Why is it so Important to Cross Train?

cross train important

Do you cross-train? Maybe this question is better: do you have a clear understanding of what cross-training actually is? We’ll start with what cross-training isn’t: specialization. Fitness specialists are people who focus their training primarily within one area, such as running, cycling, or power-lifting. While such focus allows many people to become superstars in their sport, it also comes with a potential downside: so much attention to one type of physical skill may lead to gross imbalances in other physical skills.

This explains why you may meet a long-distance runner who can’t do a pull-up or a powerlifter who can deadlift 3 times body weight but can’t sprint around the block.

Cross-training is essentially working out within more than one sport or domain. For serious athletes, cross-training can be considered a supplement to the bulk of their training, as it should. After all, if you want to become elite or seriously competitive in your given sport, you need to spend the majority of your time training for that specific activity.

“…exposure to different activities that will place different demands on your body and will challenge a variety of physiological systems…”

But for non-competitive people who are simply looking to improve their health and fitness, cross-training can play a more significant role in weekly workouts. The average gym-goer is simply looking to maximize his or her general physical preparedness, also known as the ability to handle a wide range of physical demands. The variety of cross-training is a key factor in allowing this to happen.

Yes, variety is key. Routine is the enemy…sort of. You want exposure to different activities that will place different demands on your body and will challenge a variety of physiological systems (muscular, cardiovascular, nervous, and so on). Plus–it keeps things interesting!

5 Reasons Why You Should Cross-Train

1. Helps Promote Fat Loss

Optimal body composition and lean body mass requires both cardiovascular training and strength training. In other words, a runner who lifts weights 2 to 3 times per week will be more likely to lose excess body fat compared to someone who only runs (does cardio).

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2. Reduces Risk of Injury

Being a well-rounded athlete and addressing any “weak links” in your body through cross-training can prevent injuries and help you heal more quickly from injuries if they do occur.

cross train important3. Allows for More Intense Training

Low-intensity cross-training activities keeps you active on your “rest” days without overloading your joints and can help accelerate recovery so that you can train harder during your next regular workout.

4. Improves Overall Performance in the Sport of Choice

Developing your general physical preparedness gives you a solid base to work on in your preferred sport and can improve your sport-specific training capacity and performance.

5. Creates a Well-Rounded Level of Fitness

Choosing cross-training activities that challenge your body in a variety of different ways is the best way to develop proficiency in all 10 general physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. This is especially important if your typical exercise focuses predominantly on only 1 or 2 physical skills.

10 Cross-Training Activities to Try

When it comes to cross-training, your options are really endless. Basically, find a sport or activity you like that’s a little different than your usual go-to exercises, and enjoy! Of course, cross-training can be performed with high-intensity, but it’s also a great option for active recovery days, too.

Try These:

  • Hiking
  • Pickup basketball (or softball, or soccer…)
  • Swimming
  • Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi
  • Spin class
  • Barre class
  • Boxing
  • Kayaking or stand-up paddle-boarding
  • Powerlifting
  • Rollerblading

Work 1 or 2 cross-training sessions in per week, and take special note of your recovery, your body, and your mood. Let us know about your cross-training workouts by sharing in the comments below!

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Sara M. is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and freelance writer living and working near Boston, MA. As a former CrossFit gym owner and current fitness lover, Sara has a lot of personal and professional experience inside and outside the gym. She loves to write about various topics related to health, wellness, nutrition, human behavior, and self-mastery.