What is Cross Training?
Cross training is a term that many people have heard but may not understand the significance of this type of training. Cross training is a great way keep your workouts interesting and keep you motivated, to help reduce repetitive stress injuries and can actually help improve your performance in daily activities and in sport, but its greatest significance for me was how it helped to become who I am today.
Have you every walked into the gym/studio/laced up the running shoes/pulled out the bike/put your bathing suit on/got to practice and thought “ugh”. For some, doing the same thing over and over again can be daunting, boring and definitely not fun. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE running, but there came a time when I was training for running events that it was getting harder and harder to lace up my running shoes and head outside. Even though I had multiple routes to choose from they each started feeling the same. This can also be said for people who attend only one type of group fitness class, perform the same strength exercises or participate in only one sport. Physical activity is supposed to help improve our mood and reduce stress but if your workout feels like a chore and is repetitive, things could get boring and fast.
I learned this lesson in 2010. I was having a major surgery in January and wasn’t going to be able to run for up 16 weeks!! I was freaking out! How do I stay active during recovery? I decided that I would brush up on my swimming skills and take adult swimming lessons. The doctors told me I could possibly start swimming after 10 to 12 weeks but that I should take it easy. SO I did my lessons before surgery and was ready to hit the pool in week 10.
What I didn’t know at the time was that once I was able to run again, my lungs, heart and legs were ready. I transitioned back into running in no time. It almost felt like I hadn’t stopped. I then began to think about triathlon.
Training for swimming, running and biking kept my days and weeks interesting. I had also began participating in yoga more regularly too. I remember getting up and swimming before work, riding my bike to work and running on my lunch; riding home and then joining a friend for a late-night yoga. I had never felt so energized and slept so well. My running and biking speed had increased to a point that I never thought possible, my swimming (and I am not a good swimmer) was getting easier, and race after race I was placing in the top half and sometimes the top 10 for women. I remember one run at lunch when it hit me how much everything was benefiting each other; I was running up 14st NW in Calgary (which is steep) and I was breathing hard but in control. I didn’t stop, and more importantly, I didn’t need to stop. My body kept going!
Every workout was different. I wasn’t just running or just swimming or just biking. I had started to add strength training 2 to 3 days a week at home and not because I was bored but because I felt motivated to keep improving. I was pushing my body to its limits. I improved my swim distance by three-fold, my running speed by minus 10 to 15 sec/km and my bike time by similar. These were huge feats for me and I never once injured myself. I was feeling and noticing so much positive change in how my body felt and moved that I couldn’t stop there. My eating habits naturally improved (with no crazy diets, or supplements) and it became easier for me to carve out time for my workouts.
Fast forward a few years after baby number one and I struggled a lot to find that time again and to find that feeling. I had decided that I needed to get back at it and build a foundation that can care for my growing family and so that I could become a positive role model for my kid. I joined a local YMCA, would put my daughter into child care, and would join whatever class was available at 9:15am. It was glorious! The variety of classes helped me feel like I was training to race again. I didn’t necessarily want to race triathlon as much as I had before but my body, my mood and my life felt like the old me but better. I was never bored at the gym and if I ever did start to feel flat I would try another class or look up new ways to strength train.
I now have two school age kids who see their mom be active in any way she can. We participate in physical activity together but they also see me do my own thing too. I am now a certified Group Fitness instructor in many modalities and am 1 semester away from being a Personal Fitness Trainer.
I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today if had stuck to one activity, or felt bored at the gym and yet kept going. I didn’t know it at the time but what I was doing was cross training. I was keeping my workouts interesting to help prevent injury and motivated which in turn improved my sport performance and my life performance.