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The Importance of Cross Training

_MG_9673I was always athletic in nature and enjoyed multiple sports, but when I took up running, I was neglectful on varying my activity. With running high mileage, I was in a routine that felt good until I got injured . Unfortunately, my injuries taught me the importance of, and value in cross training.
I remember one of my most impactful conversations with my running coach, while I was sulking about my achilles tendinitis. He suggested taking up different hobbies, and gave me great ideas for cross training. With resistance at first, I sought out options that appealed to me and could be a fun experience. With great support from my strength trainer, I got stronger and more flexible with mobilization drills. My cardio varied from the stair master, to elliptical training,swimming  and spinning, and I used a heart rate monitor to challenge my workouts and mimic my running fitness.

When I got back to running, my fitness was still strong and efficient and I was able to return pretty quickly. I learned the value cross training has in strengthening other muscles to support my running and also from a mental standpoint, how it helped me stay fresh and optimistic with training on an optimal level.

Cross training is an ideal way to develop a “balanced” fitness program. Varying your workout engages different muscle groups. This not only improves your overall fitness, it helps to prevent overuse injuries that are more common in single-sport activities. It has several benefits, whether you are a competitive athlete or simply want to improve your overall fitness level.
• Cross training can provide a “total body tune-up,” something you will not get if you concentrate on just one type of activity.
• It Includes a variety of activities in your fitness program to help prevent boredom and help you stick to the program and avoid mental burnout.
• Exercising various muscle groups may help your muscles adapt more easily to new activities. • Because you will not be using the same muscles in the same way all the time, you may experience fewer overuse injuries.
• If you do become injured, you usually will not have to give up your entire fitness program. You may be able to modify or substitute activities, based on your doctor’s suggestions.

Cross-training should improve your cardio, strengthen your muscles, or help speed your recovery. For example, many runners choose going to the gym and sweating it out on the elliptical on XT days, but some alternative methods can add an exciting twist to your routine while benefiting your ultimate sport.

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Here are some inspiring ideas for cross training:

 Swimming
Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently.
A properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.

 Cycling
Indoor cycling is easily one of the most popular workouts worldwide. Exercising on an indoor bike requires your heart to work harder to supply the rest of your body with oxygen-rich blood. Upon repeated workouts, your heart becomes stronger and better able to handle increased demands, which translates to other exercise routines and activities. A strong heart is excellent for your cardiovascular system and greatly lowers your chances of developing heart disease. Along with your heart, your lungs benefit from increased strength as well.
With regular exercise on an indoor stationary bike, your metabolism will increase. Not only will you be burning calories, but you will digest foods more quickly and use energy more efficiently, which helps with weight loss and weight maintenance. A better metabolism helps your body regulate energy and can help prevent diabetes. Exercising on an indoor stationary bike also increases bone density and works out muscles, and is a great way to get your cardio workout without being hard on your joints.

Indoor cycling also provides a variety of psychological benefits. The Spinning program is made possible for highly trained instructors who know how to motivate riders with positive feedback, challenges and motivating music. The indoor cycling experience can be a very rewarding experience psychologically; riders must meet their own individual exercise goals, increasing pedal resistance along the way.
After an exercise session, your brain releases endorphins, which provide a feeling of well-being that is conducive to maintaining overall happiness. Indoor cycling is a great way to manage stress and depression. Your body produces more mitochondria over sustained periods of exercise, which helps you produce more energy for day-to-day tasks. This can help you cope with fatigue and enjoy better levels of energy during the day.

Rowing
Rowing provides an amazing workout. Rowing classes are popping up all over, and as a sport, gaining popularity. It is a great workout for car dio as well as building muscle power. Learn the proper techniques of using a row machine, and you will gain a full body workout that develops strength and power while gaining efficiency in your cardio vascular system.

Hiking
Hiking has benefits for both physical and mental health and is a great option for cross training for athletes. Whether you’re going out for an easy, leisurely hike or taking on a challenging trail run, you’ll reap the benefits hiking has to offer. There is so much research that nature is great for our mental health and helps decrease depression as well as stress. Taking a hike in the quiet of a park or on a mountain takes those benefits to the next level.Hiking is great for Cardiovascular Exercise. The incline associated with hiking is part of what makes it so great: the greater the incline, the more you’ll get your blood pumping. With improved cardiovascular fitness, you’ll enjoy decreased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Hiking is also a great way to improve your muscular fitness. Since it is a weight-bearing exercise, with each step up the incline, you engage some of the largest muscles in your body: your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Every time you hoist your bodyweight further along the trail, those muscles fire into action. If you’ve ever been on a steep hike, you’ll know it isn’t all about the uphill either. Controlling your body’s momentum on the downhill is, in large part, thanks to your quads. They engage to help brace you as you move downhill so you don’t go tumbling.

