The Benefits of Cross-Training: Now Iím a Believer

2SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/16/2010 5:55 AM   :  56 comments   :  14,464 Views

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about my current running injury. Iíve got Achilies tendonitis, and have been doing weeks of physical therapy which will (hopefully) get me running again. When the therapist told me I wouldnít be running for at least 6 to 8 weeks, I panicked for a few reasons.

First, I love to run and use it as a stress reliever. So Iíd have to find a new hobby, at least temporarily. Second, I didnít know what else I was going to do for exercise. Aside from a few days of strength training each week, running has been my only form of cardio for a very long time. I became a very fit runner and was proud of the fact that I could easily go out for a 6-8 mile run any day of the week. And because I liked it so much, I never saw much of a reason to try any other activities. That is, until I became injured.

Being forced to try other activities has shown me that Iím not really as fit as I thought I was. Although I became a good runner, I was pretty unfit in a lot of other ways. My flexibility was terrible, and because I never cross-trained, other cardio exercises were more difficult for me than they should be. I know the benefits of cross-training and when people ask for my advice, I encourage them to try a wide variety of activities- both for enjoyment and for overall fitness. But there are many times when I donít take my own advice, and this was one of them.

Four weeks ago, the thought of incorporating other activities into my permanent routine would have sounded ridiculous. The idea that I might only run 3-4 days a week would have been absurd. But Iím learning that if I want to be a lifelong runner, and if I want to be fit in a wide variety of ways, Iím going to have to cross-train. They might be activities that I donít enjoy quite as much as a good run. But my running days are numbered if I donít start taking better care of my body.

Whether your primary form of cardio is running or some other activity, you can still benefit from trying different exercises. Cross-training is a great way to condition other muscle groups that you arenít regularly working. It also gives a rest to those muscles youíre consistently stressing, which helps prevent injury. Cross-training also helps prevent boredom and can add a boost of motivation to your regular routine.

Do you cross-train? Do you like trying a variety of cardio activities, or do you tend to stay with just one?


