The 3 Biggest Reasons to Start Cross Training
Do you ever get bored of doing the same workout or sport all the time?
Thought so. It’s normal.
In today’s post I’m going to show you how to spice things up to keep you motivated and improve your fitness.
Let’s dive straight in…
What is Cross Training
I’m sure there are lots of specific definitions but, put simply, I define it as:
“Doing any form of exercise that is different to your main sport”
For example, let’s say that you are a triathlete. You run, swim and cycle pretty much all the time. If you decide to start playing squash, tennis or go boxing that’s cross training.
The 3 Biggest Reasons to Cross Train
Most of the reasons below are kind of linked, but I have separated them into the 3 biggest areas for why I believe you should cross train.
#1 Physical Variety
Put simply, your body becomes very efficient at movements and exercises that it does regularly. If you’ve ever hit a plateau in your performance, this is one of the reasons. When this happens you need to mix up your training.
This can be by changing the type of running, cycling or swimming you are doing. It can also be achieved by playing a different sport.
Challenging the body in different ways forces it to adapt to the new challenge. This will help use muscles, neurological pathways and energy systems that you were, perhaps, not using before.
Your mind and body will adapt and push you through that plateau.
#2 Psychological Variety
Doing the same thing day in day out can be a little tiring, psychologically. Maybe you lose your motivation and don’t push as hard. It’s normal. Mixing up your training can be very good for your motivation levels.
“A change is as good as a rest”
I find this one of the main reasons to cross train. When you’re learning a new sport or skill, your mind has to concentrate on it 100% so you forget in some ways that you are actually training.
Your body will adapt quickly to the new demands that are placed on it. You might find that it helps with your ability to hold a higher heart rate or develops muscles that were previously weak.
I can personally vouch for this, as I unintentionally experienced this effect from boxing when I was running 10km races. The difference it made to my running was huge, which I wrote about in the benefits of HIIT.
Good Examples of Cross Training
The options are endless here, but I’ll give you a couple of examples.
Boxing is an incredibly hard sport. You will need good explosive power, fast reaction times and the conditioning to give maximum efforts followed by periods of relative rest. It’s for this reason that I think boxing (any any other fighting sport) helps develop cardiovascular performance massively.
Why do it…
It’s the equivalent of doing lots of high intensity intervals. But with added reason for doing so. When sprinting you are just against yourself, but when boxing you are against someone else. There is no better motivator than getting punched! You will move and not stop, I promise you.
How to do it…
You don’t have to take head shots to get the benefits, though. Just the training alone or body sparring (one of my favourites) is excellent for improving your ability to hold a high intensity level of exercise and heart rate.
I boxed for quite a few years and it improved my 10km running PB from 44 mins down to 39 mins. Which I wrote about before, here.
Where to do it…
If you’re in Hemel Hempstead I would highly recommend training with Dan Stocks over at Fight 2 Fitness. He’s an excellent, motivated trainer who loves the sport and has boxed himself. It’s suitable for beginners, too, so don’t worry if you’ve never done it before. You will be welcomed and comfortable.
You can also find loads of places around your local area to train. I trained out of a gym called Gymbox in London. A great place because it’s a normal gym but with a large focus on boxing and Muay Thai. I had two white collar boxing bouts through Gymbox.
Squash you may have thought was a good one, as it’s very high intensity and you are right. Squash is another excellent way to work your cardio (heart and lungs) system effectively and that fitness will
transfer over into any other sport you play.
Badminton is usually not quite as high intensity as squash, although it can be. But it does usually result in more lunges. Lunging from side to side and at a variety of angles really starts to work your glutes.
Why is this important?
Many people find that their glutes (bum) muscles aren’t firing as they should be, especially when running. This can lead to poor technique that over months of training leads to other issues, such as an overly tight IT bands.
Lunging regularly in the gym is good. Doing it explosively and dynamically in badminton is very good. It forces you to push yourself and in ways that are unusual in direction, speed and length of stride. Basically, it’s a challenge and your body will have to adapt.
Most People Don’t do it
I speak to a lot of people who run, cycle and do triathlons. Some of them don’t do any weight training, let alone any cross training. It’s quite amazing actually.
Weight/strength training is a vital part of playing any sport, even for endurance athletes. It helps in so many ways that it’s something that, in my opinion, all athletes at every level should include in their workout plan.
Cross training is also such a good addition to your training. I think a lot of people feel guilty if they are not out smashing themselves really hard in their chosen sport whenever possible. Truth be told, the rest from the repetition is a game changer.
Getting out and learning more skills, pushing your mind and body in different ways and taking the boredom away from always doing the same kind of training is a key part of getting better in my eyes.
I hope that this has at least got you interested in trying out some other sports and resistance training.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and if you have any questions please get in contact. I’d be happy to help.