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Cross training is important for overall fitness and to prevent injury

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Cross training is a great way to improve overall fitness and performance. If you do repetitive activities over an extended period of time, you have an increased risk of developing an overuse injury. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional athlete, a runner, a bodybuilder, stay at home mom or even a retiree; you need to cross train. Variety in your training helps prevent fitness plateaus, muscle imbalances and helps you stay motivated with your workouts. Your work, lifestyle factors, and/or recreational activities may affect your overall health and wellness.

A factory job with constant bending can lead to back issues; a computer programer may develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive keyboard use. Sports and fitness enthusiasts such as runners may have to have knee replacements due to repetitive pounding of the joints; pitchers may end up with shoulder replacements after years of pitching. These repetitive activities can lead to muscle imbalances and overuse injuries over a period of time. Cross training can help you avoid these imbalances by working opposing muscle groups and strengthening weak areas of the body. Cross-training should include all the major components of fitness; Weight training, cardiovascular work and flexibility training. Furthermore, it is important to vary each workout component on a regular basis.

Design a well rounded workout program that includes weight training, cardiovascular work and flexibility training. Many people suffer from joint and back pain and muscle imbalances caused by years of stress and poor body mechanics from their jobs, fitness or sport activities, and or previous injuries. Cross training can help strengthen areas of weakness and improve your overall fitness. The key is to plan your workouts to ensure a well balanced fitness program. For instance if you have a job that involves heavy lifting and you suffer from weak back muscles; make sure to include strength and flexibility training to strengthen back and core muscles.

If your workouts are all cardio based, make sure to balance out the types of cardio you do on a frequent basis. For instance, a runner should vary their cardio work with non-impact cardio activities like biking or elliptical and include strength and flexibility work in their program. Weight training enthusiasts should make sure to include cardio and flexibility work to their training programs. Therefore, if you generally perform a specific activity, such as biking, running or weight training, make sure you balance your workouts with different activities to avoid muscle imbalance and overuse injuries.

Do hire a personal trainer to design your program if you need professional advice. If you don’t have knowledge of what exercises to do or no clue about form and technique, your workouts will be ineffective, inefficient and you risk injury. A certified fitness trainer can create a well balanced fitness program designed to fit your particular needs. Typically, they can look at your lifestyle and make recommendations according to your job, your current fitness activities, and look at possible muscle imbalances and areas of weakness. For example, if you are a runner, you may have tight hamstrings and weak quadriceps, which can lead to poor performance and injuries. A trainer can make sure you incorporate other types of activities, such as yoga and weight training, that will work on flexibility in the hamstrings and increased strength in the quadriceps.

If you have a job that requires a lot of bending over and strain to the back, a trainer can put together a program that includes core work to strengthen the back and abdominals. The key is to design a well rounded program that will strengthen the heart, muscles, and increase flexibility.

Do wear appropriate clothing and shoes for the type of workout you are doing. Different activities require sports specific shoes, clothing, and equipment. Shoes are designed specifically to provide support and cushioning for the type of activity you are performing. For instance, a runner needs to wear specific shoes for running so that they have the proper support for their feet, knees and ankles that will reduce impact on the joints and muscles. If you are participating in group fitness classes like boot camp, weight training, or dance, you probably want to wear a cross training shoe with lateral support. The type of clothing you wear is also important when working out. Light weight fabric specifically designed for sweating and moving can help keep you cooler and provide more freedom of movement while exercising. Wearing the proper footwear and attire will help prevent injuries and make for a more comfortable workout experience.

Change your workouts approximately every six weeks to create muscle confusion. If you constantly do the same activity week after week, your body becomes adapted to this activity. You will develop strength specific to the exercise you are doing. However, repeated use of these same muscles and joints can lead to some over developed muscles in some parts of the body and weak underdeveloped muscles in other areas. Muscle confusion is simply changing your workouts on a consistent basis to prevent plateaus and adaptation. A good time frame for changing your workout routine is every 4 to 6 weeks. For instance, if your current weight training workout is heavy weights, you could switch to increased reps and lighter weights the following month. If you are a runner, you could do long runs for 4 weeks and then switch to a month of shorter and faster interval runs. This creates muscle confusion and is great for increasing overall fitness and performance.

Do not neglect your warm up or cool down. The warm-up is very important to help prepare your muscles and joints for a more intense workout. Neglecting the warm-up can lead to a pulled muscle, strain or other injury. During your warm-up, it is best to include movements you will be doing during your workout. Start your warm-up at a slower pace and gradually build up the intensity over a period of 8 to 10 minutes. For example, start with a slow paced walk, transition to a faster pace walk, and then a jog. The cool down and stretch is just as important as the warm up. Our muscles contract and get shorter during a workout. A proper cool down allows your heart rate to return to normal. Stretching will help elongate the muscles, improve flexibility and help promote better muscle recovery. Always allow for at least a 20 to 30 second stretch for each muscle group at the end of your workout.

Do not start your workouts without a goal and workout plan. A workout plan can help ensure that you have a well rounded program that includes stretching, weight training and cardiovascular work. If you do random workouts every week you run the risk of overtraining some body parts and neglecting other areas, setting you up for muscle imbalance and injury. A fitness plan can help you fit exercise into your schedule, increase workout accountability, and help you to plan variety in your program. Plan your workouts at the beginning of the week and make sure to include cardiovascular work 2-3 times per week, weight training 2-3 times on non-consecutive days and flexibility training 3-5 times per week. Consult a certified personal trainer if you are new to fitness or unsure how to schedule your workouts.

Do not neglect to monitor your progress on workouts. It can be difficult to evaluate your fitness program without keeping a fitness journal. A fitness log can help you keep track of progress such as weight and rep changes, cardiovascular improvements, and keep track of your fitness goals. A journal is a great way to monitor improvements such as increased strength from lifting heavier weights or better endurance from running a longer distance. Being able to visualize your goals and progress on paper is a great motivational tool to help you get progressively stronger and increase your fitness level.

Our bodies adapt to the activities we do on a frequent basis. This can lead to plateaus, muscle imbalances and overuse injuries. Cross training can help increase your fitness level and help prevent injuries. Include all the major components of fitness when planning your workouts. Make sure to include cardiovascular work and strength and flexibility training in your fitness program. Hire a certified personal trainer if you need help to determine your fitness needs. A fitness professional can evaluate your current fitness routine and create a workout routine to offset areas of weakness and to help avoid potential overuse injuries

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Author: @fitone

Health and Fitness Expert, Certified Les Mills instructor, Yoga, Boot Camp, weight training and Pilates instructor

5 thoughts on “Cross training is important for overall fitness and to prevent injury

  1. Reblogged this on Robinson's Strength and Endurance Coaching and commented:
    Here is a great article on why you should cross train. Please read and follow this blogger, she has some great articles on training.

    Like

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