Want to be a better, stronger, faster athlete? Then it might be time to finally dive into cross-training. If you are curious about how cross-training can benefit your overall fitness and conditioning, don’t miss this quick essential guide with cross-training activity ideas for runners and swimmers.
What is Cross-Training?
Professionally, cross-training is the act of mastering a second sport in an effort to improve your performance in the original sport you play. In a more general sense, cross-training simply means playing other sports or doing exercises different from the one you normally do to boost your strength, endurance, and skill. For runners, that might mean taking days off from running to go swimming or cycling. For cyclists, it might mean integrating other activities into weekly training schedules, like rowing or playing soccer.
Benefits of cross-training include:
- Adds variety to your weekly training schedule
- Works to correct muscle imbalances
- Prevents burnout in your original sport
- Gives commonly used muscles a chance to recover
- Lowers risk for injury, especially overuse injuries
- Improves overall fitness
- Strengthens breath control and oxygen uptake
- Prevents repetitive joint stress
- Supplements rehabilitation from some fitness injuries
- Increases body awareness
Cross-Training Ideas for Runners
When it comes to incorporating more cross-training into a running schedule and preventing injury, runners should think about tackling exercises that actively address muscle and strength imbalances in the body. Longtime runners will naturally have strong leg, ankle, and feet muscles, so cross-training should focus on engaging non-primary supportive muscle groups like the core and arms. Runners can find success cross-training with exercises such as:
- Martial arts
Cross-Training Ideas for Swimmers
Swimmers’ hallmark strengths are in their arms, chest, and back, so a thoughtful cross-training schedule should involve fitness that exercises the lower extremities more. Cross-training can be especially helpful for swimmers aiding shoulder or arm injuries that require them to wear an arm sling during recovery or other orthotic aid. Cross-training activities may include:
- Aqua jogging
- Water polo
- Ultimate frisbee
- Nordic pole walking
Tips When Cross-Training
Cross-training can be one of the best ways to improve full-body conditioning and enhance your fitness performance. Like with any physical activity, however, you want to be smart about your approach to cross-training so as to avoid unwanted injury.
Schedule it. Don’t let cross-training become your fallback activity when bad weather or other hurdles sideline your typical training regimen. If cross-training is incorporated into your routine fitness from the get-go, it gives you a chance to practice and perfect your “second sport” so you are truly getting an effective workout.
Stick with it. The whole idea of “mastering” another sport or exercise requires you to stick with it, learn the ins and outs, and practice it diligently to get better and better. Not only does this help you track key progress indicators over time, but it increases your comfort levels with the sport and can motivate you to challenge yourself more than if you were to hop from one activity to the next.
Set goals. Like you might if you were training for a marathon, set goals that help drive your cross-training and generate tangible benefits you can see. For example, if you are a runner who is cross-training with a regular yoga practice to improve balance, flexibility, coordination, and agility, set specific goals for what you want to be able to do three, six, even 12 months down the line.
Find a mentor. Seriously taking on a new sport to cross-train in can be an adventure. Why not seek knowledgeable advice and support from an expert mentor? Whether you’re a swimmer training to run a 5K or a runner looking to compete in their first triathlon, seeking best-practice recommendations and training tips regarding form and technique from athletes who have been there will always benefit your hard work and prevent you from potentially hurting yourself.