Whatever your workout of choice, cross training can make you better at it. Plus, you’ll get generally fitter, stronger and in better shape. Here’s how
What Is Cross Training?
When you do the same activity over and over like, say, running, you’re working the same muscles every session. The result — your muscles get used to the action, which can lead to a plateau in your results. What’s more, using the same muscles in the same movement patterns can set you up for overuse injuries. Cross training is doing a different activity that complements your main form of exercise. For example, if you’re a runner, spending some time in the weights section doing exercises that strengthen your legs and core could help you become a better runner. Use these tips from Ceri Hannan, national product development manager at Virgin Active, to find the best form of cross training for your workout.
You’re into…Strength training
You lift weights? Loving your work! You’ll enjoy stronger bones, a faster metabolism and, of course, sexy, lean muscle. You may also find that you’re as tightly wound Mmusi Maimane in a parliament sitting. And that you get winded halfway through a ParkRun. “A great complementary exercise to traditional weight training would be cardio work,” says Hannan. You’ll strengthen your heart muscle and improve how efficiently your body uses oxygen, so you’ll be more overall fit, plus able to go more intense in your lifting seshes. Also incorporate yoga into your routine, suggests Hannan — it’ll improve your flexibility.
You lift yourself? Bodyweight training will get you far in life – including up mountain faces or over fences – but progress can be frustratingly slow. After all, it’s you vs gravity. “We know that every movement in life starts from the core — more importantly the ability of the core to fire at the right time enabling a stable base from which to allow movement to happen efficiently and safely,” says Hannan. “Exercise classes such as Pilates would be a great supplement for this style of workout.”
Hey there, mermaid — time to trade that voice for legs and spend some time out of the water. “Disciplines such as running and resistance training will all benefit swimming performance,” says Hannan. “However yoga gets bang for buck as an excellent training addition. Its movements yield flexible muscles and improved joint mobility, not to mention the emphasis on controlled breathing.”
You’re into…High-Intensity Interval Training
If you’re a regular in the 24 or Grid classes at Virgin Active and the guys at S.W.E.A.T. 1000 call you out by name, you’re getting a solid dose of cardio and your metabolism is a well-oiled machine. But your body also needs time to chill out after all that supercharged activity. “Due to the intensity of HIIT we’d recommend no more than three times per week,” cautions Hannan. “So supplement with yoga or stretch and relaxation to create a balanced workout programme.”
Try this quick fat-blasting workout:
You’re into…Triathlon training
Well, guess what? You’re already cross training! “But sometimes, active rest for recovery requires your training programme to include forms of exercise beyond swim, bike and run,” says Hannan. “Performing extra endurance work via alternative low-impact or low weight-bearing activities such as stair climbing, swimming, deep-water running, or using the elliptical trainer, ensures virtually no stress on your joints.”
And as for that cycling… “Power in the ‘pull’ action is key,” says Hannan. “As the majority of us are ‘quad dominant’ it’s key to work those hamstrings in the gym.”
Whether you’re grounded or swinging from the ceiling – seriously, you need to try aerial yoga! — the general rule of thumb is that you’ll be getting more of a strength and conditioning workout than a cardio sesh. Yes, even if the room is heated. Add some cardio to your weekly regime to improve your overall fitness.
Looking for more? Do these five things to take your workouts to the next level.