Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cross Training

Throughout life your body is constantly wasting away and rebuilding itself. As we move through our natural cycle we go from starting off in a time where bone and muscle are created without any outward effort (adolescence), move to a period where bone and muscle can only be formed with physical effort (maturity), and then regretfully see even this ability gradually decline to mere maintenance and finally, in our old age, to eventually disappear. By training, and by this I mean the purposeful tearing down of muscles so that they’re rebuilt stronger, we take advantage of our body’s natural tendencies to repair and adapt itself to the demands placed on it. Obviously the operative word here is repair. Too much damage will impair our ability to continue to train effectively (soreness) and can lead to catastrophic failure (injury).

Athletes at the highest levels, though, have a couple ways to deal with this. The first is to employ ‘split’ training, where training emphasizes and works a specific area and thus allows other areas of the body some time to recuperate. The classic example of this is weight lifting where lifters will work one day on their lower body, and the next day on their upper. Most sports’ aren’t nearly as clear cut or as easily targeted, however, and achieve the desirable segregation by varying workouts using sprints, drills, endurance work, and tempo – all in an effort to allow the training of selected muscles while allowing the others some rest and recovery. It also makes training more interesting . The second approach is to cross train with another discipline. Originally cross training started out solely as a means to recover from injuries; for example an injured runner with a torn calf muscle taking up cycling or swimming while waiting for the calf to fully heal. While the original intent behind the idea was only to allow the athlete some means to maintain fitness coaches’ discovered to their amazement the fully recuperated athletes actually improved in their specialties! Nowadays the concept is so common place we even have a distinct mass participant sport, the triathlon, based upon cross training. For us regular folk cross training is a valuable tool in our fitness armory. A fitness regime including a little running, cycling and swimming naturally provides the ‘split’ training our elite athletes require teams of coaches, trainers, and physios to achieve when narrowed down to a single sport. So get out there!

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