The Joys of Cross-Training: Mix Your Sports, Nix Your Injuries
Are you hooked on your favorite sport? Do you spend all your workout time either running, biking or swimming, believing that single-minded dedication is going to make you stronger and faster, better and better?
Sorry, dear reader. That's not how it works. It's time to learn about the benefits of cross-training, a fancy name for simply including a mix of activities in your exercise regimen.
Cross-training isn't just for uber-exercisers or competitive triathletes. It's for all the rest of us who want to live healthier, happier lives with more fun and fewer injuries.
If you're a runner, for example, regular Pilates classes would do wonders for your core. Swimming is a good complement to biking and vice versa, and your performance in both can significantly improve if you add some yoga and targeted strength training to your weekly routine.
Here are four good reasons to switch from single-sport to multisport training, starting now, with spring and summer just around the corner:
-- CROSS-TRAINING PREVENTS INJURIES. Repetitive stress is a major cause of injuries in all sports. Think about it. You use the same muscles doing the same sport, over and over, and your risk of injury goes way up. Cross-training lets your overused muscles rest while you coax others into action. It's a good remedy for overused tendons and ligaments, too.
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-- BEATS BACK BOREDOM. Doing one sport day after day can leave you bored, and boredom is a major reason people quit working out. Doing two or three different activities keeps your mind flexible and your body strong, making lifelong fitness a delightful and realistic prospect.
-- NEW SKILLS BUILD CONFIDENCE. One way to keep your brain fit is to face new obstacles and work on new skills. Cross-training -- which takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you a beginner again in a new sport -- challenges your mind and body in ways that boost confidence and self-esteem.
(PARENTING ALERT: That's why it's a good idea to expose your kids to a variety of sports, even if they star in one.)
-- LIFE DEMANDS FLEXIBILITY. If your only sport is running, what do you do when your knees give out? If the only exercise you enjoy is swimming, what happens when you travel and there's no pool around? It's smart to have a mix of sports up your sleeve and at the ready -- for bad weather, an aching tennis elbow or unexpected free time.