This article was originally printed in the September 2015 issue of the Circle C Ranch Newsletter in Austin, Texas.
Even if you faithfully work out multiple times per week, if you’re not mixing up your fitness regimen, you might not be seeing optimal results.
“When you only do one fitness activity — like running or weight lifting, for example — and you only work on the muscles involved in that sport, you may discover that you are far less fit than you think,” says Todd Schlifstein, DO, a sports medicine rehabilitation doctor at New York University Medical Center’s Rusk Institute.
The answer? Cross training.
Cross training is typically defined as an exercise regimen that uses several modes of training to develop a specific component of fitness. There are many benefits to cross training, not the least of which is being able to try many types of exercise to see what you like best and gives you the desired results.
Here are some of the main benefits to varying your workout:
- Prevent injury – Doing the same exercise repeatedly can lead to overuse injuries. Cross training distributes the stress of exercise more evenly, and gives your muscles, tendons, bones, joints and ligaments a rest. Particularly if you primarily do high-impact activities like running, cross training with yoga or Pilates on alternate days can be especially beneficial.
- Increase motivation – Variety is the spice of your exercise program! When you do lots of different types of movement, you can stay more excited about your fitness program which will also lead to a higher chance of adherence. If staying motivated is your issue, try a new class at the gym or even something completely different at home (YouTube has lots of free workout videos that will allow you to try out new things.)
- Improve balance and coordination – Balance can be improved through participation in a variety of activities, which can boost your athletic performance in many sports. Cross training allows your muscles to experience different forces and angles from a range of activities; it also improves agility, coordination, reaction time, speed and power.
- Broaden your exercise horizons – It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and stay in our comfort zone with what we know. One of the most fun classes I’ve ever done was one I never thought I’d like: boxing. As in, wrap the hands, put on gloves and pound a bag. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try but never have?
A good cross-training program will incorporate cardiovascular fitness (anything that gets your heart rate up), strength training, flexibility, and balance and agility work. Even if you don’t belong to a gym, you can achieve all of this from home even with no equipment. You can take a brisk walk outside, then search YouTube for bodyweight exercises (for strength), yoga (for flexibility) and Pilates (for balance and agility). Working out doesn’t have to be complicated!
Enjoy trying new things and reap the additional benefits of cross training!
 WebMD, “Get Stronger and Leaner With Cross Training”
 HopeChannel, “Benefits of Cross Training”
 HopeChannel, “Benefits to Cross Training”