Stair Climbing
Whether you elect to climb stairs in your office building or at the gym on the stair stepping machine, heading up stairs provides an excellent
workout for the quads and hip flexors. Cross-training activities that target the quadriceps can help you achieve better muscle balance, therefore reducing the injury risk.

Plyometrics
Plyometrics are high intensity, explosive exercises such as jumping, bounding and hopping drills. Jumping onto a box or step is one of the most popular. These activities are best suited for highly conditioned athletes (not beginners). Using proper form is essential when performing explosive drills. Because of their high impact, landing improperly can lead to a greater incidence of injury. If you are not familiar with plyometrics, you may want to work with a certified personal trainer for a few sessions until you have mastered the techniques.

Walking
Many are surprised to hear that walking is actually a great cross-training activity. Unlike running, it’s low-impact, but it targets many of the same muscles and connective tissues. And because walking can be done almost anywhere at any time, doing a vigorous walk the day after an intense run is a great way to recover. If you choose to use walking as a cross-training activity on your non-running days, walk at a brisk enough pace to get the cardio-respiratory benefits. Remember to use good form and pump your arms to burn more calories and pick up the pace.

Deep Water Running
Deep water running, also known as pool running, is exactly as the name implies: running in deep water. This is achieved by slipping on a flotation device, such as an AquaJogger, so that your legs are suspended off the bottom of the pool. This activity mimics running on land without the impact on the joints. It makes a great cross-training activity for injured runners, but many healthy runners may find it quite boring. One of the disadvantages to pool running is the need to have access to an indoor pool during the colder months and/or a pool deep enough to perform this workout. Research gyms that provide pools in your local city or area.

Elliptical Training
The elliptical trainer is one of the most popular cardio machines in the gym, and because it mimics running action without the impact, it makes an excellent cross-training activity. Even though the elliptical is a weight-bearing activity, it is low-impact for the joints. The elliptical also helps develop a runnner’s core and leg muscles, and if you use one with the arm levers, the pushing and pulling motion allows you to develop a stronger arm swing therefore helping make you a more efficient runner. Wearing a
heart rate monitor during activity will allow you to get optimal training according to your goal.

Boxing
Boxing as a sport requires a high level of athletic prowess: strength, speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, endurance, nerve, and power. Boxing as a fitness activity enables the average person to hone those same athletic skills, all without having to take a punch. Boxing enhances cardiovascular health by keeping the heart rate up and it improves total body strength with punching, kicking, and jumping – all of which requires a surprising amount of strength and intensity. Boxing also improves motor skills with hand-eye coordination, which is very important as we age. It is also a great stress reliever and improves overall body composition.

Circuit training
Circuit training seems to benefit the cardiovascular system somewhat, at least in less-experienced athletes. Since there is little or no rest between exercises, your heart rate can jump to as high as 80% of its maximum. Traditional weight lifting, on the other hand, has not shown any benefit to the cardiovascular system. Tests of maximal oxygen consumption, even in untrained individuals, do not change after several-week weight lifting programs. However, they don’t decrease either, which is good news for runners. Additionally, studies using distance athletes have found that traditional weight lifting can lead to improvements in running economy, time-to-exhaustion, and neuromuscular coordination.

Cardio Dance Workout
Dancing is fun, enjoyed in social settings, in the privacy of one’s home, and even in fitness clubs. Dance inspired workouts are tailored toward a variety of musical tastes and dance types. Cardio dance is suitable for any fitness level — the routines are easily adapted to the needs of each participant.Dancing provides a cardiovascular workout that burns up to 1,200 calories per hour.Combined with a healthy diet, cardio dance aids in weight loss and personal fitness. Aside from burning fat and calories, cardio dancing also helps improve balance and coordination, posture and motor control. It also works to relieve stress, an important component in overall heart and cardiovascular health.
Some ideas of cardio dance are Zumba,Ballroom Dancing,Fusion classes,
Piloboxing,(hybrid of boxing and pilates)  Urban pole and Body Jam.

 Yoga
For high performance athletes, including regular yoga practice in their training routine can offer many benefits. Yoga for cross training helps improve flexibility and balance and works parts of the body that may be overlooked in the regular fitness routine. It also teaches stress-reduction techniques. Yoga also requires precise technique and mental focus. The combination of breathing work, meditation, and posture is meant to bring clarity to the mind while increasing strength and balance in the body. Athletes in particular can benefit from the relaxation techniques of yoga developed through poses such as the corpse pose. This pose promotes relaxation and clearing of the mind.

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