You know that feeling of loving your sport so much that you couldn’t imagine tearing yourself away from it? Well, that passion and energy may be holding you back.
Cross-training is a great way to improve your fitness levels and overall performance in your sport, so you’ll be bigger, better and faster!
If you spend too long in the saddle, or hours pounding away on the roads at the weekend you could be putting your body at risk. Your muscles and joints should be looked after on a daily basis, and when you put them through the same motions on a daily basis you’re going to tire them out. Even worse, you could be neglecting muscles that you didn’t even know could improve your performance.
Substituting a day or two a week to cross-training will wildly improve your fitness as well as giving your overworked muscles a bit of much needed R&R.
Top benefits of cross-training:
- As discussed, cross-training is perfect for giving your muscles time to recover whilst still being able to improve upon your fitness.
- Injury prevention is a key benefit of cross-training. Not only are you giving your muscles a break, you’re strengthening other parts of your body, which overall, will prevent injury when working together.
- We all want to stay fit all year round don’t we? Cross-training boosts your fitness levels making you fitter, stronger, more flexible…the list goes on!
- Last longer! Stronger muscles and increased CV will all together keep you going even further. So if you crave going the extra mile, then look no further then adding cross-training to your weekly training routine.
For the runners out there, adding a bit of upper body to routine will give you that extra power needed to propel you forward in a race. Think Usain Bolt. Now there’s no denying that he goes to the gym.
Cyclists, think swimming, weight training; all areas that will help you to develop your breathing capacity and bone density, so you’ll be able to ride longer with less pain. Win, win.
Myself, I’m a keen weightlifter. But I never fail to throw in a little yoga or swimming from time to time to help my weightlifting.
Stepping into the studio is far from my comfort zone, but adding that flexibility workout into my week is hugely beneficial to improving my range of motion in my squats and deadlifts. Adding in flexibility and stretching into my routine also improves muscle definition, so for those of you who are heading to the beach this summer and are looking for that perfect beach body, don’t forget to skip this important part of fitness.
To keep myself motivated I know that I can’t take a week off from entering a gym. If I do, then they may not see my again for a while! So, with that in mind, during my ‘down’ weeks I swap the gym floor for the pool. Swimming is great for flexibility and strengthening your muscles, but gives my joints a week off from heavy weights and multiple reps.
When entering into cross-training it’s really important not to overdo it in the first few weeks. Allow yourself to work it into your routine slowly, giving your body time to get used to these new tasks you’re setting it.
Be patient. You’re not going to be a master of a new sport straight away, so be kind to yourself and take it in your stride. Have fun and take time for it to feel natural before pushing yourself.
Find what’s best for you. Play around with sports and exercises until you find what your body likes best. It won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, so don’t feel unnerved if one cyclist is taking up hiking whilst you’re taking up swimming.
Don’t go overboard. Stick with one extra sport at first. You don’t want to overdo it and wear yourself out, plus sticking with one will help focus and track your progress.
Heart rate will never be the same for two sports, so learn where you’re at all over again with your cross-training. Don’t be disheartened if you’re heart rate comes in a little lower, or maybe higher! Just put in the effort and you’ll see the results.
Don’t hurt yourself. I know that sounds rather obvious, but anything new is going to test your body. And, if you’re using a machine for the first time, then please ask for help, there’s no shame in being a beginner.
Here are a few cross-training routines for those athletes out there stepping into the gym for the first time:
Key focus area: It’s time to improve your bone density, core strength and upper body.
20 Jumping Jacks
10 Air Squats
20 High Knees
10 push ups
10 Leg Raises
Repeat three times round.
This beginners cross-training routine for cyclists is aimed to introduce you to strength and conditioning as well as core, hips flexibility and increasing your breathing capacity (blame the burpees).
Air squats are great to slowly introduce you to weight training which will help to improve your glutes, hamstrings and quads whilst keeping a strong core throughout. If you want stronger legs on the peddles make sure squats become part of your regular routine and slowly increase the weight as you grow in confidence. Push ups and core are rather underrated when it comes to cycling, but are just as important as your lower muscle groups. Engaging your core is really important for all athletes as a strong core with improve your stability both on and off the bike, whilst adding in a few push ups and upper body exercises will give your lower body a well-earned break!
Key focus areas: Give those joints a break with some swimming and yoga!
Plank for 30 seconds
10 Air squats
Side plank (left side) for 30 seconds
10 side lunges
Side plank (right) for 30 seconds
10 tricep dips
Repeat three times round.
This beginners routine for runners will help strengthen the knees and develop the core and upper body. Again, improving the core and boosting the upper body for natural power. Finish this off with a few lengths in the pool to take the stress away from your joints and allow your body to relax after some serious core conditioning!
Key focus areas: Ease out your muscles for maximum growth and recovery with stretching, swimming and running.
This is less of a gym routine as weight lifters do not need an excuses to squat, press or pull more, instead let’s look at it as some chill time away from the gym floor.
At the end of each work out, take some time out to really get your heart rate up on the running machine, or rower, or maybe even the open road. This will burn more calories and increase your CV giving you a well-defined figure and increasing your breathing capacity. Don’t forget to stretch after spending roughly 10 minutes on a yoga matt working on flexibility. This will help improve your range of motion and is a great way to warm down after a work-out.
A great way to reduce stress is to hop in the pool, which is something all weightlifters should do. After about 6 weeks of high intensity training, it is really important to take a step make and give your nervous system a break. Switch it up with a trip to the pool and come back fighting even fitter.
So, there you have it. Cross-training really is the way to improve your sporting ability. There are no secrets, just hard work and dedication