For elite athletes, cross-training is as important as training in their elected sport. Some (though definitely not all) of the benefits of adopting a cross-training mentality are: increased conditioning, injury prevention, active recovery and even a more social approach to exercise (many cross-training activities are either social or class-based). And for all of us non-elite athletes, cross training breaks up the monotony of doing the same workout day in and day out and teaches us to approach fitness more holistically. There are, of course, major muscles that contribute to specific movements but, by and large, most activities involve many of the smaller, more agile muscles surrounding our major ones and elsewhere in the body to be done safely and effectively. Here are some great ways you can learn from the pros and introduce cross-training into your regime.
Boys, listen up. This one is not just for ladies. Barre classes build strength, flexibility, speed, agility balance, mental focus and endurance. They are also incredible for core strength, which may explain why ballet-based workouts are some of the hottest fitness classes sweeping across North America.
Great for boxers, footballers, basketball players, hockey players and swimmers.
Literally everyone, no matter what their primary discipline, can benefit from a yoga practice. Not only are there the obvious benefits of flexibility and toning (nothing firms up a tricep like the amount of Chaturanga press-ups you’ll do in a Vinyasa class), but there is also the added bonus of stress-relief, mental clarity and the deep relaxation at the end of each class.
Great for anyone.
Hiking is a fun activity to do on a beautiful day with a friend or loved one. It gets you outside, in nature, breathing fresh air and, if you’ve picked a good hike, experiencing beautiful views. But did you know it is also one of the best things you can do for joint stability, endurance and glute strength? Hikers burn insane calories, even at a slow pace; so, make sure you bring enough snacks.
Great for runners, cyclists and footballers.
Pilates is another way to add a little variety to your workouts. And don’t be fooled; like barre, it is much more physically demanding than it appears (or is stereotyped to be). Think balance, core strength and proprioception, all key factors in agility, which is vital to any more traditional athletic pursuit. And if toning and lengthening is what you’re after but yoga isn’t necessarily your cup of tea, definitely check out pilates.
Great for hockey, triathlon (especially for injury prevention), road cycling.
There’s a reason kickboxing classes have gotten so popular in the last five years. Martial arts offer strength, speed and flexibility training that can be applied to basically any sport requiring hand-eye coordination. So, basically any sport.
Great for anything with fast hand-eye coordination like American football, hockey and tennis.
Meditation, mindfulness and visualization
We are starting to sound like a broken record here on INSPIRE but, honestly, if there is one thing we can recommend to transform yourself -- physically, professionally, personally -- it is mediation. It is the ultimate cross-training activity for everyday life. If you’ve tried guided meditation and not got on with it, why not try just sitting, setting a timer for five minutes and closing your eyes. Focus on your breath until you hear the timer buzz and as thoughts come and go, let them but constantly bring it back to your breath. And, to take it one step further, if you’re doing a particularly challenging part of a workout -- a sprint in a Psycle class, maybe -- try being mindful in that moment. Bring it back to your breath and quiet any negative self-talk. Your fitness game will only go up.