If you want to become good at something, it makes sense to do it as much as possible.
Running makes you better at running. Cycling makes you better at cycling. And swimming makes you better at swimming.
But here’s the thing: Occasionally doing something different can make you even better at your primary sport.
Athletes call it cross-training, and the science behind it is simple: Engaging in a sport or activity other than your primary one allows you to use your muscles in new and unaccustomed ways — or emphasize different ones altogether.
Not only can that result in fewer overuse injuries, but it can also help iron out muscle imbalances, improve athletic performance, and boost motivation by reducing training monotony and boredom.
So how should you go about cross-training?
Consider what follows your go-to guide for what it is, how you can weave it into your workout program, and how Beachbody On Demand can help you maximize your results.
What Is Cross-Training?
The classic definition of cross-training is engaging in a sport or activity other than your primary one with the goal of improving performance and athletic longevity.
Think of it this way: Your main training focus (e.g., running, cycling, swimming) provides your athletic foundation and key skill set (e.g., explosive power, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, etc.), while cross-training layers on additional skills, shores up weaknesses, bolsters strengths, and reduces overall injury risk.
If you spend most of your time on a bike, cross-training might translate into jumping on a rowing machine or hitting a running trail once or twice a week.
If you’re a runner, you might occasionally swap a terra firma sweat session for a pool workout, logging laps instead of miles. But simply switching sports isn’t the only way to go about cross-training.
In fact, regardless of whether you already cross-train with another sport, it’s critical that you take these additional steps if you want to optimize your results.
Cross-Training Step #1: Pump Iron
Endurance athletes often have an aversion to lifting weights, but science has yet to come up with a reason why they shouldn’t do it.
Not only can it boost speed, movement economy, and power output in runners, but it can also increase time to exhaustion and injury resistance, for example. Indeed, one meta-analysis in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that strength training can cut overuse injuries by almost 50 percent.
Perform at least one (and ideally two) total-body strength workouts a week. Beachbody On Demand offers plenty of options, which you can find in Body Beast, The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, P90X, and 80 Day Obsession, among other programs.
These strength workouts can either replace existing cardio workouts (if you typically train five or more days per week) or be added to your routine if you usually train three or fewer days per week.
Just be sure to do your strength and cardio workouts on different days, as doubling down on the same day can negatively affect recovery and performance.
Cross-Training Step #2: Do HIIT
At its most basic level, endurance training is simple: Throw on a pair of running shoes, hop on a bike, or jump in a pool and start logging miles or laps.
But if “steady-state” training is all you do, you’re not optimizing your results. Speed work (e.g., interval training) is particularly important, as studies show that it can improve not only speed, power output, and VO2 max, but also overall endurance.
Do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) once or twice a week. HIIT can be done on a track or road, or in a pool, but it can also just as easily be performed in your living room.
That’s because the key to an effective interval workout isn’t what you do, but how you do it. Your goal is to repeatedly exercise at your “lactate threshold” — the point at which your muscles start to burn and your breathing becomes too heavy to speak — by alternating periods of intense effort and active rest.
If you’ve ever done an INSANITY workout with Shaun T, you know what that means. You can also find HIIT workouts in LIIFT4, 80 Day Obsession, and CORE DE FORCE.
Cross-Training Step #3: Strike a Pose
When most people think of training, they only think of working out. But what you do between workouts is just as important, because that’s when training adaptations (muscle growth, strength increases, fat loss, etc.) occur.
So you have a choice: You can ignore your recovery and leave your results to chance, or you can prioritize it and maximize your gains.
Add yoga to your weekly routine. Gentle stretching in the form of yoga can help ease muscle tension and enhance blood flow.
That, in turn, can help facilitate muscle repair and growth, optimizing your recovery and reducing the amount of time you need between intense training sessions. That translates into faster results and better workout performance.