Cross-Training: How To have Fun and Avoid Injuries

What is Cross-Training?  In competitive athletes’ world it refers to athletes training in sports other than the one they compete in – with a goal of improving overall performance.  Some athletes compete at a high level in two or more sports – usually starting at a very young age – before they decide to select their discipline.

In sport’s history, multiple world-class athletes actually competed in several disciplines – very often achieving spectacular results in more than one.

Eric Heiden, quintuple gold medalist in speed skating at 1980 Winter Olympics, was also a professional cyclist and rode in 1986 Tour de France;  Lolo Jones, World Champion in 100m hurdles -2008 and 2012 Olympics- also won a medal in bobsleigh at 2012 World Cup;  Destinee Hooker, NCAA high jump champion, played volleyball in 2012 Olympics.

Other recent examples: Rafael Nadal trained to be a tennis champion, but for years couldn’t part with soccer; Jim Courier’s first love was actually baseball – before he went to Nick Bolletieri’s academy and won the French Open; Lance Armstrong was a triathlete before winning 7 Tour de France titles.

There is also an interesting combination of professional tennis and golf, with aging champions switching from one discipline to the other – although the second one usually stays at a senior circuit or recreational level.

In real life, for “people like us”, cross-training is a way to condition different groups of muscles and to vary the stress on both muscles and our cardio-vascular system.  It provides more interesting workouts and reduces the boredom of repeating the same routine every time.  It also allows us to participate in sports and activities that are not part of our “daily grind”: having a decent tennis match, bicycle ride, or ski trip – after not doing it for several months.

The most important aspect of cross-training though is the fact that we can reduce the possibility of injuries from repetitive strain or movement, and even to continue training while injured- by using different muscles and moves.  The closest to me is the example of my husband, who has been virtually injury-free since he started to compete in triathlons – instead of just running.

So what exercises will provide a good overall cross-training program?

The details should be discussed with your coach or personal trainer – they will be able to find specific routines that will address your needs the best.

In general, we need to combine:  strength straining, cardio-vascular exercises, balance, flexibility, and stretching exercises, power moves (plyometric), speed, and agility routines.

There are so many exercises in each of these groups.

You can run, power-walk, cycle, swim, cross-country ski, jump rope, or use cardio-equipment like the elliptical runner or stair climber.

You can do calisthenics (you own body weight exercises), use free weights, machines, elastic bands for strength training.

Yoga and stretching will provide great balance and flexibility exercises.

There are many books and publications on the subject, as well programs that your trainer can customize for you.

The most important:  HAVE FUN WITH IT!

Stay strong, lean, and healthy – fit for the rest of your life,

Elisabeth

Strand Fitness Partner

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