Cross-training is about increasing performance without increasing the chances of injury. It’s an exercise for real life, where you need your body to undertake different types of everyday activities requiring strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination, power, skill, and confidence.
It is not just training for sports such as triathlons. You’re cross-training any time you combine different forms of exercise to improve fitness or performance.
The right mix
You can’t just bung a whole range of exercise programs together and expect to get fitter in all of them all the time. You have to develop a plan. For example, aerobic exercise and strength training are antagonistic — they won’t work when you do them together.
Aerobic exercise demands the adaptation of very specific enzymes, and muscle fibers in the body (Type II fast-twitch) switch their preference to using aerobic metabolic pathways to break down glucose to produce the energy for movement. High-intensity exercise causes these muscle fibers to want to switch back to using non-aerobic means of getting the energy for movement and produces waste products that inhibit the efficiency of those aerobic enzymes.
So if you want to get aerobic fitness and you want to build some muscles or get stronger, you have to develop a plan that has you spending 3 to 4 months concentrating on aerobic exercises (such as walking, running, swimming, cycling), and then cut back on this type of exercise and bring in some weight training for another 3 to 4 months.
Once you have achieved your goals, you can adopt a maintenance program, and start to concentrate on something else, such as flexibility.
Every person responds differently to exercise and needs to develop his/her own cross-training exercise plan. My own at the moment is looking to improve aerobic fitness while maintaining some strength and endurance and incorporates:
- Five days a week cycling and running for maintaining aerobic fitness and keeping the levels of body-fat down (Monday to Friday).
- Regular recovery stretching, and two sessions where I stretch for flexibility (Tuesday and Saturday).
- One massage a week for recovery (Tuesday).
- Two sessions a week of sport for teamwork, anticipation, and coordination (Tuesday and Friday).
- Two sessions of weight training for strength (Monday and Friday).
- Two sessions of circuit training for endurance and socialization (Monday and Wednesday).
- Regular relaxation and meditation for inner harmony and mental balance (whenever!).
- One session a week of yoga or tai chi for coordination, mobility, and physical balance (Sundays).
I find it takes about 6 weeks to get your body to adapt to a new routine, so I work on 6-week cycles, concentrating in turn on aerobic fitness, muscle endurance, and muscle strength.
The basis of a cross-training plan for lifetime fitness is to adopt as the basis, an active and healthy lifestyle, with lots of physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual interaction with others.
If you want more than basic health, you need a fitness program revolving around getting aerobic fitness and then maintaining it. Aerobic Fitness means having a strong heart, clean lungs, open blood vessels, and low blood pressure, strong muscles and bones, and well-functioning skin, digestion, and nerves.
Always start by getting your aerobic-energy system fit. Then maintain that aerobic fitness while developing other skills or areas of fitness.
The 140km cycle challenge
The Cycle Challenge was developed to find some adventurous people who wanted to try to extend their fitness and recreation skills by cycling from Queanbeyan to the Coast at Moruya, over the Tallagandra Range to Braidwood and Araluen.
Training is into its third week. The 17 participants are sorting out their mountain bikes and equipment and starting to realize the excitement given out by the thought that they’ll be traveling such a distance powered using their own muscle power.
The challenge is a good example of cross-training and a good combination of fitness and exercise for a specific purpose.
The idea of combining fitness and recreation has attractions for all who don’t see themselves as “gym junkies” or runners or “sporties”. It was inspirational being fit enough to ride over the trails at Bruce Ridge on Saturday morning with the sun shining, the birds singing, and a great group of people. This is the reason for being fit and healthy to enjoy life.