Read any magazine devoted to fitness and before long it's likely that you'll come across the term "cross-training". Seem a bit too sporty? Put off by this seemingly daunting term? Read on and see how cross-training can benefit your exercise programme, and your fitness.
What is cross-training?
Essentially cross-training is simply doing a number of different sports or activities: instead of focusing on, say, running three times a week, you might run once a week, do yoga and perhaps a session of weights. For the casual sports person it doesn't really matter which exercise you do, but serious athletes will use a tried and tested selection of activities designed to build strength, stamina, speed and so on.
What are the advantages of cross-training?
It is much easier to sustain an exercise regime if you are training using a variety of activities. You will be more mentally stimulated by the challenge of trying new things, and executing new moves.
Physically as well, your body very quickly becomes accustomed to the same old routine: not allowing it to settle into patterns means that you will burn more calories, remain more alert and retain or gain more fitness. Also, because you will be using whole different groups of muscles, you will have a balanced physique instead of rock-hard leg muscles and weak, saggy arm muscles!
What if I only like one sport?
Everyone has favourites when it comes to exercise, and there are a few tricks to employ even if you love just one sport. If you like running, for example, vary the pace of your run. For example, run at 7km an hour for two minutes before running at 10km an hour for another two. Keep alternating between the two speeds this is known as interval training. As you get fitter you can up the speeds, add in some extra gradient for hill training, include a fast walk or run for longer the choice is yours.
If you are a beginner to planned exercise, you may feel that you lack in confidence to go outside your comfort zone to do activities that you feel may make you look foolish, fat or uncoordinated. Build up your confidence by doing your favourite sport for a while once you've got used to going to the gym, running in the street or doing those yoga poses, you'll feel more comfortable in expanding your horizons and maybe trying pilates, spin, lifting weights and so on. Going with a friend may also help to alleviate this lack of confidence.
Exercise does not have to be formally planned, and it can be fun. Get a group of friends together and go for a bush walk, hire kayaks and get paddling out on Australia's many waterways and on the ocean, get out on those tennis courts and hit a ball around. The more you do, the more you'll benefit.
Good luck with your training!