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
 

NEXT ENTRY >   Veg-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

Great Stories from around the Web

Comments

  • 56
    I need more variety. I tend to do the eltipcal trainer because it uses more calaries. Great reminder. - 12/11/2012   7:09:54 AM
  • 55
    I have added strength training along with my cardio exercises. I look forward to the change-up, rather than the same old thing every workout. Doing this has kept my attention on keeping on track of exercising period. - 8/30/2011   11:45:33 PM
  • 54
    I like to do 10 minutes of the treadmill, then 10 of the elliptical and then 10 on the bike, so I get my 30 minutes done. - 11/19/2010   3:01:21 AM
  • 53
    I constantly vary my workouts! I have over 3 dozen workout DVDs - step aerobics, Pilates, stability ball workouts, ab workouts, circuit training workouts, resistance band workouts and the Core Fusion series. I also have a Bowflex! These workouts range from 30 minutes to over an hour. I tend to cycle among 6 or so different DVDs and when I start getting bored, I completely switch up my routines. - 11/18/2010   6:47:45 PM
  • 52
    I'm just starting C25K training, so I'm "running" MWF and bicycling TTh. Sat and Sun I may run, hike, play golf or walk with the dog. . . - 11/18/2010   6:14:39 PM
  • BERYL22
    51
    I have been cross training for 5x a week sometimes doing high intensity training for 20-30min, or a steady state for 30-45min, and using a step machine for 10-15min 2x weekly. I also do strength training 3x a week but i feel that my fitness levels in cross training and running is not getting better. My weight loss has plateaud and i have added 5lb in the last month instead. I guess i need to start running instead and doing more cross training. thanks for the advise - 11/18/2010   5:12:19 PM
  • BETHHRSN
    50
    One thing that makes it hard for me to enjoy cross training is that it seems to take away from my running. For example I did a few short intervals on a stationary bike Tuesday and then was dead legged yesterday when I tried to run. I would have been happier saving my legs for the run, but I need to burn calories on days I'm not running! - 11/18/2010   11:28:28 AM
  • 49
    I like swimming but have a shoulder and bicep injury from lifting things while cleaning the shed... so I have been treading water instead which also is a good work out...just different - 11/17/2010   7:41:05 PM
  • 48
    I'd be interested in what you did for cross training exercise. I am a walker . . . never liked to run . . . ever. Even when we had to run in the military I hated it. I think I could get into biking though. - 11/17/2010   5:58:43 PM
  • LORNYELAWOLI
    47
    hep - 11/17/2010   4:49:45 PM
  • 46
    My first love will always be walking. I sometimes feel like I could walk forever! But walking stopped working for me as a weight-loss exercise when I became more fit. So last April, I started a Couch-to-5k program, and now I run 5k 3x a week. It was then that I realized I needed to get on the ball and get back to the gym to start strength training again. I had stopped last winter b/c it was inconvenient to get out after work on those cold, dark New England nights! My place of employment (luckily) is in a building that has a small gym. Now I am in that gym 2x a week on my lunch hour, doing 45-60 minutes of strength training. I stretch 3x a week after my runs, and on the weekends, I try to get at least one, if not two days of alternative exercise in. Last weekend, I rode my bike 18 miles on Saturday and went for a 3-mile walk on Sunday. Other times, I will rake my yard, mow the lawn, or do other yard work. In the winter, my husband and I try to cross-country ski one day on the weekend, and last winter we tried snowshoeing one time! We liked it so much we are taking a group of people in January to try it out with us. In the summer, we drag out our kayaks onto a small pond and paddle around for an hour or so. I am always looking for fun ways to get in exercise, so that I am not going to be bored with my regular routine (running and strength training), and also so that I can improve my running in the long term by utilizing other muscles on my off days. - 11/17/2010   1:25:35 PM
  • 45
    I guess if you count doing different fitness DVDs every month, then I've been cross-training for a couple years now. It's fun to mix it up, I never get bored, even though I pretty much rotate my fav DVDs. - 11/17/2010   12:37:30 PM
  • WINEDINETRAVEL
    44
    I love to walk, and that is my usual aerobic exercise. Good advice - I need to start thinking about how to become more well-rounded. - 11/17/2010   11:42:35 AM
  • 43
    I definitely cross-train! I get so bored with the same thing over and over and I used to dread going to the gym or an aerobics class. So I singed up for dance classes. I started with tap and a ballet stretch class, graduated into a higher level of tap and have added hip hop and jazz. I also joined a fitness certification program at work which includes aerobics classes, strength and flexibility training as well as outdoor trail walking (which I LOVE!). I'm trying Yoga now again after many years away and I plan to get back to T'ai Chi soon too. When I'm doing the kinds of exercise I'm not as crazy about (aerobics classes and strength training), I keep reminding myself that they will help make me a stronger dancer as well as help with weight loss and keeping away the boredom that I find a "gym-only" exercise regime brings for me. So yes, cross-training is definitely for me! - 11/17/2010   9:36:51 AM
  • 42
    I have ADD when it comes to exercise so I have to cross train. - 11/17/2010   9:32:55 AM
  • 41
    I take bodycombat, taekwondo, bodystep and i thought it would be fine but i
    wanted more exercise so i have descovered cyceling and it is going good so far. I like it - 11/17/2010   8:09:53 AM
  • 40
    I didn't think much of cross training over the years until, like you, I got injured. I am primarily a runner too- nothing gives me that high like a long distance run. But since I'm older now (50), I find my body doesn't appreciate being puched that hard day after day after day. I need to use different muscle groups and I need to rest others. Running is hard on the body if you routinely go out for 6-10 mies. So now I swim about 2x/wk, walk some, go mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing and I do weights. My running times are better than ever and when I do get out for that run, my body is rested and I'm ready to go! I haven't been injured in a while now (knock wood), and if it's raining or freezing, I always have an alternative sport to do. Plus, my body doesn't hurt. That's a plus at 50! And I appreciate my long runs that much more now.

    Trish - 11/17/2010   7:25:24 AM
  • 39
    I have been cross-training consistently for over two years now -- I could never stick with just one exercise for more than a few days in a row. Especially now that I'm trying to build up my running abilities, I'm being even more careful to strategically cross train. I want to build up my strength and endurance by doing interval training on various machines and terrain, as well as give myself easy recovery days on the elliptical machine. I'm really improving my fitness, not just maintaining it -- that wouldn't be true if I were jogging the same 3.5 miles every day. - 11/17/2010   5:40:20 AM
  • MEERAMEHTAJI
    38
    I try to cross train, but am limited to 3-4 different things only. - 11/16/2010   9:21:46 PM
  • HALOSEEKER
    37
    I was just walking and riding my stationary bike and thought that was enough. It wasn't. I have added Tai Chi, Qigong, pilates and yoga. I also so strength training everyday due to a torn rotator cuff. Someday when I have lost enough weight, I want to run...again. As a teenager I ran everywhere I went, just for fun. I want to do that again. - 11/16/2010   7:33:42 PM
  • 36
    I started out my spark journey with just walking and then joined a gym a month ago. I would definitely call what I do cross-training. Monday I do about an hour of cardio, either in step class or rowing and biking followed by 30-60 minutes of strength training. Tuesday is Zumba in the morning and my Boot Camp class in the afternoon, Wednesday is yoga, Thursday is spinning and boot camp, Friday is a day off and Saturday is either a class or other cardio at the gym. I also add in walking outside on good days and things like trips to the zoo or hikes etc. - 11/16/2010   7:11:11 PM
  • MELLIL
    35
    For a long long time I only used my stationary bike for cardio. This past year I have started walking and have now even walked a couple of 5k's... but I dearly WANT to run! One of these days I'm going to do it! I have GOT to find good shoes though... I have horrible fallen arches, and only when I discovered Sketchers Shape-Ups was I able to finally start WALKING! They push up on my arches and where before I could only walk MAYBE a half mile before my feet were killing me, with the shape-ups I can walk forever! BUT... I can not run in shape-ups. That just really won't work at all! So I need to find a shoe that really pushes up on my arches, but still allows me to come down on my whole foot when I run. (more info than you EVER needed in this lifetime!) But anyway... Yea... I DO like to cross train... And in the summer I like to swim too! - 11/16/2010   7:04:10 PM
  • 34
    I run I walk and when the weathers nice I swim in my pool. I would love to have a recumbant bike. But no money for that. I think cross training is a good idea. - 11/16/2010   6:18:34 PM
  • 33
    In the summer, I walk, garden and swim.

