If you’re not yet familiar with the fitness approach called cross-training, it might sound like hard work. But it’s really just a way to add variety to your exercise routine by alternating activities.
You’ll avoid boredom and boost your fitness level as well as protect against overuse injuries, which are more common when you do a single workout or sport.
Reasons to cross-train:
- The combination of exercises adds up to a true total body workout.
- Your muscles learn to adapt to new types of fitness activities more quickly.
- Using different muscle groups helps you avoid injury.
- If you do suffer an injury, you may be able to still perform one of your favorite activities.
With cross-training you can make sure all muscle groups are used over the course of each week. For instance, if you bike every day, swap a day or two with walking or using the elliptical to get in weight-bearing exercise. Or add swimming to give yourself a full body workout.
You can apply the same concept to your strength training routine. Alternate using free weights with weight machines or taking Pilates classes, which develop the core muscles. Mix up your flexibility workouts, too, by alternating between yoga and tai chi, for instance.
You can even cross-train during individual workouts — switch from one activity to another after 15 minutes if doing two activities, or every 10 minutes if you do three. Cross-training with two or three activities in one session can be particularly effective for losing weight, especially fat. Try 15 minutes of treadmill walking followed by 15 minutes on a stair stepper or bicycle.
Keep in mind that you’re only limited by your personal preferences and access to the activities you’d like to do.
The American Council on Exercise has detailed information on cross-training.