17 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Sportsister’s guide to cross training

June 18, 2008

Are you finding that your fitness levels are stagnating or your weight loss has slowed down despite undertaking a rigorous training program? Do you ever suffer from demotivation in relation to your fitness program and would rather settle down in front of the telly with a nice glass of Sauvingon Blanc than hit the gym? Then cross training may be the answer to your exercise conundrums.

mountain-bike.pngWhat is Cross Training?

Cross training is training using a mixture of sports to improve skills and fitness. Cross training is very beneficial for fitness and conditioning, improving particular skills, preventing boredom during training as well as injury prevention and management. This training regime is used by many athletes of all levels to use sports other than their chosen preference or area of competition to improve their skill or simply for fun and well being.

What are the Benefits of Cross Training?

Depending on an individual’s level of fitness and competition, cross training can be used to maintain interest in health and exercise and also can be used as a key component of injury rehabilitation.

Some of the benefits of cross training include:

Benefits Fitness and Conditioning – After months of the same training regime, your body adapts to the training load so fitness and conditioning remain constant. New skills, movement and exercise intensities introduced through cross training benefit health and fitness by placing different demands on your body.

Prevention of Boredom during training – Doing the same exercise routine repetitively can easily cause boredom and decrease compliance to a training program. Adding new exercise techniques is a good way to increase motivation, fun and open the options to new sports and people. Whether it’s a new exercise class or trying a new sport such as mountain biking or rock climbing, cross training allows new challenges and enjoyment.

Use New Skills to Benefit your Sport –Use other sports to develop the skills required for your chosen sport. For example, gymnastics is used by many athletes – such as spring board divers – to improve movement control, balance and agility. Snow skiers will use mountain and road cycling to improve aerobic fitness and muscle strength, particularly during the off-season, Identify the skills that benefit your sport and look for other sports to enhance those skills.

Injury Prevention – Repetitive strain and stress injuries are becoming more common as training programs become more challenging and endurance racing such has marathon running increase in popularity. Cross training can help minimise risk of repetitive stress and strain while still allowing high levels of fitness.

Injury Rehabilitation – Cross training is very beneficial to help athletes back to health and fitness when recovering from injury. Cross training allows you to choose the type of exercise you require during rehabilitation, allowing you to maintain or improve fitness while still recovering from injury.

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What are the Risks of Cross Training?

The risks of cross training depend on the type of skill or sport chosen and your level of skill in that area. As long as the chosen level is suitable for an individual’s ability the risk is low. When in season for a sport or building for an event, it is important to train specifically for it, and so cross training may form only a small component of the total program. However, especially for endurance events or high training loads, cross training is very beneficial to minimise the risk of injury.

Choosing when to cross train is an important consideration also. During the off-season or a period of non-specific training, cross training is a fantastic way to increase fun and motivation with new activities. When preparing for a specific event, it is beneficial to assess the injury risk of a sport activity in which you may be less skilled.

How do you Cross train?

Cross training allows you address fitness, strength and agility as you choose. The important question here is what are you trying to achieve? To use running as an example, if injury prevention is the focus water running removes all impact and stress from joints and bones while providing constant resistance to muscles. However, if boredom is an issue, a sport such as Ultimate Frisbee meets all the high aerobic demands of a training session in a fun environment while developing a new set of skills.

Cross training is a fantastic way to diversify training, improve particular aspects of skills and fitness, and most importantly a great way to have fun. Never stop challenging yourself and trying new activities.

Andrew Griffin, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Andrew is an Australian Physiotherapist currently working with the English Institute of Sport.

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