How do I Choose the Best Cross-Training Workout?

Amy Hunter

Choosing the best cross-training workout requires an honest assessment of your fitness goals. There are minimum activities that everyone needs for good health. Once those minimums are met, add activities that strengthen weak areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a total of two and one-half hours of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity, or one hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous activity, each week, as well as a strength training program that works all major muscle groups at least two times each week.

Sprinting is a common part of conditioning drills.
Sprinting is a common part of conditioning drills.

To choose the cross-training workout that will help meet your goals, start by completing the minimums suggested by the CDC. From there, add activities designed around your goals. If your aim is to lose weight, increase the amount of time you perform cardiovascular exercise, as well as the intensity of the exercise. If you are interested in becoming stronger, add additional strength training days to your workout program. For flexibility issues, add yoga or stretching to your routine.

For flexibility issues, people should add stretching to their routine.
For flexibility issues, people should add stretching to their routine.

A cross-training workout is also valuable if you participate in sports. Exercising through the week allows you to spend the weekend playing golf or softball without becoming sore or risking injury. To develop a cross-training workout aimed at keeping you in shape for occasional sports outings, look at the muscles used in the activity and choose exercises that strengthen those areas. For example, a weekend golfer doesn't need to work on sprinting ability, but strengthening core muscles increases stability, and may reduce the risk of back pain the evening after a round of golf.

Once you have decided what activities to include in your cross-training workout, build a schedule that allows you to fit in your workouts as well as rest periods. When strength training, it is important to allow your muscles to recover for 24 hours between workouts. This gives them time to repair themselves from the microscopic damage caused during strength training.

Be flexible with the schedule, and modify it to suit your needs and free time. When facing a week with limited time to exercise, modify the workout by prioritizing your personal needs; for example, if weight loss is the goal, include as much cardiovascular time as possible, and reduce strength training time. Flexibility is the key to a successful workout program.

People new to working out, or those who increase the amount of time they spend exercising suddenly, may be at risk for over-training. When on a cross-training schedule, watch for signs of over-training, such as loss of appetite, depression, trouble sleeping, an elevated heart rate at rest, and trouble completing your workouts. If you experience any signs of over-training, reduce your workload for a few weeks.

People doing cross-training workouts should allow their muscles to rest after lifting weights.
People doing cross-training workouts should allow their muscles to rest after lifting weights.

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