Monday, May 31, 2010

Cross Training

Here is the latest email from Dr. Jacobs.

Cross Training Indoors and Out
By: Diane Proud, Cooper Fitness Center - Dallas running/triathlon pro

When you begin an exercise program, the results are obvious. You feel great. Your clothes fit a little looser. Your workout performance improves. But after a while, doing the same workout at the same intensity doesn’t produce the same results. And you’re probably not getting the same enjoyment from it either. You’ve reached a plateau and it’s time to mix up the routine. Cross training is one option to do that.
There are two basic methods for incorporating cross training.

In your workout, include two or more types of activity that achieve similar results. For example, if you’re doing a cardio workout you could start with an exercise class followed by jogging on the treadmill.

Or during the week, alternate your exercise by day. For example, you might bike on Monday and Wednesday and work out on the elliptical on Tuesday and Thursday.
Try different machines or outdoor sports to work muscles in different ways. When using equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical, select a built-in interval program for your desired time and cover the display with a towel. You'll get a great workout, challenged by the changes in speed or incline that come without warning. Gauge the intensity using your own heart rate monitor. Most equipment heart rate and calorie measurements are based on general criteria that can't accurately measure your individual fitness. Even different brands of machines can differ in caloric measurements by as many as four to five calories per minute.

Make sure you don't overwork your body while cross training. Fatigue is a sign that your body needs rest, not extra work. Just because you perform your normal workout well, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for prolonged exercise in another sport. So, approach with caution and limit your first few sessions. Once your body is “warmed up” to the new activity, make your cross training workouts the same length of time as your normal workout. For example, if you usually run 30 minutes, try the elliptical for 30 minutes. Throw in a couple of one- to two-minute intervals, increasing intensity and duration of intervals gradually over time.

Avoid activities that might aggravate injuries. For example, runners with plantar fasciitis don't often respond well to court sports.

For more cross training ideas, here are my “Top 10” cross training activities for runners. But they can be effective no matter what sport or activity you participate in. And don’t forget to include a five minute warm-up and cool down with every workout.

Water Run: Done properly, the movement mimics land running and the water resistance provides excellent strength and conditioning. Many sports teams and pro athletes include pool running as part of base training or intense workouts.

Elliptical: Because it’s a weight-bearing, high-intensity, low-impact activity, the elliptical is perfect for increasing your mileage while giving your joints a break. Perform intervals and increase the resistance or incline with each set. Also, stopping your momentum to switch directions will boost your work effort. You can mimic the running form by using your core and not holding onto the bars. Ellipticals are notorious for the "momentum effect" from bodyweight. To prevent that, crank the resistance so your body has to use force—not momentum—to move the pedals.

Cardio Exercise Class: Build coordination, core strength, and aerobic capacity in a cardio exercise class. Plus it’s a fun way to work out in a group setting.

Stair Climb: If you work in a high-rise building, find a staircase. If not, jump on a Step Mill or Stair Master and climb with rhythm. Try to keep the perceived exertion at the same level it would be if you were on a mountain trail. Take one step at a time to promote turnover and glute strength. While ascending, try not to use the handrails. But if you’re walking down stairs, definitely use the handrails to keep from stumbling.

Treadmill: Just like speed work outdoors, alternate fast intervals with recovery jogs. Or, during recovery, get off the treadmill and do agility drills (for example, side shuffle, high knee drills, butt kicks, etc.) to work your muscles through a greater range of motion. Run on a slight incline of 2 to 4 percent grade. It approximates outside terrain better. Take advantage of an incline to do hill drills.

Swim: Swimming is an excellent cross training activity because it requires total body effort. The more effort exerted against water resistance, the more demand required from your cardiovascular, skeletal, and muscular systems. You can complement laps in the pool with a weight-bearing exercise for optimal bone health and overall conditioning.

Ball Sports: Soccer, tennis, racquetball, basketball, and baseball can be brutal on the joints, so harness your competitive drive and use these sports as a workout and less to work over opponents! You’ll benefit from multidirectional movements, balance requirements, and working to keep your center of gravity in control. Many top Kenyan runners were originally excellent soccer players.

Row: Performed properly, rowing requires total body effort, making it a high-intensity workout. Typically arms fatigue sooner on a rower than legs do on a treadmill, so spend a recovery interval off the rower by jumping rope or walking around the track. When rowing, keep your back straight and abs tight, and push the legs.

Circuit Train: Capitalize on the opportunity to be outdoors or indoors. Combine resistance sets with cardio sets. For example, warm up on a favorite cardio machine, then immediately lift one to three sets of 12-20 bicep/tricep exercises. Then go outdoors and run or speed walk 1/4 to 1/2 mile, followed by sets of push ups or ball throws. Be creative by mixing lower body, core, and upper body resistance work with cardio. Circuit training is great at developing deep aerobic capacity and muscle endurance strength.

Spin Class or Stationary Bike: A bike workout benefits anyone who can't do weight-bearing cardio. Ride one mile as hard as you can and then a 1/2 mile recovery. Repeat until you've gone eight to 10 miles. Mix it up! The real world is not a flat track your ride at a steady pace. Increase your resistance and stand up on the pedals. When you’re sitting, drop the resistance, and increase the cadence. Never pedal without resistance, especially in spin class. It’s a waste of time.

Whether it’s a spin class, hiking, stair stepping, or swimming, use proven cross training methods to stay fit, have fun, and take a purposeful break from the rigors of your normal exercise routine.

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