let’s look at a simple example of someone training for a half marathon where this person’s goal is to solely complete a half marathon. A typical week for a this half marathon runner would be: Day 1- run four miles, Day 2- cycle ten miles, Day 3- weight lifting, Day 4- Stair climber for 30 minutes, Day 5- weight lifting, Day 6- run eight miles, Day 7- Rest.  In this example our half marathon runner is not just running as their mode of exercise, even though completing a half marathon is the overall goal.  This person is doing many types of exercises to improve their aerobic capacity.  The main reason for cross training is so you are working many muscle groups and adapting your body as efficiently as possible. In our example the marathon runner will not only train their muscles involved with running.  Adding various types of exercises to your workout plan will allow you to train other muscle groups, which in return will improve your overall performance as well as other gain other benefits. 

Prevent Injury

While cross training you are working many areas of the body and consequently strengthen many muscle groups. It is a good practice to stress multi-joint areas with different types of exercise. This will reduce overloading joints with repetitive movements. Common problems areas for many runners or walkers involve pain in the shoulders, knees, ankles, and low back. It is especially important for people who are running or walking to also incorporate other movements as well to help strengthen these multi-joint areas of the body.  Cross training will help with overuse injuries and hopefully reduce long-term pain in your joints.   

Stick To Your Program

Often times individuals that are doing the same workouts week after week become bored and fall short of their overall goals.  With cross training you are able to constantly adjust your programming with new activities.  This allows you to try something new or reduce boredom.  Cross-training also increases your exercise programming’s flexibility.  Maybe your cross-training plan calls for a run outside on Monday and go to a cycle class on Tuesday.  In the case of poor weather, you can simply switch up your days with a cross-training regimen.  Or maybe you have a day where you just need to focus on recovery due to a long day at work. Allowing for flexibility and freedom in your programming will help with your adherence and success. Having options to reduce boredom or having the flexibility to execute a backup plan makes it difficult to lose motivation.    

Creating Your Cross-Training Plan

Cross training is fairly simple as there is not a wrong or right method.  As long as you are doing a variety of activities and are sticking to a flexible plan, then you should see the benefits. The best way to go about starting a cross training regimen is to make a 5-7 day plan which can remain flexible. You should have 1 or 2 days of rest per 7 day plan as well.  Depending on your goals, you will want to incorporate 2-3 days of cardio, 1-3 days of resistance training, and 2-3 days of recovery activities.  Try to make your weekly workouts with a combination of activities, but be sure you are doing activities you enjoy and that your main fitness goals are the focus of your routine (ex. If preparing for a 5K or marathon, regularly running should still be a part of your routine).  

Check out this 30-day plan specifically desigend to help runners increase their speed or use the list of cardiovascular, resistance training and recovery activities below to create your own cross-training plan!

Cardiovascular activities: 

  • Running/walking 
  • Cycling 
  • Rowing 
  • Competitive sports (i.e. basketball, tennis) 
  • Stair climbing 
  • Cardio HIIT 
  • Dance Fitness
  • Swimming  
  • Hiking  

Resistance Training activities: 

  • Free weights 
  • Abdominal workout 
  • Olympic weightlifting 
  • Kettlebell exercises 
  • Bodyweight exercise (i.e. push up, body weight squats, planks) 
  • Resistance band exercises 
  • Strength group fitness class  

Recovery activities: 

  • Yoga 
  • Static Stretching 
  • Tai Chi  
  • Foam rolling 
  • Pilates  
  • Meditation