Here at Coach we firmly believe that there’s at least one kind of activity out there for everyone. Even if you’ve always hated running, cycling, lifting weights and swimming, if you keep plugging away you’ll eventually find something that floats your boat – Nordic walking, kayaking or bouldering perhaps.
Once you do find your favourite sport it’s easy to just do that activity to the exclusion of all others. That’s certainly better than doing nothing, of course – a lot better, in fact – but better still is to also schedule in some other kind of activity as part of your weekly exercise routine – cross-training, as it’s known. Given that many of us struggle to find the time to fit in our preferred type of exercise we know that’s a big ask, but give us a chance and hopefully we can convince you of the benefits of cross-training.
Those benefits are many and varied, and start with the most basic of all: no matter how much you love your preferred exercise, it will almost certainly get a little dull eventually, and adding some variety to your life is a great way to stop (or at least delay) that happening. And even if you’re sure you’ll never get bored of your main sport, it’s still worth doing cross-training.
Here’s trainer Mila Lazar with five reasons why.
1. It Improves Your Fitness
A great place to start. It might seem obvious, but doing different exercises improves your fitness in different ways.
“Fitness and strength come in many different forms, so mixing and matching your exercises will help improve power and efficiency,” says Lazar.
“By mixing a variety of cardio, strength and stretching into your workout regime you’ll be working a mix of muscles and ensuring overall fitness.”
2. It Helps Prevent Injury
“By mixing up your workouts, you’ll be able to avoid injuries that arise from the overuse of certain muscles,” says Lazar.
This can be especially important if you’re a dedicated runner, because it’s a sport that hits certain parts of the body hard every time you pound the pavements. Improving strength in the supporting leg and core muscles can help you avoid overuse injuries.
3. It Improves Posture And Co-ordination
“Not only can the overuse of muscles cause injury, it can also cause the body to have an over-reliance on particular areas of the body to compensate for the injured parts,” says Lazar.
Cross-training can help reduce or remove any imbalances in the muscles in your body by working on the areas not used so much during your main activity.
- Pro Tom Evans On The Benefits Of Cross-Training For Runners
- The Most Enjoyable Cross-Training Workouts Are On A Bike
4. It Boosts Mental Strength
Cross-training isn’t only good for your physical health. Mixing up your training can also help you maintain good mental health.
“Physical activity can help improve one’s mental clarity through the release of endorphins,” says Lazar. “Different types of activity can either help one find calm in a hectic life or find release after a stressful day.”
For example, if you’re keen on taking some time to yourself to gradually ease away any stress from your daily life, you might fancy a long solo run or a yoga session. On other occasions, if you’re feeling especially frustrated after a day at the office, you might want to punch out those aggravations and clear your head with a HIIT boxing session.
5. You’ll Recover Faster
Whatever your preferred sport is, you have to take some rest days to recover and get the most out of your training. These rest days are a great opportunity to try another activity.
“One of the best benefits of cross-training is that it allows you to try active recovery alongside periods of outright rest, which again can improve fitness and help avoid injury,” says Lazar.
“Yoga is a great option for active recovery because it helps increase blood flow to fatigued muscles, allowing any tension or soreness to be removed more effectively.”
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.