Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Cross Training

Cross training technically refers to an athlete training in a sport other than one they compete in with the goal of improving performance in their chosen sport. For our purposes, the goal is to improve overall fitness.

All sports focus on specific parts of the body but also ignore other parts. Running places a lot of stress on the legs, but little on the arms. Cycling is very similar in that regard. Swimming places more emphasis on the arms and significantly less on the legs, especially in long distance swims. All these sports benefit from a strong core, but none of them work the core hard enough to really create the strong core you need. Weight training can quickly strengthen the core and strengthen virtually every muscle group but it tends to cause some loss in flexibility. Stretching, an important aspect of any workout will give you that flexibility but it is often neglected because of time restraints.

Rest is the other vital factor in this equation. By cross training, you can workout several days in a row, but still allow alternating parts of your body to rest.

Let’s use my current workout plan as an example. On Monday and Wednesday, I lift weights. Monday is chest and triceps and Wednesday is back and biceps. I do some abs every workout and hate every minute of it. I’ll cover weight lifting in more detail next week. After I lift weights, I swim. Part of it is convenience; the pool is at the gym. However, swimming after lifting elongates the muscle in the arms and helps drive the lactic acid out of the muscles, speeding recovery.

On Tuesday and Thursday I spin. If I missed a lift, or want to do a little extra work in the weight room, I usually do that prior to spinning class. If I were training for a triathlon, I might swim prior to spinning and then run after spinning to mimic an event.

Friday and over the weekend, I go for a run. Currently, I run barefoot on the beach. It works the calves pretty hard, but it’s easy on the joints and the scenery is always great. Even a run in bad weather, is great on the beach. I only go 3 miles, again mostly convenience as it is 3 miles from the parking lot to the inlet and back. However, when I have doubled that distance, the angle of the beach often irritates my hip joints.

On the weekend, I play tennis on the day I don’t run. Actually tennis is the priority. It is the sport I find most engaging. By the technical definition, I cross train so I perform better at tennis but just staying in shape is my primary goal. On the tennis court, I never think about anything but tennis. I don’t plan the rest of my day, think about family, work, or anything else. I just want to hit the ball. Running, swimming, cycling, even spinning can all be boring at times. For me, even if I’m playing badly, I’m not bored.

So my first recommendation for you is find the one sport that is engaging. Then build a cross training routine around that sport that covers all the major muscle groups and supports that sport. Most of the training should be aerobic but anaerobic training is important as well. Everyone can benefit from weight lifting.

The variety will keep you motivated, healthy, and fit. Don’t forget to rest as well. It’s OK to skip a workout or take a weekend or even a week off on occasion.

The Bottom Line:
Get out there and cross train. If you need a goal, train for a triathlon sprint- ¼ mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, and a 5K run. That’s real cross training.

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