Cross-training is essentially the use of various forms of exercise to become a more complete athlete. If a person does a single form of exercise repeatedly she will develop a specific set of muscles, often to the exclusion of other muscles. Moreover, if your workouts lack variety, eventually your body will grow accustomed to the workouts and your fitness may plateau. Thus, many athletes choose to implement a cross-training element to their workout routines.
For our purposes, there are essentially two forms of training: cardiovascular, which builds slow-twitch muscles, and resistance, which develops fast-twitch muscles. A well-structured cross-training program will ensure the growth of both fast- and slow-twitch muscles. Additionally, elite athletes need to focus on their agility and mind-body connection, which can be achieved through activities such as tai chi or yoga.
Depending on your physical goals, you should adjust your cross-training accordingly. For example, if you are trying gain mass, limit the amount of pure cardiovascular work and focus on resistance training. Conversely, a person aiming to slim down might emphasize endurance training. Remember, though, that to become a well-rounded athlete you must incorporate a variety of exercises.
There are many forms of cardiovascular exercise. These include running, bicycling, swimming, rowing, and jumping rope, among others. The most common type of resistance training is weightlifting; sprinting is akin to resistance training in that it also requires explosive strength.
For many people, running is their primary form of exercise. To mix up your running and reap the benefits of cross-training, you should try running on different surfaces. Pavement, grass, forest paths, sand - all of these surfaces offer benefits and they will work your lower-body muscles in different ways.
To become a complete athlete, though, the runner would need to add some upper-body work to her regimen. This is easily accomplished. Pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups are all excellent moves that build a complete upper-body. Pull-ups work the back and biceps, push-ups work the chest, shoulders and triceps, and sit-ups work the core.
Now that you have a basic understanding of cross-training, design a workout routine that you will enjoy. To summarize, the basic guidelines are:
- Variety! Do something different every workout.
- Make sure you alternate between endurance training and resistance training.
- Do not forget to give yourself a few days of rest each week. With all of the new strain you will put on your body through cross-training, days off are critical for recovery.