Benefits of Cross Training

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

There are many ways cross training might help you, but I will discuss only three in this article.

1) Increased lean mass: Cross training can help burn more calories each week and increase lean mass. For example, runners who maintain their usual running schedules and add one 30-minute cycling workout per week can lose one extra pound of fat every 10 weeks (with no additional caloric intake).

That equals nearly 50 additional cycling workouts and five pounds of lost fat for one year.

Runners could simply run 30 minutes more per week, but heightened running mileage often leads to injuries, whereas time spent on the bike or cross training on other equipment is seldom as taxing on the body.

This training change can make a performance difference both physiologically and psychologically.

With each new activity, different muscle groups are recruited; thereby, an increase in overal fitness increases.

2) Increased workout intensity/cardio system: A runner who is already completing two (or three) running sessions each week can seldom add an extra intense running session without increasing the risk of overtraining or getting injured.

However, adding an intense bike ride, stairclimbing or swim session produces very little trauma to the leg muscles and is usually more easily tolerated. This bump in intensity can do two great things: it can make the heart bigger and stronger, and it can elevate blood volume.

The extra blood produces performance bonuses since it allows the heart to send more blood (fuel and oxygen) to the leg muscles during exercise and more blood to the skin for cooling.

Keep in mind that the best way to elevate blood volume is to increase the intensity, not the length of your workouts.

So, add a tough bike workout or a swim when it would be difficult to add another intense running session.

This cross training concept can produce enhanced blood volume, which would then improve overall cardio capacity.

3) Greater strength: Resistance training adds generalized strength to muscles. As a result, fewer muscle cells need to be activated when you workout at your normal intensity. This saves energy and improves training economy.

No wonder studies have linked strength training with increased efficiency and improved performance. Strength training has also been linked with higher-velocity tennis serves, faster throwing speeds by baseball pitchers, and larger-amplitude jumps among basketball players. It’s a form of cross training which really works.

Finally, cross training dramatically decreases the risk of an overuse injury from performing the same activity every workout as well as the possibility of burnout and boredom.

Russell Allen is the Coordinator of Member Services at ViQuest. He can be reached with comments or questions at