Cross Training for Total Fitness

Many exercisers seem to be lost in their fitness programs, wandering around without seeing much progress, and soon they give up. Most often they are involved in a single activity exercise routine. Cross-training is an approach to exercise that can keep a person motivated, fit, and injury-free.

There is no single activity that will produce total fitness. There are so many elements to being fit. Cross-training means participating in a number of physical activities combined in a meaningful way to achieve an individual’s fitness goals. A well designed program will balance muscles and joints, resulting in good posture. The muscles used the most for one activity can rest while another exercise routine is done the next day. This offers protection from injury. When an exerciser is injured, cross-training provides alternate activity which will minimize fitness losses during recovery.

Cross-training offers a process of fitness that is quite motivational. The activities can be selected to achieve desired results, by following these basic principles:

  • Challenge the heart and lungs by working aerobically
  • Increase the body’s flexibility
  • Strengthen the muscles

Every exerciser can find a blend of activities that is enjoyable to do and makes one feel good about oneself. Variety in exercise activity relieves boredom. Cross-training offers new challenges and you use your muscles in new ways.

Besides trying various sports and recreational exercises, formal exercise routines can mix group or aerobic classes with cardiovascular machines. Upper and lower body exercises should be included during a week of activity, perhaps alternating between machines and free weights.

Total Fitness

As exercisers become more involved with cross-training, the psychological elements of fitness become more pronounced. Self accomplishment replaces unnecessary training competition that could lead to injury. Exercisers who cross-train are more accepting of other peoples’ programs, realizing that there are many ways to achieve fitness. Cross-trainers are also more creative.

If you want to “open the windows” of your exercise routine, consider developing a cross-training program that is individualized to meet your particular needs. Cross-training can be used by all kinds of exercisers. The basic goals for planning a program should include aerobic fitness, upper and lower body strength, and flexibility. Start planning a cross-training program by asking yourself the following questions.

  • How many times weekly do you do aerobic exercise and how long does the exercise session last?
  • How many times a week do you do resistance or strengthening exercises?
  • How often do you stretch your muscles? What sports or other physical activities do you do regularly?
  • Do you want to increase the number of exercise sessions per week or the amount of time they last?
  • List the aerobic/cardiovascular, strength training, flexibility, or sport activities would you like to do that you have never done or have not done in a long time.

If you notice that your weekly exercise sessions repeat the same activities and exercises each session you are a candidate for cross-training. If you do the same aerobic exercise each session, such as running, select a second form of aerobic exercise, such as cycling, using a step machine, or a fitness kickboxing class, and plan to try this alternative exercise one time a week. If you enjoy it, you can continue to use it as part of your fitness routine.

If you always use the same resistance machines and the same exercises each time you strength train, consider learning a few new exercises with free weights or machines you don’t currently use and alternate them into your routine.

If you do a few token stretches after your exercise session, consider trying a yoga or stretching class once a week or use a flexibility video tape at home one or two mornings or evenings per week.

Want to add a sport to your fitness schedule? Try some recreational volleyball with friends on the weekend or practice your golf swing!

As with any new activity, start a cross-training program slowly and increase your participation in new activities gradually. If you need the advice of a good personal trainer to help you set up a program, hire one.

One of the best ways to make fitness fun is with variety. Cross-training is the exercise spice that will keep you moving for a long time!



Interval training alternates periods of work and rest by varying the intensity of exercise throughout the session. Higher intensity work periods are alternated with lower intensity periods. Examples of this are alternating running and walking; alternating aerobic step training with jump roping.

Some benefits of Interval Training are:

  • Increased enjoyment of exercise through variety
  • More total work in a short period of time
  • Enhanced utilization of fats and carbohydrates
  • Efficient stimulation of muscle fibers
  • Improved anaerobic and aerobic power and capacity
  • Possibly fewer injuries due to variations in workout intensity
  • Increased exercise adherence
  • Enhanced sports performance

The work/rest intervals can be programmed in time increments based on the exerciser’s fitness level. During the high intensity training, the goal is to reach overload for a short period of time, then continue moving at a lower intensity during the rest interval.

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