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Cross Training: Variety Is the Spice of Life

Achieve total body fitness
Cross Training: Variety Is the Spice of Life: Main Image
Good cross training leaves no muscle group behind.

Whether you’re training for a marathon or aiming to maintain your present fitness level, you’ll reap the benefits of cross training—total body fitness, reduced risk of injury, and an added psychological boost.

What is cross training?

Cross training is the answer to any exercise rut. Simply combine the trio of fitness staples—aerobics, strength training, and flexibility—to your weekly workouts and you will be cross training. Aerobics is any sport or activity that raises and sustains your heart rate. Think running, swimming, cross-country skiing, and bicycling. Strength training increases muscle endurance and power, which can be achieved through weight lifting, isometrics, push-ups, and pull-ups. Flexibility creates muscle suppleness and expands your range of motion. To gain flexibility, try yoga, dance, and simple stretching.

Why should I cross train?

Benefits abound if you leave your mono-fitness routine behind. Relief from boredom is a major psychological benefit that will keep you motivated and committed to your fitness regimen. Variety in your exercise choices yields significant physiological benefits as well. By using different muscle groups, your muscles adapt more easily to new activities. In addition, alternating muscle groups helps you avoid overuse injuries. Good cross training leaves no muscle group behind.

How do I cross train?

It’s easy. Make a list of all the aerobic, strength training, and flexibility activities you enjoy and alternate these activities throughout the course of each week. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical exertion three times per week. Try out new muscle groups you haven’t been in touch with for a while, and experiment with new sports or forms of movement.

Here’s what your week might look like:

  • Aerobics three times a week. Try swimming, biking, hiking, inline skating, or kayaking. Take up a team sport such as soccer or basketball or sign up for a tennis lesson or another racket sport.
  • Weight training two times a week. Seek guidance from a personal trainer prior to beginning a weight-lifting program.
  • Yoga class two times a week or 10 to 15 minutes of daily stretching. Dance or Pilates classes efficiently combine flexibility with strength training as well.
  • Don’t forget to rest. Set aside at least one day a week for minimal physical activity.

The key is variety. Each week, commit yourself to mixing up your routine. Your body and mind will thank you.

Kathleen Finn is a Portland-area freelance writer and marketing consultant in the natural health industry. She spices up her running routine with yoga, skiing, and dance classes.
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