Cross Training: A Great Strategy for Health
I am often asked what kind of training an individual “should” participate in. An individual will come in to the fitness center and want to work on balance, or perhaps strength, lose weight or just tone up. Some want to enhance their golf or tennis. Others just want to be healthier, often through a physician’s recommendation to exercise. Some come in with a pre-concept of what they believe is the best kind of training and others leave it in the hands of a personal trainer. There are different reasons why we begin exercise, but I hope to encourage you to expand your exercise routine. Cross training is a key to a healthier, more active lifestyle.
The professionals do it! More and more, teams are expanding their workout sessions to continue to raise the bar in competition through training in other modalities. Examples: Back in the old days, professional basketball players were taught NOT to weight train. Today it is almost mandatory to be able to have the strength and endurance as highly tuned athletes. Football players are studying ballet. The Olympic ski team trains off season in Martial Arts. Golf and tennis props are strength training. And many teams are training in meditation and breathwork.
On a level for the average person, as we age and mature, in order to stay strong, flexible and agile, we must train in strength, flexibility and agility. You see, when we were children, we played hopscotch, climbed trees, and played throughout the day. We were in training (and we didn’t even know it). As we grow older, many of us don’t take the time to play and be active. In order to keep young, we now must consciously make an effort to “train” towards the things we used to take for granted – flexibility, balance, speed, agility, strength and even breathing.
Many of you participate in things like golf, tennis, fishing, and cardiovascular and/or strength training at the gym. Cudos to you! However, it would behoove you to take time to analyze your training. Does it include enough balance work, resistance training, and flexibility exercises? Do you only participate in one kind of training? If so, I can guarantee that you will become healthier and a better athlete if you begin to cross train more.
I know for myself it has made a huge difference. For many years, I trained only in Martial Arts. In class, we did do some cross training the calisthenics and lots of stretching. However, about twenty years ago I began weight training and participating in various kinds of cardiovascular training like mountain biking, aerobic classes, and some running. It made a huge difference. I can still hold my own in the fighting ring with the young male black belts in my karate school and I believe cross training has had a huge impact.
Check to see if your workout includes:
Flexibility: lots of stretching and range of motion exercises. You know the old saying…”If you don’t use it, you loose it!” If you aren’t stretching, you will become tight and less mobile.
Strength: include all kinds of strength training. You can use machines, free weights, and even your own body weight. Make sure you execute exercises for your whole body, not just certain body parts. Learn how to strength train properly
Agility: Shuffle, jump, lunge, hop…whatever you can do- DO!
Speed: If you keep going slower and slower, you’ll keep getting slower and slower. Speed it up from time to time. If you participate in a sport where speed is important, speed must be practiced. If you are just living from day to day, you still need to speed it up now and then to keep you from slowing down.
Balance: As many of you may be experiencing, balance is extremely important as you get older. Because we become less active, balance is an issue and must be PRACTICED in order to keep. There are lots of different ways of practicing balance. Tai Chi, dance, and working on balance drills with a trainer are a few examples.
Breathing exercises: Most people take breathing for granted, however, breathing exercises have been proven to help with stress, physical athletic performance and enhanced states of well-being. A friend of mine trains elite ski diving teams. She has begun using breathing in her training. When asked, “What were you doing when you made a mistake on that drill?,” the participants answered, “holding my breath.” You see, there is a direct correlation to breathing and performance. Watch any elite professional athlete (golf, tennis, whatever) and you will notice that their breathing is correct when executing a technique.
Meditation: learning how to focus and let go at the same time. Meditation has been proven to help people relax, lower their blood pressure and develop the mind/body connection, another important component of cross training.
In conclusion, I hope I have encouraged you to take time to ponder upon your current training or even begin a new training regiment. Sometimes we become set in our ways and we may have difficulty changing. I want to encourage you that change is good and that it is NEVER too late to become healthier and happier.