Cardiovascular cross training: is it important? Part 1
You change into your workout attire all the while contemplating another boring cardio workout. The same boring workout you have been doing for some time now. STOP! It doesn’t have to be this way. You can do something different. Ever heard of cross training? Cross training is a fun and exciting way to spruce up your workouts. You will learn new and challenging skills, reduce risk of injury, maintain a consistent workout routine, achieve better results, and diversify your circle of sports buddies. Many sports professionals and recreational athletes alike are incorporating cross training into their workout routines for this very reason: they are less mundane.
If you're like most people the thought of doing your cardiovascular work is less than thrilling. How many times have you heard that inner voice quietly encouraging you once again to get on that stairmaster, treadmill or bike in the gym? Well don’t; switch gears. If you always jog or walk on the treadmill in the gym, take it outside. You could also try biking in the gym or outdoors.
If it’s impossible to take your cardio work outside try a different activity. There are numerous other cardiovascular activities you can participate in that are fun and challenge you to learn new skills. For instance, have you ever tried mountain biking, hiking, racquetball, volleyball, basketball, boxing or jumping rope? Even vigorous martial arts or yoga classes can be extremely aerobic.
The body is very much like a machine. By repeatedly using the same muscles, to do the same activities, you will wear down joints and strain muscles where the greatest amount of stress is located. Let’s take jogging for instance. Think about it. What are you doing when you participate in resistance activity? Contract and release right? Jogging uses the quadriceps and gluteus maxims primarily. The gluteus maxim is a muscle just like your biceps or deltoids. The gluteus will get harder and more toned over time. However, every muscle needs recuperation time.
Joggers tend to develop the infamous runners knee: a sharp pain located directly under or surrounding the patella. This pain is typically caused by an inflammation of muscle tissue that occurs because of overuse and overpronation. This inflammation and pain can become chronic or develop into chondromalacia if not addressed by refraining from running for a period of time. Other running injuries resulting from over use include shin splints, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. So when you jog remember that the musculoskeletal system needs time to recuperate from the mechanical stress of running.
As a runner myself, I have first hand experience with most of these stress related injuries and the frustration and pain associated with them. Over the years, I have learnt to use cross training as a way of preventing injuries before they happen, without stopping my cardio training. By participating in a variety of activities I decrease the amount of time I have to stop training due to injury and pain. Running then becomes much more enjoyable and less of a mechanical necessity.
Biking is a great solution to overuse because of the angle at which the knee operates at whilst biking. Biking actually helps to heal this type of injury by opening up the joint area and taking pressure off of the inflamed muscle tissue. This is true for the stairmaster as well. Don’t just ignore that pain and hope it goes away. Changing cardiovascular activities on a consistent basis is not only the best way to heal muscle areas suffering from over use syndrome but also to prevent injuries from occurring.
If your passion is biking that’s great, but you too need to use cross training to prevent injury. Bikers are prone to injuries like compression of the ulna nerve and strains within the knee capsule. Biking is one of the sports I use to cross train with, since I love the outdoors and live close to the beach. I also use mountain biking for a change of pace and scenery. Since biking and running are both stress producing activities I use swimming as another alternative to cross train and keep things interesting.
Swimming is another great cardiovascular activity and very refreshing. Water resistance is much less demanding on the joints and is a great cross training activity for people who are prone to joint injuries. To improve your swimming ability and cardiovascular workout attempt to increase your stroke length and the force of each stroke.
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