A big part of helping our clients achieve their fitness goals is keeping them healthy, injury-free, and motivated to maintain this lifestyle. Clearly, we all know the importance of strength and conditioning when programming for our clients; however, how often do you take a look at the bigger picture and identify areas of opportunity beyond specific sport or strength training? Whether your clients are runners, hockey players, or weekend warriors, cross-training is an important component of an effective and comprehensive fitness plan.
ACE defines cross training as a “type of training that is characterized by variety and the use of different exercises and equipment”. Even simple program design changes such as altering intensity, movement patterns, or exercise order, can also be considered cross training. The type of cross training each client engages in – and how often they do it – will look different for everyone based on their specific goals and their current program.
For instance, cycling is an excellent fitness activity. However, someone who spends most or all of their training time on a bike will develop muscle imbalances between their upper and lower body (especially if they also sit at a desk all day at work). Cycling is a great low-impact option but without incorporating some type of weight-bearing exercise, it could eventually affect bone health. For these reasons, non-cycling cross training workouts that incorporate weight-bearing exercise, upper body/core strength work, and flexibility training will go a long way towards keeping a cyclist well-balanced and strong without adversely affecting their cycling training.
Although you might initially think of cross training as simply providing physical benefits – which it does – it also provides mental benefits. Cross training keeps clients inspired while preventing burnouts. Cross training can also potentially help clients learn a new skill set. Your client will be more likely to stick with a cross training activity that they actually enjoy rather than an activity they feel obligated to do.
As far as how often a client should cross train, it depends on a few factors such as time, energy, and the person. I think it is great if someone has an opportunity to cross train multiple times per week on top of their primary training (provided they take care of themselves and make sure not to overtrain). I’m a firm believer that at least one full day of recovery per week is important to factor into the overall program. If clients are healthy and want to do some kind of active recovery on their rest day, I usually recommend that they take a nice leisure walk but, otherwise, I recommend full rest.
It is important to keep in mind that cross training options do not have to be as programmed as a 30-minute run or 60-minute spin class. Movement can come in the form of fun activities that may not even feel like exercises such as a night out dancing, an impromptu game of soccer with your kids, or kayaking with friends. In addition to participating in something of interest, cross training activities that involve a social component will have additional health benefits that further strengthen emotional and mental health.
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She has a B.S. in Business Administration from Framingham State University and a M.S. in Physical Education/ Strength & Conditioning from Bridgewater State University. She is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and with USA Weightlifting as a Sports Performance Coach.
Moe lives in Boston where she keeps busy crossing things off her fitness bucket list.
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