Avoid Boredom and Injury with Cross Training

Boredom and injury are some of the reasons why people quit exercising. Cross training is one of the ways to avoid this. It prevents boredom because you don’t do the same thing week after week and it prevents injury because it distributes the stress of exercise among various joints and muscles.

The technical definition of cross training is doing different exercises on different days or on the same day. So the most basic form of cross training is the good old gym routine that is composed of an aerobic (cardiovascular), strength, and flexibility component. An example would be to cycle on a stationary bike for 30 minutes, lift weights for 45 minutes, and stretch for 10 to 15 minutes. If your workout routine looks something similar to this, congratulations! You are already cross training!

Of course, there are many other ways to spice up your workout so you don’t get bored and prevent overuse injuries at the same time. Here are suggestions to mix and match activities to make your own cross training program.

Start slowly when learning a new activity. This is the biggest mistake made in cross training. People assume that being fit for one kind of exercise means they are also fit for other kinds. You might be a runner but that doesn’t mean you can do an advanced step aerobics class immediately. Even though both are aerobic activities, they use the muscles in a different way. Running is a linear activity while step aerobics not only requires you to go up, down, and all around a bench in different directions to the beat of the music but you also have to use your arms.

Not only should you work out at a lower intensity but you should also do it for a lesser amount of time than your regular workouts. Your body needs time to adjust to the new activity to avoid injury. Focus on learning the basics of the new activity. Proper form and execution are vital to getting the best results and preventing unnecessary injuries.

Choose activities that complement each other. Yoga and kickboxing are two totally different formats, which balance out the strengths and weaknesses of each program. Yoga is a mind-body type of activity that focuses inward while kickboxing is a let-all- your-aggressions-out workout. Yoga builds strength and flexibility while kickboxing develops aerobic and muscular endurance in an explosive manner. · Alternate between lower and higher intensity activities to give your body time to recover. For example, walking is the lower intensity version of running. You can do alternate days or you can do two high-intensity days for every one low-to-moderate intensity day.

Alternate between different energy systems -- aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic activities are anything that uses the large muscles in a continuous rhythmic fashion for twenty minutes or longer. Anaerobic activities are those with bursts of energy like lifting heavy weights, sprinting of any kind (cycling, swimming, running), jumps, and most sports of a stop-and-go nature (volleyball, basketball, soccer, etc).

Alternate high and low impact activity. The words “high and low impact” are usually associated with aerobic dancing but they apply to all other activities. Anything that keeps one foot on the floor at all times is considered a low impact activity. An example is walking. Anything that momentarily (it occurs so fast that you can only catch it on film in slow-motion) has both feet off the floor is high impact. That means anything with a hop or jump. Running is a high impact activity. There are also non- impact forms of exercise like swimming (body weight is supported by the water) and cycling (the bike carries the weight of the body).

Alternate between indoor and outdoor activities. Walking on a treadmill has a different feel to walking outdoors. Not only doesn’t the ground move under you, but also walking outdoors gives you sights, sounds, and smells that walking indoors doesn’t. On the other hand, watching TV while you walk is only possible on a treadmill. Alternating between indoor and outdoor exercise might be just the boredom-buster that you need to keep you motivated.

If you are the kind of person who never gets bored with your exercise routine and you get stressed if you have to make any changes, then cross training is not for you -- psychologically-speaking. There is no need to force yourself to cross train as long as you are happy with your results, you do not have any overuse injuries, and you have a complete workout (cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility).

If you are a competitive athlete, cross train only during your off-season. Stick to your sport and basic fitness/sports specific conditioning routine when training during the pre-season and on-season. Cross training with other sports during these periods will not be to your benefit. During the pre- season, you need to concentrate on building up your strength and stamina, rehabilitating any past injuries, and improving your skills for your specific sport. During the in- season, you don’t have time to focus on anything else but maintaining your fitness and skill level. Remember that as an athlete, your goal is to win. You have to be a master at what you do. Unlike recreational athletes, you can’t afford to be a “jack of all trades”.

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