All athletes are looking for that one thing that gives them a competitive advantage over their competition and to become a better athlete, but few are brave enough to venture out of their training comfort zone to do so. Athletes in all sports have found amazing results by incorporating cross-training into their training regimen.
You’ve probably heard about NFL linemen spending time in their offseason taking ballet, or swimmers getting into yoga. Those are the athletes that understand that in order to achieve uncommon results, you have to do something uncommon. So let’s take a look at how cross-training makes you a better athlete and why you should seriously consider adding it to your routine.
1. Strengthen complementary muscles
One of the biggest reasons to participate in cross-training is to train muscles that would normally go untrained in your sport. So, for example, if you’re a football player, you probably focus on your major muscle groups – chest, quadriceps, hamstrings, and back, but if you incorporate yoga into your routine, you’re going to improve your core strength and flexibility. While we all likely focus on core strength to some extent, this sort of cross-training will help you establish a much stronger core which in turn will improve your balance and stability; something that is useful in every sport.
2. Decreased chance of injury
When you think about your sport and potential injuries, you’re likely just thinking of injuries to commonly used (and trained) muscles. So, for example, if you’re a cyclist, you are probably worried about leg injuries like Achilles tendonitis, but the most common cycling injuries are actually back injuries from the strain you place on it while riding. So, if you incorporate some back cross-training into your regimen, you’ll dramatically decrease your chance of injury.
3. Better body awareness
One benefit that many athletes fail to see is better body awareness. One of the best tools and assets that athletes rely on is hand-eye coordination and being able to react in a split second. This doesn’t just happen and we aren’t just born with these reflexes and body awareness, we’ve got to work at it. Adding in cross-training from another sport will get you to think about and use reflexes and muscles that you’re not used to working. Doing so will help you better understand your body and improve your reflexes which will come in very handy in your sport. Would better reflexes and having more control over your body make you a better athlete? You bet.
4. Active recovery
At QiVantage, we’re big advocates of active recovery. If you haven’t already, we recommend reading Active Recovery: What is it and Why is it Important. Active recovery, in a nutshell, is training to help your muscles recover. It is the process of doing a light workout to reduce soreness, remove built up lactic acid, and to help energize your body. What better way to do that than by doing a light cross-training session? Instead of sitting on the couch and watching TV on an off day, why not head to the pool and get some laps in or go play a few games of basketball? These sessions aren’t meant to be your intense training sessions, but a fun and rejuvenating session where you stimulate your muscles and help them repair.
5. Psychological reset
No matter who you are, what level of competition you perform at, or how much you love your sport, we all get burnt out from time to time. It’s part of the life of an athlete. In order to avoid this burn out and help you stay focused on your intense training sessions, take a day per week to train in another sport. Getting away from the day-to-day grind of your sport and having some fun doing something new will help you reset and stay motivated for your next workout and the rest of your season. Cross-training can also help reduce the stress that any competitive athlete feels throughout the season. Think of it as a little psychological vacation where you can shut off and just have some fun while staying active.
While cross-training can help make you a better athlete and also help your muscles recover, there is more you can do to help your muscles recover day to day and keep them in peak shape throughout your season. Ready to get more out of your training? Download our FREE Day-to-Day Muscle Recovery Checklist and finish your season strong!