By now, you know that exercise can make you feel good about yourself, improve your health, and even prolong your life. But a problem that some people have when it comes to exercising is that they begin an exercise program, only to cop out because they get bored, don’t have enough time, or become injured. People may simply get tired of doing the same thing over and over again. There just isn’t enough variety in their exercise program. The solution for the exercise-weary may well be cross-training, an exercise program that is becoming increasingly popular.
Cross-training involves the alternating of two or more aerobic activities. By alternating activities, you can work all the major muscle groups and use different parts and systems of the body. For example, running works your legs and cardiovascular system and tones your muscles. Swimming works your heart and lungs, but also stresses your upper body and promotes flexibility. Cycling strengthens your legs and abdomen, while working your cardiovascular system.
Becoming involved in a variety of exercises decreases the chance of injury and boredom. Cross-training also increases cardiovascular strength, flexibility, overall strength, and endurance. And all of this results in improved coordination, balance, agility, and power. Additionally, cross-training helps you stay motivated to stick with an exercise program longer.
Anyone Can Be A Cross-Trainer
Anyone can be a cross-trainer. You don’t have to be an athlete, but you do have to make a commitment to yourself to try various activities and then follow through with your workouts. Keep in mind that the major goal of cross-training is keeping balance in your exercise program.
When you decide to become involved in cross-training, there are several sports and activities to choose from: running, walking, swimming, racket sports, rope jumping, skiing, cycling, aerobic dance, and weight lifting. It’s clear that you have a wide choice, but probably the first activities you should include in your program are weight lifting and flexibility training. Certain major muscle groups will be worked, depending upon the variety of exercises that you choose. It is very important to properly prepare muscles for the new work load of increased varieties of exercise.
As with any exercise program, it is extremely important to be aware of any health problems that can be worsened by exercise. Check with your doctor if you are not sure. Be sure, too, that you know your target heart rate. Aerobic exercise will increase your heart rate. One of the goals of aerobic exercise is to achieve and maintain your target heart rate. Your target heart rate is 60 percent to 80 percent of the highest number of heart beats per minute you should have when exercising.
It’s also important to choose the right type of shoe for cross-training. Your shoes should have a good, comfortable fit, and give adequate support, with plenty of cushioning in both the heel and the forefoot. They should be stable and flexible. There should be plenty of reinforcement in the areas of high stress and they should have a leather upper to provide breathability.
Swimming, Biking, and Walking
The three most popular activities for cross-training are swimming, biking, and walking. Almost anyone, at any fitness level, can enjoy this form of cross-training.
- Swimming is often called the “ideal” sport. Swimming can be relaxing and fun, while also being extremely valuable for cardiovascular fitness. It exercises the major muscles of your upper body, such as your shoulders, back, and arms. In just one 20-minute period of time, you can burn upt to 200 calories. Not only that: Swimming will increase your heart and lung capacity, joint flexibility, and muscle strength. Probably one of the most important features of swimming is that there is no pounding on your joints and muscles. Put swimming together with biking and walking and you have an almost-perfect match.
- Biking is an excellent cardiovascular activity and is one of the best ways to tone and strengthen your legs. The major muscle groups worked are your lower back, thighs, and buttocks. Biking will burn 120 to 185 calories in only 20 minutes. It does not provide as good an upper-body workout as swimming does, but it can strengthen your arms and shoulders. Biking also allows you to view the environment around you. It won’t take you long to be able to bike 15 to 20 miles a day. This gives you a chance to become aware of the beauty around you. As always, be sure you wear a helmet when biking.
- Walking has become so popular because it is the most accessible form of exercise. It can provide a complete body workout, and it carries a very low risk of injury. Walking at 4 mph will burn 100 calories in one hour. Walking briskly while swinging your arms will not only benefit your cardiovascular system, but will also tone the muscles of your lower back and stomach.
Walking can even possibly burn more fat than running. It just takes longer! As with biking, make sure you have the right kind of clothing. The most important equipment is shoes. Your shoes should fit well in the heel and have a wide toe box to allow the foot to spread. Be sure to wear socks that can absorv moisture and carry it away from the body.
The Well-Designed Program
Cross-training can be done for aerobic fitness and weight-control, but also for power, coordination, and agility, and for muscle tone and endurance or for strength. It’s smart to decide what your goal is for cross-training. A good routine uses strength-training exercises three times per week to build muscle, aerobic exercise four to five times per week to improve cardiovascular fitness, and stretching exercises to improve flexibility.
Never work the same muscle group two days in a row, be sure to stretch muscles slowly for 30 to 60 seconds, and make sure that you take a day off every week. Cross-training doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be effective. It’s an alternative to the exercise program you have used in the past. And once you become accustomed to the variety, it might well be your exercise program of the future.