Cross Training: How to Avoid Injuries, Part 2

In part one of this series, we discussed how cross training can be used to increase muscle balance and reduce fatigue and overtraining. In part two, we’ll dive into specific cross training workouts and how they pair with various activities.

It’s not enough to simply vary your workouts, of course. If you’re hoping to use cross training to achieve specific results, you’ll need to look closely at your sport and how this new training enhances your performance. Today, we’ll look at five different types of activities and the best kind of cross training you can do for each one to increase strength and prevent injuries.

For Runners: Focus on Strength Training

Most runners get plenty of cardio in, but many tend to fall flat when it comes to strength training. And where there’s a lack of strength, there’s the possibility for injury. Many runners lack the core and gluteal stability they need to maintain their posture while they run. Core muscles help runners achieve a more efficient stride, leading to a more controlled performance and better overall impact resistance. Runners should focus on strength training movements like a reverse lunge with knee hug, which targets the core, hip flexors, and legs at the same time to achieve more fluid twisting while running. Single leg hip extensions or a body saw to press up are also great to try—or basically anything that works the obliques, abs, and hip flexors.

For Swimmers: Try Walking or Running

Since swimming is done entirely in the pool, the water creates a natural, low-impact resistance, meaning that swimmers absorb less shock than other athletes. In one way that’s good: high-impact exercises like running are hard on the joints and can contribute to long-term problems, particularly in the knees. Swimmers dodge these issues completely. However, on the other hand, weight-bearing activities like brisk walking and running do help to strengthen the bones and increase bone density, the one area of the body that swimming misses.

For Cyclists: Get on the Mat

Cyclists spend their entire time seated, bent over the handlebars, which means their flexibility usually suffers. Yoga offers the perfect antidote since it challenges both balance and muscle flexibility while providing some light strength training. In particular, cyclists should try poses like the cat cow, which targets spinal flexibility, or plank, which strengthens the transverse abdominis, helping long-distance cyclists avoid lower back pain and injuries.

For Team Sports: Aquatic Plyometrics

Plyometrics, also known as “jump training,” involve short bursts of high-energy movements followed by muscle tightening. This makes them great companions to sports training since they can help you explode off a base or jump to make a difficult shot. They’ll also help with your flexibility, too, particularly if you practice in the pool, where the water provides some natural resistance. Pick exercises that mirror moves you make on the field or the court—the extra bit of weight will help you move like a dream on game day.

For CrossFit Lovers: Vary Your Cardio

High-intensity interval training, like CrossFit programs, gives you plenty of cardio and tons of intensity, but to protect yourself from lingering injuries, you’ll want to give yourself low-intensity days, as well. In general, that means incorporating rest days or light training, like jogs or brisk walking into your routine. Jogging for 20 to 30 minutes helps you retain your energy on longer workouts, and that can help you maintain muscle control during your regular workout.

Generally, however, if you’re looking to enhance a specific aspect of your workout—such as injury prevention—or if you’re returning to your training after an injury, it’s not a bad idea to engage a coach or a personal trainer who can offer sport-specific suggestions that will get you the results you want. That should keep you off the bench for a long time!

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