Will Cross Training Make Me Stronger…or Injured?

I get lots of questions from non-professional athletes looking for ways to avoid injuries.

Any injury, large or small, can change your life.  As we grow “younger”, staying healthy becomes a higher priority.  The reason being:

  • We don’t heal as fast as we did when we were in our 20’s.
  • Injuries drastically change and limit our lifestyle.
  • Injuries are expen$ive.

For whatever the reason, injuries sucks!

If you think about it, how many of us are at a level of fitness where we would be content to just maintain our present fitness level or to simply “stay fit”?  Most of us, myself included, want to advance or improve our fitness.  To do this, we need to push ourselves and challenge our bodies at a high level.  Cross training is the perfect way to do this….in a smart way.

Cross Training Defined

Merriam-webster.com defines it as:   To engage in various sports or exercises especially for well-rounded health and muscular development.

www.thefreedictionary.com simplifies it even more:   To undergo or provide training in different tasks or skills.

Keeping it simple, I define cross training as the act of practicing multiple fitness activities to have fun, challenge our body and improve our overall health.  If you could consistently include all three of those elements (Fun, Challenge & Improvement) into your workout plan and not get injured, would you be happy?  I think I know your answer.

Not All Exercises are Created Equal

The problem with many of the cross training programs, not to single out any one company or group, is many of the exercises are being applied to athletes who aren’t built or conditioned to do those exercises.  Not all athletes are “round pegs” and not all exercises are “round holes”.

I’ll use myself as an example.  I have a strong athletic background as an athlete ranging from Ironman triathlons to off-road obstacle courses.  Give me a mountain to run up or a lake to swim across or a mud hole to crawl through and I’m all over it.  But put a huge truck tire in front of me to be flipped 10 times, I’m going to struggle big time and I might get injured.  The truth is my body is not built to flip tires.

With that being said, how many athletes are doing exercises that put their RISK for injury much higher than their REWARD for improved fitness?

Tips to Avoid Injuries While Cross Training

Footwear – Why is it so important for everyone to wear lightweight shoes with cross training?  A more stable and supportive shoe will help you avoid foot injuries, ankle pain and knee injuries.  If you’re really worried about a few extra pounds during a workout, wear a lighter shirts and just ring out your headband more often. 🙂

Your Personal Trainer Works For You – Build strong communication habits with your personal trainer so the two of you understand each other.  He/she needs to know your physical goals, your aches/pains, your fears, your diet and your mindset.  Personal trainers are highly skilled professional and for the to do their job, they need your feedback to properly challenge you without getting you injured.

Your Body is Talking…Are You Listening? – Growing as an athlete means improving your ability to communicate with your body.  Our bodies are so much smarter than we are!  Trust your body, listen to your body and reward your body if you want to continue to change your lifestyle for the better.

Challenge Your Body Without Overloading It – Muscles get stronger when they are stressed, broken down and recover stronger.  There’s a fine line between stressed and strained.  Today’s instant access/high-speed internet/immediate response lifestyle is not how the body works.  Most often the body takes time to change and we have to be patient for those changes.  Instead of an intense 15 bike workout, a moderate-intensity fat burning 45 minute bike ride is probably a much better option if losing weight is the goal.

Include a Recovery – Allotting for a 10 minute roller and stretch after each workout will go a long way to reducing soreness and pain before you sit in your car or at your desk.  Time is always a precious commodity and often the post-workout recovery is eliminated.  Instead I suggest you use the 10 minute recovery to multitask with activities such as hydrating, checking your FaceBook page and socializing with your workout partners.

In summary, it’s time to train smarter not harder.  Including cross training is a great way to do it.  Hey runners, let’s start building upper body strength.  Yo dude with the massive biceps, are you doing any cardio to keep your heart healthy?  Hello mother of 3, I think we’d both agree, a baby-free yoga class and a power-walk in the park 2-3 times per week would do your body and mind some good.

Remember, you’ll never find the time, its time to make the time to change your world.