Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cross-Training makes for a more Complete Workout

One key feature of this blog is a weekly informational fitness-related column. This column will be posted towards the beginning of the week. Some weeks may have a more research focus, while other weeks will be loaded with practical applications. Either way, all columns are based on scientific facts and sound fitness/ training principles. I would love to hear your opinion and am open to dialog on the articles!

This week’s column, which focuses on incorporating Cross-Training into your workout routine, is geared primarily for the recreational athlete, but can be applied across all levels of fitness. Cross-training, which is simply the addition of a new form of exercise to your workout routine, is a great way to mix up your training, decrease your risk of injury, overcome training or physical plateaus, and avoid burnout, all while helping to improve your overall performance and physical fitness. While there are a number of activities you can do to reap the benefits of cross-training, some of the most popular are: Cycling, Trail Running, Swimming, Yoga, Pilates, and Weight Training
Running a marathon is a huge feat of mental and physical toughness, and a marathoner’s body is in great running shape. However, I have trained a number of marathon runners who thought they were in great shape, but after one training session, realized quite the contrary, and their legs which they thought were amazing, were left feeling like jello. Also, if running (or any one-specific activity) is the only physical focus of your training, you are at increased risk for an overuse-type injury and/or mental burnout.
Overuse injuries are the bane of a runner’s existence, with approximately 70% of runners suffering from an overuse injury at some time during their training. Cross-training is one of the most effective methods in decreasing risk of injury. Most overuse injuries can be traced back to either inadequate recovery or muscular imbalances, both of which can be addressed by implementing cross-training into your training program. Furthermore, during injury cross-training helps to maintain current fitness levels.        
Incorporating cross-training activities into your workout routine allows you to activate and train muscles which are not worked during your normal training program, puts stress on different joints and ligaments, and improves your total physical fitness. Cross-training can also result in increased strength, improved balance and coordination, and has been noted to result in improved efficiency and performance.
Research has also shown cross-training decreases burnout rate amongst endurance athletes. Even the most hard-core endurance athletes need to give themselves a mental break. Furthermore, cross-training has been shown to help endurance athletes overcome performance and training plateaus. For the general fitness population, cross-training allows you to vary your routine, avoiding boredom, and increasing adherence to a long-term physical fitness program, along with helping to overcome weight-loss plateaus.
Incorporating cross-training into your workout routine allows you to open yourself up to new ideas, meet new people, shape your body in a different way, and formulate an overall healthier you. The optimal training routine should incorporate at least two forms of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training, along with speed, agility, and balance drills. To begin including cross-training into your routine, try dedicating at least 2-3 days per week to cross-training activities--your body will feel better, your brain will thank you, and you may just have a bigger smile when you see your time as you cross the finish line of your next race! Plus, with triathlon season right around the corner you may just find yourself entering a new kind of race!

Ever had a fitness or nutrition-related question but didn’t know who to ask? Looking for a specific training program to help meet your goals? Please submit all correspondence to:
Terrieha Romer is co-owner of RYP Performance, a company specializing in outdoor bootcamps, small group training, one-on-one personal training, program design, and athlete performance training. Terrieha has a Bachelors in Applied Physiology & Kinesiology, a Masters in Sports Medicine, and holds several nationally and internationally recognized fitness-related certifications (NSCA-CSCS, NASM-CPT, USAW-Sports Performance Coach and USA Track & Field-Level 1 Coach).


  1. Great words on the importance of cross-training! As a personal trainer and runner myself who loves weight lifting, I wholeheartedly agree - cross training helps make a runner (or biker or walker etc) more balanced. Thanks for the good words!

  2. i'm ready for weeks 3 and 4 of boot camp! i've done the first session 3 times per week! feeling good about it!