Why Cross Training Might be Your Answer

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First, let's look at what cross-training is and the benefits. Cross-training is the combination of various activities to spread the work among various muscle groups. Cross-training has some important advantages:

  • It prevents boredom by providing variety. It can help you break out of a slump.
  • It helps you maintain balance among your various muscle groups. For instance, runners who have developed powerful leg muscles might cross-train to strengthen the upper body, which does not get a good workout from running.
  • It reduces the risk of injuries because the same muscles are not being stressed in the same way during every workout.

Most athletes and weekend warriors are injured at some point in their training. Risk factors for injury can be divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic risk factors can be attributed to body type, foot type and previous injury. These factors are sometimes difficult to correct or control. Extrinsic risk factors include training errors which seem to generate most of the injuries seen in my office. These injuries are frequently due to high intensity workouts or excessive volume added to soon in a training program. A well designed program can lower the risk of injury.

Changing your training program and adding lower stress activities on recovery days can be a good strategy to protect against an injury. A runner may choose a pool deep water running program. Most public pools have an aqua jogger belt available. Heart rate may be slightly lower than your land based normal. The elliptical machine is another alternative for athletes involved in high impact sports. Yoga is also a popular cross training activity, although beware of high spinal loading in some yoga positions.

An important thing to remember is to start any new program slowly. Build up your endurance, strength and flexibility over months to years not just in a few weeks.

You can start your current program and then boost performacne to moderate activities, listed below, to a vigorous level (bottom) by doing them faster or harder.

Moderate Intensity:
  • Light to moderate calisthenics (for example, home exercises, back exercises, getting up and down from the floor)
  • Low-impact aerobic dancing
  • Jogging on a small trampoline
  • Weight lifting, body building, using a lot of effort
  • Light to moderate workouts on gym equipment like Nautilus or Universal machines or a rowing machine

Vigorous Intensity:
  • Walking uphill, jogging or running
  • Heavy calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.)
  • High impact aerobic dancing
  • Jumping rope
  • Using a stair-climber or skiing machine
  • Stationary bicycling, with vigorous effort
For more information on cross-training or other sports injury questions, visit Sports Medicine Specialty Group

Blog post by Dr. Scott E. Johnson, DO