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The Spice of Life

Do you exercise regularly several times a week and consider yourself to be in good shape but then do a fun run on the weekend or go skiing for the holidays and end up feeling as if you were run over by a train? Perhaps you’re just bored with the same old workout, you’re struggling to lose those last few pounds or you’re ready to add a new level of fitness to your routine. Cross training may be the answer – varying your workouts can improve your performance, reduce the risk of injury and keep your workouts fun.

If you feel you’re in good shape but still find yourself fatigued at the end
of certain activities, consider cross training. You may well be in good shape for the sort of exercise you do routinely, day after day but you may be setting yourself up for injury or mental burnout. Cross training can help keep you interested, help prevent injury and improve your performance.

Simply put, cross training means that you include a variety of activities in your fitness program. This can be done by combining two are more types of exercises in the same workout; for example, lifting weights before a morning jog. You could also try alternating two or more types of exercise during the week. For example, you could lift weights on Monday and Wednesday and go jogging on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Cross training is a great way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills and reduce the boredom that can set in after months of doing the same exercise routines. It also gives you the ability to vary the stress placed on specific muscles or even your cardiovascular system. After months of the same movements your body becomes extremely efficient performing those movements and, while that’s great for competition, it limits the amount of overall fitness you possess and reduces the actual conditioning you get while training; rather than continuing to improve you simply maintain a certain level of fitness. Cross training is also necessary to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse.

For most exercisers, cross training is a beneficial training method for maintaining a high level of overall fitness. For example, you may use the both biking and swimming each week to improve your overall aerobic capacity, build overall muscle strength and reduce the chance of injury from overuse. You also limit the amount of stress that occurs on a specific muscle group because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways.

As with any exercise program, check with your doctor first. Once you have your doctor’s OK to try various activities, make a plan based on activities you’ll enjoy. A balanced weekly cross training program might consist of: aerobic exercises three times a week, alternating activities such as walking, swimming and stair climbing; strength training twice a week, working each major muscle group; and stretching every day for about 10 minutes. Start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercises. You may not see results overnight, but cross training will have a beneficial effect on your health and fitness level.

Start slowly and increase the duration and intensity of your exercises gradually. Remember, you’ll not see results immediately but stick with it and you’ll reach your goals. 
Billy Katz and Hudson Ellis are the co-owners of Simply Fit gyms, located throughout the New Orleans area. Please email your health and fitness questions to health@renpubllc.com.

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