    In the winter, I walk and use my stationary bike.

    With major health problems, I have to split up training into various activities. My granddaughter just bought us (well, she and our son bought) Wii Fit. We're setting that up tonight and will add that bit of fun to our "just keep moving" time. - 11/16/2010   5:03:20 PM
  • 32
    I do cross train. I love running. I just started running a year ago. In that time I have ran two half marathons and just ran my first full marathon. I could not do what I do without cross training. I need to use the elliptical some nights instead of pounding the pavement. I consider my cross training to be more beneficial for my long run days, as I feel more rested and recovered going into them. Additionally, I do yoga a couple times a week to stay flexible and healthy. - 11/16/2010   4:04:08 PM
  • 31
    I love to cross-train. I found it is the only way my body will lose & keep off the weight. I get bored also doing the same thing repeatedly. I cross-train with Biggest Loser DVDs, Zumba, Walk-away-the pounds DVDs, walking, yoga, etc. The DVDs come in handy this time of the year when the weather is yucky. - 11/16/2010   4:00:09 PM
  • 30
    I am a cross-training fiend! I do the following: strength training, cardio strength training, Insanity, Tae Bo, yoga, running, and zumba. I mix it up based upon my mood or how many calories I need to burn that day or week. Zumba is regularly on Tuesday nights because I go to my community center to do it, otherwise, I love to keep things hopping by mixing my cardio up regularly! I am in fabulous shape and the weight continues to drop as my endurance and strength levels go up. Cross-training is AWESOME! - 11/16/2010   3:09:09 PM
  • 29
    I don't cross train enough, but will do more thanks to your blog.

