Michael Hendel

Michael Hendel

Cross training simply means doing different types of exercise and can be as simple as switching between activities throughout the week. Doing so can help prevent injuries by giving your muscles and joints a break. When you do the same exercises over and over, you can overuse a particular muscle or joint, leading to injury.

By varying your routine, the work is spread among different parts of your body. This helps keep you balanced by strengthening muscles and joints that might not be used if you stuck to just one activity.

You can get even greater benefits by mixing things up a bit more. For example, try planning workouts that incorporate the following five elements of a well-rounded fitness routine:

• Aerobic fitness — something that gets your heart pumping.

• Strength training — weight lifting or resistance training.

• Core exercises — planks, sit-ups or fitness ball exercises that challenge the muscles around your trunk and pelvis.

• Balance work — tai chi or even standing on one leg.

• Stretching — yoga, Pilates or just stretching after a workout.

If you’re a runner, cross training can mean mixing in a day or two of swimming or walking. Or if you normally lift weights, add in some yoga or biking. Other tips specifically for runners include:

• Interval training — this focuses on short bursts of vigorous exercise. If you’re running, try sprinting for one or two minutes every five minutes a few times during your run.

• Other cardio — because running can be hard on your legs and body — especially when you run on hard surfaces — be sure to bike, hop on the elliptical machine or swim. These exercises improve your strength and endurance while reducing impact on your body.

• Plan for winter activities: Instead of the treadmill every day, try skiing or ice skating.

Whether you’re a runner or not, choosing different types of exercise gives your joints and muscles time to recover between workouts. It also builds up strength in different parts of your body, which can help keep you injury-free. Mixing things up can also help keep you from getting bored by your workouts. They say variety is the spice of life — variety can keep your workouts interesting, too.

Michael Hendel, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon with Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.

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