7 Benefits of Cross-Training

If you’re diving into the new year with the same routine as before Christmas, you’ve not been seeing your desired results, or you’re stuck in a rut with your training regime... Here is why you should try something new!

I am a personal trainer, yoga instructor & sports masseuse on a mission to try out as many different workouts as I can possibly fit in! My training regime varies each week, which is why I never get bored of training. I’m constantly meeting new people, my body is always improving and my mind is always working.

Here’s seven benefits to cross-training to inspire you in 2019…

#1 Work the whole body

Your body always needs variety.

When you stick to the same routine for too long, you end up training the same muscle groups. We can only target a small percentage of our muscle groups when your training is limited or repetitive. By mixing up your workouts, your body is always guessing what is next and it means you can maximise your workouts to target a higher percentage of muscle groups.

If you train weights, you’re likely to have super tight muscles that have been shortened. You can balance this out by taking up yoga a couple of times a week to lengthen those muscles and stretch parts of your body you didn’t think were possible! The more disciplines you practice, the more of your body you’re working. I have been lucky enough to try out many different disciplines that I now mix into my routines. One week it will be yoga, boxing and cardio classes, and the next week it might be tennis, swimming and weights!

#2 Avoid hitting that plateau

Mixing up your workout routine is the best way to make sure your body doesn't hit a plateau, and you continue to see results from all the hard work you're putting in. Keeping your body guessing during workouts allows your metabolism to stay up, so you're still getting the same effect and results as when you started. Most of us don’t realise how smart our body actually is… it adjusts to your favourite sweaty routine after just a few weeks, and it starts to master what you've been training it to do. Essentially, your brain learns how to best use the muscles needed for your workout and it's your job to trick your brain into learning new exercises and movements to foster improvement in your overall fitness routine.

#3 Beat boredom!

If you find yourself literally counting down the seconds left in your workout or can hardly stand the sight of the same gym that you go to, then it’s time to switch up your routine. Keep your workouts from getting stale by constantly trying new things. Venture into cardio class for a total change of pace, take up swimming, find a new sport that you genuinely enjoy playing, or just try switching up your usual activity. For instance, instead of running the same distance at your customary pace, add some speed intervals. After you’ve warmed up, do a series of 30-second sprints followed by two minutes of slower jogging to recover. Keep repeating that, and you’ll reach the end of your run feeling invigorated. If you are bored, chances are your body is bored too and you will not see a change.

#4 Meet new workout partners

One of the best ways to stay engaged with exercise and committed to a regular schedule of activity, is to find people you want to work out with. And what better way to find someone than to try a new activity? Join a Tennis club to find others to play with, try a small group class, or strike up a conversation while doing stretches in the gym. Better yet, ask a friend to come and try out a completely new sport or class.

#5 Prevent overuse injuries

I used to play a lot of tennis! Tennis elbow is a very common overuse injury and here is why... There’s a reason why you get hurt when you put your body through the same motions over, and over again. It’s called ‘repetitive strain injury’, which occurs from doing lots of repetitive motions that can be caused by a range of exercises, such as running, hitting a tennis ball, kicking (in kickboxing or martial arts classes), or performing the same swimming stroke. By mixing up your activities, you give those overused muscles, joints, and ligaments a chance to rest and recover before putting them into action again.

#6 Keep your brain healthy by learning new things

Learning helps to keep your neurons function better, and when combined with exercise, cross-training can help to keep your brain sharp and prevent memory loss… so learning a new sport or activity is a double-whammy when it comes to brain health. Dancing, squash and other activities that require some skill and memorisation are a good option. The key is to choose activities that keep you engaged; don’t pick things that you can do on autopilot. You don’t need to overly exert yourself to reap the benefits of exercise for your brain and memory, but you should exercise regularly. I played squash for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I really had to concentrate on the rules, the scoring system, the technique! It was so much fun and was a challenge not just physically but mentally too!

#7 Build new muscles

Whenever I try something new, my body aches in places I have never felt before and for a couple of days after! Ever notice how you can quickly identify a professional swimmer by his powerful arms and shoulders and a long-distance runner by her chiselled legs? That’s because professional athletes focus almost exclusively on one sport — and that sport builds very specific muscles. But for recreational exercisers, the best approach is to do a little of everything. That way you’ll build a strong heart (for endurance), muscular legs and a powerful upper body. You’ll look great and be physically ready to take on a variety of sports and activities.