This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
People tend to think of athletes as focusing exclusively on their sport. Runners run. Cyclists cycle. Swimmers swim. And strength athletes pump iron. Period.
But if you look at the training plans of the most successful of these people, you’ll notice something curious: They rarely stay entirely within the lanes of their chosen activity. In fact, they regularly (and strategically) deviate from them.
Take elite marathoners, for example. Whether they’re doing speedwork or logging miles, the bulk of their training revolves around pounding the pavement, trails, and track. But to be truly competitive, they also strength train in other ways, like strength training. Not only can it reduce their risk of injury, but research shows that it can also boost speed, power output, and time to exhaustion.
On the flipside, strength athletes who weave cardio into their training plans can actually gain more muscle than if they only lifted weights—not to mention increase their overall endurance and exercise capacity.
Trainers and coaches call this kind of athletic philandering “cross-training,” and the advantages are numerous. Not only can engaging in a sport or activity other than your primary one expand your athletic skillset, but it can also enhance your existing one and reduce your risk of injury by working your muscles in new ways. Just as importantly, giving new and different activities a try can help eliminate the boredom and monotony that often comes with being singularly focused in your workouts.
Your move: Whatever your primary training style is, stray from it at least once (and preferably twice) per week. The examples mentioned above are good places to start, but don’t limit your cross training to your workouts—incorporate it into your recovery as well. If you’re a runner, that might mean going for an easy swim or bike ride on rest days.
If you’re a cyclist or lifter, don’t hesitate head out for a light jog or hike. And no matter what your primary workout type is, yoga can be a solid cross-training option. Not only can the practice enhance your recovery, but it can also help improve a skill in which nearly everyone falls short in one way or another: mobility.
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