When it comes to weight loss, consistent exercise is one of the keys to success. But completing the same workout day in and day out can get boring quickly and, when you’re bored, you’re more likely to abandon your exercise plan. Cross training may be your solution because it adds variety to your fitness routine, keeping the motivation high to stick with it.
Cross Training and Weight Loss
Cross training is when you alternate your workout routine to enhance your personal fitness. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), cross training can help speed weight loss because it allows you to combine more than one form of physical activity in a single exercise session, allowing you work out safely for longer periods of time (Reference 1). Moderate-intensity exercise for 30 minutes or longer is recommended to maximize weight loss and calorie burn, notes ACE (Reference 1). Your body can handle these longer sessions because you are utilizing different muscle groups. Cross training also reduces your risk of injury and increases the likelihood of sticking with an exercise routine (Reference 1). Both are important factors to help you lose weight, which is achieved when you burn more calories than you take in. Staying injury free allows you to continue your fitness plan and adding variety to your routine keeps boredom at bay.
How to Cross Train
An effective cross-training program combines aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) (Reference 2). Aerobic exercises keep your heart strong, strength exercises develop muscle and five to 10 minutes of flexibility exercises daily help keep muscles limber (Reference 2). Vary your workouts by avoiding repeating activities on consecutive days, notes AAOS (Reference 2). According to ACE, you can cross train by either alternating between activities—jogging one day, cycling the next day—or you can alternate activities in a single exercise session—15 minutes of jogging followed by 15 minutes of cycling (Reference 3). However, you don’t have be inside the gym to reap the benefits of cross training. Housework, dancing, gardening or playing outside with your children count as physical activity (Reference 2). Exercise should be enjoyable. If you look at it as a chore, you won’t be as likely stick with the program.
Aerobic Cross-Training Plan
Plan on doing aerobic activity three times a week for at least 30 minutes, notes AAOS (Reference 2). If you're just beginning, try stair climbing for 10 minutes, walking for 10 minutes and using the elliptical trainer for 10 minutes (Reference 2). As your fitness level improves, you can incorporate interval training into your cardio sessions to maximize fat burn and promote weight loss, notes ACE (Reference 4). Gradually add bursts of speed into your workout by picking up the pace, or intensity, for 30 seconds to one minute, then recover for equal or longer the time of the speed interval, says ACE (Reference 4). You can incorporate interval training into any cardiovascular activity including stair climbing, cycling or running.
Strength Cross-Training Plan
Strength training workouts should be completed two times per week in 30-minute sessions and work all major muscle groups, notes AAOS (Reference 2). Circuit training, which consists of six to 10 strength exercises completed one after another, targets your upper body, lower body and core, notes Brian Mac Sports Coach (Reference 5). Combine push-ups, crunches, squats, triceps dips, burpees and skipping, for example, to create a 30-minute workout. Complete each exercise for 30 seconds with a 30-second recovery between exercises (Reference 5). Repeat the set three to five times to get a total-body strength session (Reference 5).