As an avid runner, I tend to favour going out for a run over any other form of exercise. It’s comfortable, is something I find enjoyable (yes, there is something wrong with me) and I enjoy being outdoors, so it works out great for me. However, even I would admit that just running all the time is not suitable for my body and that now and then I need to branch out into forms of training to give my body something different to do.
And this is where cross-training comes in. Cross-training is doing another sporting or cardiovascular discipline as opposed to your primary sport to help strengthen your body for your chosen sport. For a runner like me, that cross-training is most often cycling or swimming, though can also include rowing, surfing or any cardio workout that I will gain some benefit from. While many people can easily mistake cross training for strength training, cross training is a more focused effort on other sporting disciplines and requires more time commitment than short strength building sessions.
It sounds simple enough, though for someone who loves running like I do it’s a chore to change sporting discipline and work out in another way. Thankfully though, I’ve a complete (mostly through encountering the drawbacks of not doing cross training) over time that it does make me a better runner and even if I enjoy cross-training less it allows me to enjoy running more, so for me, it’s a no-brainer. And the benefits of cross-training are quite numerous – so even if the thought of working on more than one sporting discipline in your work-outs is enough to make you vomit, it is worth it.
It allows you to train all year round
tends is perhaps the most apparent benefit of cross training, but still an important one nonetheless. Living in the mother city and always looking to make the most of the beautiful mountains and coastline, I prefer to stay clear of gyms and hit Mother Nature instead. However, during winter when Mother Nature has a tendency to throw a few too many tantrums, I can’t always hit the road or trail as often as I’d like.
And while running on a treadmill bores me to tears, swimming at a pool in the gym, spinning or other forms of indoor training mean that I can still stay fit in the winter months. Yes, I still hate the gym, but considering it only takes a practical hurricane to prevent me from going outside, it’s less of an issue for me. The only thing I haven’t quite gotten myself to do is swim in our beautiful sea here, but can you blame me for valuing my life?
Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
The most common type of sporting injuries are overuse injuries. This happens when a particular muscle or group of muscles gets used too often and they take the strain. Cross training allows you to give those muscles a break while still keeping fit. This is especially useful if you’ve recently injured your muscles or joints in some way and where swimming or cycling can then allow you to stay fit while you recover from the injury.
Yes running, cycling and swimming each use different muscles and so the muscles from your sport of choice may then become under-trained, but because you’re keeping fit, this becomes a lot easier to do, and you’ll find yourself more easily able to build yourself up to full strength than if you had taken a full break. Though, at times a full break is also a good thing for you if you’ve been actively training for a long time.
It strengthens your primary discipline
Strengthening a wider range of muscles will make you more effective at your chosen discipline. Whether it be running, cycling or swimming, the extra muscles will provide you with extra strength that makes you not only quickly, but makes your body more resistant to injury as well. The fact that you are also able to maintain or increase fitness by not overusing a certain set of muscles also makes a lot of sense in the long term.
We can talk a lot about the benefits of muscle fitness that will pay off with cross-training, but one of the psychological benefits that you also gain from cross- training is improved motivation. Adding diversity to your training regimen will often only make you more excited to practice your preferred discipline and will only boost your training efforts here. And who knows, while you might not be a fan of cycling or swimming now, that extra bit of time you now spend on those disciplines all of a sudden becomes more enjoyable too and makes your training more fun.
Become an all-rounder
While being an excellent runner, swimmer or cyclist is great,, developing at only one sport doesn’t help you when you want to participate in another sport, even just for recreational purposes. Effective cross-training makes your body more capable of handling a diverse amount of body movements and adaptive to different types of sports. So the next time your friends invite you to join in for a game of touch rugby, you don’t need to dread that you will pull a muscle or easily run out of breath, because your body will be better built for both speed and endurance. However, if you’re like me, it doesn’t make you any better at catching the ball so your friends probably still won’t pass to you anyway.
Last Updated: August 31, 2018