Training for an event or challenge can be great to give you a goal to aim at and strive for, but keeping focused on that can at times become pretty monotonous and continually using the same muscle groups can in time lead to over-use injuries.
A great way to help avoid these situations is to add some cross-training into your regular training program. Cross-training can broadly be defined as training in a sport or activity outside of your competition sport or goal. There are numerous ways in which you can implement forms of cross-training to a program and the best method will depend on your goals and ability.
A great place to start is just using it as an alternative session. If you are a runner a great activity to add in would be boxing training because in terms of your lower body it is a low impact activity which allows your legs to rest while still getting a great cardiovascular workout. Some circuit training can also be beneficial to get some strength endurance improvements, as increasing overall strength, in particular lower body strength, can be beneficial to performance for sports like running and cycling.
Another way you could implement some cross-training is as an add-on to a specific training session. Again, using running as the example, if you are trying to increase your running distance, rather than just increasing distances for every training session, a great way to ease in to it is to run your regular distance and then get onto a spin bike and continue your training there. This will enable you to maintain the cardiovascular demands of the added workload without adding the extra impact load to your body.
It may seem like an obvious one but cross-training is perfect for when you may be recovering from an injury. Cross-training can encompass pretty much any activity, so there is always going to be some kind of modified activity you can perform while injured that will be safe for your injury. While the main goal may not be to increase overall fitness, cross-training can help to minimise the decline in your current fitness levels. Doing this can help you to return to your sport faster and in better condition than if you do nothing.
A few things to also consider before you jump straight into adding cross-training into your program include: training specificity; the most efficient form of training for competition will always be the most specific means, cross-training is a great way to add variety and prevent over-use injuries but should not be used as the main form of training. Boxing for 4 hours doesn’t mean you can run a marathon! Training intensity; the most effective forms of cross-training will be those that can mimic the demands of your chosen activity. For cardiovascular activities a great way to measure this is by monitoring your heart rate. Try and get your heart rate to match and even exceed that of what you may maintain during your regular activity to get the most benefit.
Do you already cross train? Let us know your favourite way to do it.