As the warmer months take over and confirm spring has arrived it is impossible to resist the pull of the sun for us Alaskans. It feels wrong to let a sunny evening pass by without at least a walk outside. As we switch gears from winter activities to breaking out into the great outdoors for all manner of sport, recreation and even some organized exercise, let’s remember to train our bodies for the change. Cross training—simply defined as using one form of activity to train for another—can be a great way to help the body in the gym anticipate the variety of outdoor activities to come.
On any Alaskan summer day, we might find ourselves hiking up a steep incline to enjoy lunch on a rocky ridge, or perhaps paddling peacefully along the shore in a sea kayak, or bouncing along the trail mountain biking or sliding into home base to win a softball game. Here are some small ways to add some of the variety of challenges your body will face later into your exercise now.
While cross training is often used in preparation for athletics—quick examples would be swimming in preparation for surfing or jogging in preparation for soccer—this training technique can also be easily applied to a workout routine by adding small challenges or combinations of different exercises to enhance benefits. Add one or two sets of 15 single leg squat touch downs as a warm up—stand on one foot with other foot floating but not behind you. Reach with the hand on the same side as your balance leg and touch your knee then work your way down to your foot if you can, trying not to touch with your other foot.
Do employ the kickstand or toe tap with your other foot as needed as you practice. You will get better at this quickly. Add a few hops, jumps and leaps to your routine (much like hopscotch) along with ankle circles and point/flexing the toes up and down to increase ankle strength and stability on uneven ground.
For the upper body, many traditional exercises such as chest press and compound row may be done standing using resistance bands or cables. Adding balance by standing on one foot while pressing and rowing can create tremendous demands on the core and your ability to remain stable while still moving and applying force. Compounding exercises such as adding a squat to the chest press is another way of combining movements to increase demand on the body and/or replicate demands of an outdoor activity. I have seen kayakers practicing paddling using a rotating barbell while balancing on one foot on a balance board. Hardcore.
As with all exercise, increases such as adding juggling and hopping up and down on one foot should be made gradually as you are able to maintain safety. Joking aside there are many tools available in any gym these days designed to challenge and train balance, coordination and stability, such as BOSUs, balance boards, foam pads and many more—easy ways to work balance and variety through cross training into your exercises.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to take advantage of cross training benefits is by creating cardio combinations, using a rowing machine for a period then switching to a cycle, then treadmill on incline in one workout. There is no magic formula for what combinations work best as the goal is primarily to keep the body guessing by doing different activities. Team Training at The Alaska Club is desinged to challege your mind and muscle with a full-body interval training program that is different every week. Sign up for a Team Training session today by clicking on the picture!
One of the major fitness industry trends in recent years is instructor led high intensity interval training such as P90X or Insanity. These classes include cross training as a major method combing strength, cardio and flexibility into one workout that keeps the body well prepared for any variety and unpredictability of summer fun. As always checking with a fitness professional to ask questions or get guidance with your routine and goals is recommended and can be a fast track to the results you want most.