The Basics of Starting a Cross-training Routine

July 25, 2012 · 1 comment

This is a guest post by Maire.

Cross-training is a method used by athletes who want to work out different muscle groups to improve their overall health. But how do you get started on a cross-training routine? On a basic level, it’s easy. You find workouts that target different areas of your body.

But cross-training can also refer to a very specific set of exercises a specialized athlete performs. For example, a boxer does more than just spar to improve his skills. He lifts weights to build muscle, jogs to increase cardiovascular health and stretches to stay flexible.


Whether you’re cross-training for general fitness or to improve your performance in a specific sport, the benefits are the same:

  • Fewer injuries. Overuse from repetitive movement is one of the main causes of sports injuries. Cross-training decreases repetition and the chance of injury by introducing muscle groups to different types of exercises.
  • Time to rehabilitate. If an injury does occur, cross-training provides an opportunity to exercise while allowing the injured muscle to rest.
  • Better motivation. It gets boring doing the same old thing. Cross-training introduces new activities and physical challenges to keep you excited about fitness.

Getting Started

One of the great things about cross-training is that no special equipment or gym membership is required. Obviously, if you already have home fitness equipment or belong to a fitness center, those are great resources. But a good pair of athletic shoes and your doctor’s approval to begin exercising is all you really need.

The first thing you should do is plan three activities a week that will increase cardiovascular health, such as swimming, skiing, climbing stairs or running. Add one to two sessions of strength training like weight lifting or calisthenics and one to two sessions of yoga or stretching to improve flexibility.

If you’re counting, that may sound like seven workouts a week – too many for most people. But cross-training activities are easy to combine. A four-day cross-training workout schedule can look something like this:

Day One – Spend 10 minutes stretching before and after a game of racquetball.

Day Two – Run or power walk, then perform several sets of crunches and pushups.

Day Three – Go for a bike ride. Stretch when you get home.

Day Four – Do yoga or practice balance drills.

How long your exercise sessions last and how many repetitions you perform is up to you. As your fitness level increases, you can extend the time until you’re devoting about 60 minutes per workout.

If your stationary bike is now used as a clothes hanger, a lack of willpower isn’t always problem; it may be boredom. Many well-meaning people have watched their motivation disappear after several weeks of dragging themselves onto the same track, to the same fitness class or same piece of exercise equipment day after day. For many, the key to staying enthusiastic about fitness is to use every option to create a fun and challenging cross-training routine.

Why not try cross-training? It may be your best route to fitness.

photo by: mikebaird

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{ 1 comment }

Sarah Jo August 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the cross training tips! As a runner, I’m a firm believer in the power of cross training to build a balanced, less-injury-prone body!

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