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A popular catchphrase in time-management circles, and one widely known as one of Stephen R. Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective people," is "sharpening the saw." It's the idea that people are more productive when they take regular breaks from their work schedules to rest and rejuvenate.
For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, cross training is the exercise equivalent of sharpening the saw. When you cross train, you take a break from your regular workout and add in some variety. It's a great way to get more bang for your workout buck, too. Let's look at some of the benefits:
Get Buff, Not Bored
Doing the same 30-minute workout on the treadmill day after day can get a little monotonous. And if you're bored, you're more likely to want to skip it all together.
"Cross training gives variety to workouts, so you don't come to a plateau and stop progressing," says Rob Dunfield, a personal trainer at Holladay Health and Fitness in Salt Lake City.
And one of the main reasons people stop a fitness program is because they get bored, notes Brandon Kirk, a personal trainer at Treehouse Athletic Club, also in Salt Lake City. "They get into a pattern with the same thing every day."
Kirk recommends that instead of doing the same 30-minute routine on the treadmill, you switch to the elliptical for a day, try an exercise class on another day, and so on.
"You get the same cardio workout, but it's a different form of exercise. Cross training is a good way to shake things up and give you a different option."
Switch It Up
Through cross training, you can strengthen parts of your body that may not get much of a workout during your regular routine.
According to Dunfield, cross training can benefit athletes during the off-season of their chosen sport. This is good not only for strengthening, but for helping prevent burnout.
"Off-season, you can do things to keep you in good shape. You can keep your heart and muscles strong by doing other things that keep you in good shape."
For a basketball player or track runner, Dunfield suggests bicycling or running during the off-season.
"This is really good for young athletes. They can get where they are burned out before they are very old because they're always doing the same things and don't ever give themselves a break."
Warding Off Injuries
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of cross training is injury prevention. Overuse injuries are common among serious athletes as well as more casual fitness enthusiasts. Adding activities such as swimming and weightlifting to sports like running can help you increase muscle strength, give your muscles a needed rest and help you attain your fitness goals.
Cross training can also be helpful for someone recovering from an injury, Kirk says. "Swimming is good cardio exercise for those that might have an injured knee."
So, get out and get fit--but try mixing it up a bit. You might be surprised at what a difference cross training can make.
About the Author
Freelance writer Margaret H. Evans lives in Bountiful, Utah, with her husband and four children. She has been writing and editing professionally since 1989. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online.