Cross training is a tool that can be used by recreational and professional athletes alike to improve sports performance, manage exercise loads, reduce injury risk or assist with rehabilitation from injury. If you are a recreational athlete and you are looking to improve your sporting performance, this may be something you should think about incorporating into your exercise program.
Cross training is any sport or exercise that complements/supplements your main sport. Cross training is a widely used tool used in the running community as a means of improving endurance, speed, and strengthening supporting muscle groups. Cross training options vary, depending on the goal of the supplementary exercise, we will use a distance runner as an example of an athlete, and how they could use cross training concepts.
For a distance runner, cross training may be used as a load management tool to reduce overuse injury risk, while maintaining and building cardiovascular endurance. Examples of this include the use of cycling, elliptical trainers and swimming. These activities still require high levels of cardiovascular fitness, but are different to running, therefore you will be using different muscles and decreasing the stress running puts the joints of the body while improving cardio performance.
Another example of how a distance athlete may use cross training concepts is to improve sports performance by utilising strength training to improve running economy (the energy required to run at a certain pace) and improve running speed. Strength training is an effective tool to improve running economy, as strength training will make your muscles more fatigue resistant, which will offset the effect of fatigue causing your muscles to become less efficient. If you would like to read further on the impact of strength training and running, I have just the blog for you.
It’s not only strength training, swimming and ellipticals, cross training can also involve whole other sports/exercise regimes. An example of this is professional athletes using pilates as a form of cross training to improve core stability, and improve flexibility. Lebron James, 4 time NBA Champion uses pilates during the season to reduce injury risk and maximise performance.
Pilates has even been studied as a cross training/supplementary exercise for running athletes and has shown a benefit in running economy and speed. To read further on this, see my previous blog about Pilates for runners.
If you are a recreational athlete, and wanting to improve your exercise performance in your given sport without risking over-training or developing overuse injuries, then utilising cross training concepts will help you greatly. If you a runner in the city, and interested in how pilates can be used as a cross training option, then book yourself in for a Pilates assessment with one of our skilled pilates-trained Physios here at Bend + Mend in Sydney’s CBD.