Cross Training — What Is It?

3 March 2014
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Cross Training — What Is It?

We live in a culture of specialization.

In school, it means declaring a major and studying a specific field in detail. In business, it means finding employment in a specific field and orienting your daily work toward accomplishing the actions that fit within your expertise. In sports, it means playing a specific role on the team.

It might mean focusing on pitching in baseball. It could mean kicking in football. Perhaps a goalkeeper in soccer. Within these sports specializations, your body requires specific tasks. A strong arm, a strong leg, good reaction time. Highly specialized athletes certainly want to train in such a way that they optimize the performance that their specific positional activities require. Because of our culture of specialization, many young athletes wonder when they should narrow their focus on a single sport. But a sole focus might very well lead to imbalance. This is where the idea of cross training can lend value.

Defined, cross training is alternating your training — or even your sport — to gain a high level of performance and balance throughout your body.

Physical Benefits

Cross training creates different stressors on your body, thus, reducing the overuse syndromes of specialization. It also provides an excellent way for you to learn how to move your body in different ways and respond to different environments. Doing so gives your body the ability to adapt to its surroundings through moving your body in different ways in different environments.

This idea is true not only for young athletes, but anyone who works out. A daily 40-minute run is great for health and wellness, but when you head up the mountain to ski, you find it difficult to keep up with more accomplished skiers.

The balance cross training provides is a critical component to health and injury avoidance. Year-round specialization in a single sport can easily lead to overuse and overtraining injuries. Many athletes have queued into the benefits of cross training. You’ve probably heard a story about a football player doing ballet or a pole-vaulter doing gymnastics. Even recently, Russell Wilson’s visit with the Texas Rangers for Spring Training fits the bill. From a physical standpoint, the strategy for these athletes resides in the desire to maintain fitness and to work a wide variety of muscle groups. It is important to train the body in multiple planes of motion to maximize and appreciate what our bodies can actually do. Cross training gives us the ability to find new thresholds or expand our ceiling of function.

Mental Benefits

From a mental perspective, cross training gives an athlete the opportunity to maintain a competitive edge, especially if the training hones in on another sport. Cross training allows you to hone your learning skills and to discover the best ways to motivate your mind and body. Such influencers can carry over and bring new insights to your training routines in your primary sport.

Cross training is a great way to reduce injury, learn a new way to move your body, and improve your motor learning and skill development within different sports. Even though we function in a culture of specialization, cross training has many benefits for young athletes and all who exercise.