Following the same weekly exercise routine may help maintain your fitness level but will do little to improve it. Introducing some variety in the form of cross training could be the key to training progression – and to reignite your body to increase your fitness, and get the results you aim for.
By engaging in cross training you could reap a whole host of fitness benefits including:
- Increased motivation and interest – your workouts become more fun.
- Physiological adaptation – your body adapts to the new challenges.
- Training progression – your sessions become more advanced.
- Improvement in your exercise – you get fitter through your exercise.
- Better results – you will see you break through a plateau and continue on your oath towards results.
With today's busy lifestyle, probably the biggest bonus of cross training is that you can get fitter and stronger without committing any more time to your workout.
You are less likely to develop any injuries due to overuse because you will not be confining your exercise to a single activity – like running or only ever weight training. This keeps the body in balance and provides all round conditioning, which is ideal for long-term health and fitness.
An excellent example of cross training is the sport of triathlon, where competitors complete in three disciplines; namely swimming, cycling and running — one after the other. Arguably, triathletes have the best all-round fitness of any athlete because their sport requires good upper and lower body strength, flexibility and a strong cardiovascular system.
For success in their chosen sport, triathletes don't specialise in one type of exercise. Instead, they have an all-round fitness plan, which is the best way to achieve balance in your health and fitness programme. Looking at the triathlon, the competitors will be getting an all-over body workout using:
- Swimming – upper body muscles and also legs a little.
- Cycling – mainly legs but also arms on the hills as they pull on the handlebars.
- Running – mainly legs but also core muscles to keep the body upright and hold everything in.
- All three disciplines – the CV system.
Additionally, the movements are very different in each activity so although legs are involved in all three forms of exercise, different muscles are employed, which provides an all-round workout for the body.
Give cross training a try
Aim to keep a mix of activities in your exercise programme and ensure it includes a variety of strength, cardiovascular and flexibility work.
If you usually do a weights workout in the gym, try some of the cardiovascular machines and spend 10 minutes stretching after your usual session. Similarly, if you always head for the cross-trainer or only ever run, try the bike and a few weights machines. Importantly, do ensure that you get proper instruction so that you use good technique and avoid injury if you are not used to a new discipline.
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