    Many Blessings! - 11/16/2010   1:44:31 PM
  • OUTOFCONTROL
    28
    I cross train with running, cycling, and swimming. It's a perfect combination, and I can do more than one each day if I have time. - 11/16/2010   12:58:37 PM
  • 27
    I'm learning the importance of cross training as I research ways of training for a marathon. There is definitely nothing better than a good run though! - 11/16/2010   12:34:36 PM
  • 26
    Thanks for sharing your story, love it, it's awful not to be able to run but your right about learning how out of shape we are on the other sports. I too have been crosstraining because of being injured. I'm feeling like I going to be a stronger runner when I'm ready to get back. May even be ready for a triathlon since I've been able to focus on my swimming and cycling. woohoo - 11/16/2010   12:22:35 PM
  • 25
    I love cross-training and changing things up (bike riding, swimming, weights, yoga, etc.), but I do find it harder to fit that in and balance when training for a race. Next year I am going to set a goal for my first triathlon and hope that that training process will help me find new ways to do so. - 11/16/2010   12:18:50 PM
  • SUNSET09
    24
    I prefer to cross train as I get the best results that way. It's with anything, you can get bored and there's no challenge to continuing doing the same thing. You work different muscles and may discover there are other things you enjoy doing! Think outside the box! - 11/16/2010   12:00:37 PM
  • 23
    I really try to diversify my activities. I had a running injury awhile back as well, but have continued to do different cardio activities regularly. - 11/16/2010   11:44:04 AM
  • 22
    Yes I do cross train. I've noticed even trying a different eliptical or treadmill at the gym than the last one I tried, can make a difference. Some days I bike. I have just started to try running, but some days it is just too much so back I go to one of my other cardio workouts. I'm not bored with any of it....dare I say yet. - 11/16/2010   11:36:17 AM
  • 21
    As a physical therapist, we are constantly seeing overuse injuries. One of the biggest challenges is convincing people that you get in condition for your sport by doing a lot of different things. It is much safer and more efficient. And, yes, runners are some of the most difficult to convince. Must be that runner's high we all hear so much about! - 11/16/2010   11:26:41 AM
  • 20
    This kind of helped to clear up what cross training is for me, thank you for that. Now that I know, I guess yes, I DO cross train! I do not enjoy running at all (sorry to say!) but do enjoy swimming, biking & the elliptical trainer. I also like to play volleyball, kayak & go hiking so I find that when I am not in the gym, I am still 'exercising' so it never gets boring for me - 11/16/2010   11:21:56 AM
  • 19
    Right now, running is my preferred and usual form of cardio, but when I was injured last April I had to find other ways to workout and get the cardio in until I could run regularly again. I got back into inline skating, and that showed me how much work I needed to go on my glutes. I also got into fitness classes and took up circuit training. Even now that I can run 6 miles at a time, I still mix it up with step, circuits, kickboxing, and hopefully soon ice skating. Getting injured was probably the best thing that happened to my fitness level because it forced me to get well rounded and I am way fitter than I would be otherwise. - 11/16/2010   11:16:47 AM
  • 18
    Ah yes - crosstraining. I hear about people even just WALKING 20,000 plus steps a day & it makes my hips hurt. Not to be negative, but doing the same thing all the time is a "Repetitive Strain Injury" in the making. I know millions of people run, too, & love it. But I've started more of it lately, & my spine is paying the price, so I'm going to have to try & get to the gym & get on some "non-impact" machines. I don't know how human joints hold up to all the pounding they get during running. - 11/16/2010   11:08:59 AM
  • 17
    Yes I found cross training to be very helpful in regaining muscle strength after my surgery - 11/16/2010   11:08:22 AM
  • 16
    I pretty much stick with the ones I like. I try and switch it up by doing intervals, but there are certain exercises and machines I simply hate! - 11/16/2010   11:03:05 AM
  • 15
    Great (and quick) blog. Crosstraining is what was so attractive about triathlons - the variety helped reduce injury even though the volume was high.
    Thanks too for using different motivational photos - it's really nice to see a healthy fit woman who looks like "me" Gives me something to shoot for!
    Hope your flexibility exercises pay off with rapid recovery, improved performance, and long term health! - 11/16/2010   10:56:22 AM
  • ALWHITE4
    14
    WEE IF I CAN LOOK AS GOOD AS YOU IAM GOING TO START CROSS TRAINING A.S A.P. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS ALWHITE4 - 11/16/2010   10:41:03 AM
  • 13
    I have been running for about a year and a half now... and I have always cross-trained. Sometimes I have more consistent with it, certainly, but I just loved having a bit of variety in my week.
    - 11/16/2010   10:32:49 AM
  • PRINCESS1682
    12
    I am not the runner I want to be as yet...but in the meantime I cross-train and just challange myself to do a little more each week.... Great blog! - 11/16/2010   10:28:38 AM
  • 11
    I've been cross training for many years. While I may love one particular sport, I do many different things to add variety to my workouts. over the years, I've run, walked, cycled, inline skated, kick boxed, etc...

    These days, I do more walking and spinning. I agree with the article i.e. that cross training can help reduce a person's risk for injury as well as keep their workouts fresh. - 11/16/2010   10:13:20 AM
  • 10
    I love to cross train makes going to the gym fun because I am never bored with the same everyday routine. - 11/16/2010   10:07:44 AM
  • 9
    I love to run too. I broke my foot early in the summer and was forced to move to water only activities. I think I did okay with that... but dang it, if as soon as I was cleared, I laced up my shoes and hit the bricks again. It's pretty much become my only cardio again. Because running is free. How does one cross train when you don't have a gym membership? a bike? or pool access any more? and no extra funds at the moment to get any of these things? - 11/16/2010   10:04:57 AM
  • 8
    I not yet the runner I would like to be, but I have been cross training. I have incorporated yoga and now spinning into my workout and have started to notice changes in my body and my fitness level. In particular, the spinning has made my legs stronger which has made my running better. As a bonus, the variety makes working out much more fun. - 11/16/2010   9:31:13 AM
  • 7
    I love running and sometimes it can be hard to remember to cross train, especially since running is as easy as putting on my shoes and leaving the house. But there are a couple of other activities I like to do to mix things up and I try to do them at least once or twice a week in addition to my normal running schedule. I especially love road biking and yoga. My husband recently discovered a community pool so we're going to try to get over there to swim more frequently and maybe that will lead to a few sprint triathlons - who knows? I'd also like to do more dancing, but I'm hopelessly lacking in rhythm and afraid to dance in public - hence my Netflixing several dance workout DVDs to do in the privacy of my living room. None of it replaces running as my favorite activity, but it's all fun! - 11/16/2010   9:13:52 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Join SparkPeople.com

x Lose 10 Pounds by January 29! Get a FREE Personalized Plan