Cross-training: Rev up your exercise program with variety

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Cross-training: Rev up your exercise program with variety

Cross-training combines two or more types of physical activity. If it sounds intense, don't worry. Cross-training is an easy way to add variety to your exercise program, whether you want to live a healthier lifestyle or you're an advanced athlete who wants a more varied training regimen.

What is cross-training?

If you're bored with the same old workout, you're struggling to lose those last few pounds or you're ready to add a new level of fitness to your routine, cross-training may help you meet your fitness goals. Consider these basic approaches to cross-training:

  • Multiple activities. With this approach to cross-training, you combine two or more types of activity with the same goal — such as aerobic activity — in the same workout. For example, you might ride a stationary bike before your morning jog.
  • Alternating days. As another option, you may choose to alternate two or more types of activity during the week. For example, you might swim on Monday and Wednesday and jog on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Simply pick various activities you enjoy and incorporate them into your exercise plan.

What are the benefits of cross-training?

Cross-training can help you improve your overall fitness and performance. But that's not all. Cross-training can also:

  • Reduce your risk of injury. Cross-training gives your bones, muscles and joints a rest from repetitive stresses. Alternating between a high-impact activity, such as running, and a low-impact activity, such as cycling, can help you avoid overuse injuries and reduce the risk of other injuries.
  • Keep you interested. Exercise can be more fun when you're not doing the same activity every day. The variety may help you stick with your exercise program.
  • Help you burn extra calories. Cross-training can keep you exercising more regularly, which helps you burn more calories. Any fat you lose can improve your performance.
  • Double as a backup plan. If your bike breaks down, you can still jog. If you hurt your ankle, you may still be able to swim.

How do I get started?

To begin cross-training, make a plan based on activities you'll enjoy. Get creative! In addition to walking, swimming and cycling, remember that you can get a good workout from activities such as dancing, jumping rope and housework. Ideally, your fitness program will include elements of aerobic activity, strength training and flexibility.

Once you choose your activities, make sure you have the appropriate gear. You might need various types of athletic shoes for different activities, for example. Then start slowly. Space your workouts throughout the week, being careful to avoid consecutive days of strenuous exercise. As with any fitness program, take time to warm up before each workout, as well as cool down and stretch afterward.

If you're interested in cross-training, go for it! You might find that experimenting with different exercises and schedules keeps you on the go.

Last Updated: 2009-02-21
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