Summer is here and there is so much to enjoy: hiking, biking, running, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and gardening top the lists of my clients’ favorite summer activities. Is your body ready for all these great summer activities? Cross training is a great way to get it ready. Many clients ask me, “What is cross training?” and “How do I do it?” This blog should answer both of these questions.
Over the years, I’ve seen many of my clients want to jump right into seasonal exercise, sports or activities without any preparation. Clients are often surprised when their body gets injured or becomes really sore. Cross training activities, especially for runners, seasonal sports enthusiasts and endurance athletes, is a fun and safe way to enjoy the things you love to do.
What is Cross Training?
Cross training is defined as performing a sport or activity that is not your primary sport. The goals of cross training are to improve overall performance and to reduce injury risk. So if your main sport is soccer, you may lift weights or swim to cross train. In addition, I consider cross training the preparation exercises for the sport you are about to do. For example, if you want to start backpacking in June, cross train by walking with a light pack, doing other cardiovascular exercises and lifting weights in April and May to prepare.
When you think of cross training, consider what your main sport requires you to do and pick some opposite activities. Do the opposite of what your body does for your main sport. Let’s say you are a runner who trains four days weekly with total mileage of 25 miles. There are three other days in the week for cross training. On one of the days I would recommend you cross train by resting and doing stretches. Runners need to stretch the quads, calves and chest. On the remaining 2 days, I would prescribe 60 minutes of cycling and weight training for your gluteals, hamstrings, back and core. This cross training recipe allows your body to recover from running, stay flexible, get stronger and keep your body active all week.
Cross training work outs are also a great way to stay fit in general and keep healthy. Cross training work outs typically combine short bursts of cardiovascular exercise with upper and lower body weight training and some core work. An example of a great cross training work out would be warming up for 10 minutes with your heart rate in your target zone, then doing the work out below and ending with a 10 minute cool down with stretching.
- 20 reps of an upper body resistance exercise (like chest press)
- 20 reps squats
- 1 minute jumping jacks
- 50 reps of abdominal crunches
- Repeat circuit 3 times
These quick, cross training circuits keep your heart rate up, alternate muscle groups and engage the core. Performing several cross-training work outs and ending with flexibility exercises allows the body a chance to get stronger and gives it a break from your primary sport. Cross training work outs such as these can be performed 3-4 times weekly. On another day, you can perform a cardiovascular workout of your choice, and a final day can be spent on flexibility training and core work.
As with many of our bodies’ processes, the body craves orthopedic balance. If you only run, or only swim or only play soccer without cross training, the body’s orthopedic system can become out of balance and injure. Cross training activities for runners, outdoor enthusiasts, and seasonal athletes is an amazing and fun way to keep your body safe and healthy.
Physical therapists are great resources for exercise prescription and advice on the best cross training work outs for your body type. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, contact us at 503-295-2585 and one of our talented clinical team members can prescribe you a customized cross training work out. If you live outside the Portland area, please visit apta.org to find a qualified physical therapist in your area. And read my blog on How to Find a Good PT.
Happy Cross Training!