I recently learned the importance of cross-training the hard way…A few months ago I tore my left hamstring in multiple places and suffered hamstring strains as well. It was not until this injury did I realize how important it is to cross-train…

What do I Mean by Cross-Train?

Okay, let’s first start by what I mean when I say cross-train. In a nutshell, cross-training simply means to train your body in different types of physical activity. So, for example, let’s say you’re a runner. While you need to run on a consistent basis to improve, you also need to mindful of the rest of your body. In addition to following a running schedule, runners should also be doing some laps in the pool or following a strength training plan as well. There are muscles that running does not target and we need to show them some love too! Flexibility is also an area where many of us fall flat. Meaning, we train and train and train, but forget about the importance of mobility and flexibility. So, that weekly relaxing and flexibility focused yoga class can really be beneficial for total body wellness and athletic performance.

Just to be clear, I used runners as an example, but no matter what your sport of choice is or physical activity you should be cross-training!

Why Cross-Train?

There are tons of benefits to cross-training, but here are just a few:

  • Help prevent injuries
  • Aid in rehab and recovery
  • Improve your athletic performance in preferred activity
  • Form of active recovery
  • Keeps you motivated and avoid boredom

My Story About Cross-Training

Okay, so now you understand what cross-training is and how awesome it is, I want to share my story on how I learned the importance of it the hard way. For a little over a year now I have been a very avid aerialist. On a normal basis, I would spend at least two hours daily training. This would involve either intense upper body workouts, flexibility training, and/or working on routines, tricks, and sequences. I was 100% dedicated and worked hard. The problem was…I was so focused on workouts that would directly help me be a better aerialist, like working hard on strengthening my upper body, I simply forgot about the rest of my body! That’s right, as a past marathon finisher, I no longer ran or really did much cardio nor did I pay attention to strengthening my lower body. I began skipping my normal barre class, daily run, weight lifting sesh, and opted instead for aerial fitness and flexibility classes.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t even realize the dangerous pattern I was falling into…I found myself gaining a ton of upper body strength and increasing my aerial skills like crazy and it felt damn good! I, however, was letting my body weaken in very important areas.

As an aerialist, we perform a number of moves which involve the splits and while I was focused on improving my flexibility, I ignored the fact that you need to have strong hamstrings in order to prevent injury. Well, this lack of cross-training caught up with me. I was performing a routine and I dropped into a double foot knot split (pictured below). I felt a pop. It did not feel normal and I immediately knew I did some severe damage.

Cross-training

Long story short, I tore my hamstring and I have been unable to do aerial for almost three months now. I firmly believe that if I had been showing my hamstrings and lower body as much love as my upper body this injury could have been prevented. As I recover, I am now doing a wide range of workouts again. I find myself running, lifting weights, cycling, and a number of other activities. It feels good, and my whole body feels stronger. My injury is also healing and I am seeing a ton of progress. Again, I attribute this to showing it the love it needed, meaning working on strengthening my entire body.

As I recover, I am now doing a wide range of workouts again. I find myself running, lifting weights, cycling, and a number of other activities. It feels good, and my whole body feels stronger. My injury is also healing and I am seeing a ton of progress. Again, I attribute this to showing it the love it needed, meaning working on strengthening my entire body.

Take home message, cross-train! Show your entire body love and don’t ignore certain muscle groups or areas. Just like a well-rounded diet, your workout regimen should also be well-rounded including cardio, strength training, and focused on all of your muscle groups.

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