One afternoon, your friend asks you to go on a run.
Maybe you had one of these responses:
- “I lift – I don’t run.”
- “I’m a biker.”
- “I only run when I’m playing sports.”
That’s fair. Most of the runners out there have probably had a similar response when asked to participate in another fitness activity.
Unfortunately, focusing on one form of exercise and ignoring everything else is a dangerous mistake!
If you want to reach your fitness goals, learning to cross-train is essential.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is Cross-Training?
Cross-training refers to a type of training routine that combines different forms of exercise.
For example, a runner who bikes and swims is cross training. As is a powerlifter who does yoga.
Obviously, to be competitive, athletes need to focus the majority of their time and attention on their specific sport, but cross-training helps athletes improve overall performance and fitness. This, in turn, decreases the risk of injury and promotes better overall fitness.
Don’t just take our word for it, though.
Check out these ten mind-blowing benefits of cross training!
9 Awesome Benefits of Cross-Training
Looking to meet a new fitness goal? Training for a big event?
1. It can Prevent Overuse Injuries
Cross-training can help you prevent first-time injuries and reinjury.
When you first start a new sport, you usually want to go all in!
If you’ve just picked up running, biking, or even swimming, you want to put all your time and energy into that sport. The problem with this approach is that your aerobic fitness often surpasses your muscular fitness. Your endurance can handle the new activity, but your muscles haven’t fully developed to support you.
Because of this, you feel like you can keep going and pushing yourself harder, further, and faster. Then, out of nowhere, your muscular fatigue finally catches up with you – BAM! Injury.
Cross-training helps you ease yourself into a new activity. You can start running and build up your leg muscles, and you can cross-train with swimming to steadily improve your aerobic health while giving your legs a break.
2. Better Overall Fitness
Your body will never be truly balanced and healthy if you only practice one activity.
Look at lifters who neglect cardio – they’re huge! Too huge! This causes them to lack mobility, flexibility, and endurance. The same thing goes for long-distance runners. They’re usually associated with super skinny upper bodies and toned legs, but many lack the functional strength needed to complete a weight-training workout.
Ideally, you want to build a nice balance between strength and endurance. Cross-training provides the platform for that balance. You can focus on building a primary skill, but you can give secondary training to the rest of your body.
3. Avoid Boredom
Doing the same thing in the gym every day can get boring.
And when you get bored, you’re likely to fall off the wagon altogether.
Because of this, it’s essential to mix things up!
If you bike every day, experiment with some rowing, running, or bodyweight exercises. No matter what you’re into, cross-training can prevent exercise from becoming a dull routine.
4. Take Advantage of the Off-Season
Training year-round is a great way to injure yourself, but you probably hate the idea of stopping exercise altogether.
And that’s okay – you don’t have to!
Cross-training helps you build your fitness while taking a break from your primary sport.
In the cold Winter months, it sucks to go running outside. So take a break during the Winter season and focus on other activities: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, indoor biking, rowing, swimming, mountaineering, etc.
5. Rehabilitate Injuries
We’ve all heard stories like this:
Consider the example of an ultramarathon runner who cross-trains with heavy lifting and bodyweight exercises.
These people often suffer from overuse injuries related to running – inflamed knees and injured IT bands are among the most common.
In some cases, intelligent cross-training (mostly with the help of a physical therapist) can be a great avenue to rehabilitate these overuse injuries and get these athletes back on their feet.
If you’re nursing an old overuse injury, cross-training could be a great way to reclaim some mobility and get back on the horse, so to speak.
6. Increased Flexibility
Practicing different kinds of activities teaches your body to move in different ways.
By developing your range of natural movement, you’ll improve performance and decrease your chances of injury.
Flexibility isn’t only limited to yoga though.
Runners, for example, can improve their flexibility with biking, stretching, rowing, and bodyweight exercises.
7. Gain Strength
Strength in any activity is important. Whether you’re doing the backstroke in the pool, climbing, or mountain biking, you’ll perform better if you’re as strong as possible.
For example, runners need strong legs to carry them quickly or for long periods of time. But running isn’t the only (or best) way to build leg strength.
Leg lifting exercises in the gym will build your legs faster than running on them will.
Cross-training helps you build your key strength through a variety of different exercises.
Swimmers need a strong core and back – something they can get with ab exercises, deadlifts, rows, and similar exercises.
8. A Larger Network of Workout Buddies
Do you ever get sick of working out with the same people again and again? If so, cross-training could be a great way to find new people to hit the gym with.
By exploring new activities, you’ll get to know more people and make more friends.
By growing your workout network, you’ll also have more resources and valuable skills to draw upon as you strive to reach your fitness goals.
9. Correct Muscle Imbalances
This goes back to the rehabilitation example. If you’re suffering a leg injury from running, more running won’t fix the problem.
But exercising and building specific muscles will.
Maybe you need to focus less attention on your calves and more attention on your quads – then you can cross-train with biking.
Or maybe your back hurts while you’re running – then you can train your back with rowing or swimming.
Cross-Training VS CrossFit
What’s the difference between cross-training and CrossFit?
Are they the same thing?
No. Not at all.
Cross-training is building your strength or endurance by using different exercises and activities.
CrossFit (notice the consistent capitalization of Fit) is a trademarked workout regimen and involves high-intensity functional movements.
CrossFit defines these functional movements as the “core movements of life.” These movements are found in basic gymnastics, Olympic lifting, running, rowing, etc. You’ll mostly see CrossFit performed in small to large groups – the ones stereotyped as screaming and cheering each other on.
As for Cross-training VS CrossFit – one isn’t really better than the other. Each is a different form of training that produces different outcomes.
If you’re looking to boost your endurance, prevent injuries, and build supporting muscles to improve your performance, you’ll benefit from cross-training.
If you’re looking to build your “functional fitness” and join a community of motivated individuals, then you’ll benefit from CrossFit.
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The Bottom Line
Cross-training is a great way to take your survival fitness to the next level.
Take advantage of the many benefits of cross-training by incorporating different training into your routine.
You don’t need to radically restructure the way you exercise – you just need to mix things up a little bit with some different workouts. Not only will it help you meet your fitness goals, but it’ll provide some fun variety and excitement to your daily workouts!