The Joys of Cross-Training: Mix Your Sports, Nix Your Injuries

By Marilynn Preston

March 12, 2019 5 min read

Are you hooked on your favorite sport?

Do you spend all your workout time either running, biking or swimming, believing that single-minded dedication is going to make you stronger and faster, better and better?

Sorry, dear reader. That's not how it works. It's time to learn about the benefits of cross-training, a fancy name for simply including a mix of activities in your exercise regimen.

Cross-training isn't just for uber-exercisers or competitive triathletes. It's for all the rest of us who want to live healthier, happier lives with more fun and fewer injuries.

If you're a runner, for example, regular Pilates classes would do wonders for your core. Swimming is a good complement to biking and vice versa, and your performance in both can significantly improve if you add some yoga and targeted strength training to your weekly routine.

Here are four good reasons to switch from single-sport to multisport training, starting now, with spring and summer just around the corner:

— CROSS-TRAINING PREVENTS INJURIES. Repetitive stress is a major cause of injuries in all sports. Think about it. You use the same muscles doing the same sport, over and over, and your risk of injury goes way up. Cross-training lets your overused muscles rest while you coax others into action. It's a good remedy for overused tendons and ligaments, too.

— BEATS BACK BOREDOM. Doing one sport day after day can leave you bored, and boredom is a major reason people quit working out. Doing two or three different activities keeps your mind flexible and your body strong, making lifelong fitness a delightful and realistic prospect.

— NEW SKILLS BUILD CONFIDENCE. One way to keep your brain fit is to face new obstacles and work on new skills. Cross-training — which takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you a beginner again in a new sport — challenges your mind and body in ways that boost confidence and self-esteem.

(PARENTING ALERT: That's why it's a good idea to expose your kids to a variety of sports, even if they star in one.)

— LIFE DEMANDS FLEXIBILITY. If your only sport is running, what do you do when your knees give out? If the only exercise you enjoy is swimming, what happens when you travel and there's no pool around? It's smart to have a mix of sports up your sleeve and at the ready — for bad weather, an aching tennis elbow or unexpected free time.

And imagine how great you'll feel switching out your running shoes for snowshoes when fresh powder falls out of a late spring sky.

FROM THE ENERGY EXPRESS EMAIL BAG: WHAT'S WRONG WITH DIET DRINKS?

Culling through the emails, I found this lovely challenge:

"Hi, Marilynn, I love my diet colas — Coke Zero is my go-to breakfast drink — and I don't want to give them up. Why are diet colas considered unhealthy?" — BC

Dear BC: I know this is hard to swallow because diet colas are marketed as a benign beverage. You want a soft drink, but you don't want the calories, or the 12 teaspoons of sugar, so you choose a diet drink.

Here's the thing: Diet sodas are not a beneficial drink. In fact, some experts now believe — based on credible research, none of it by the diet soda industry — that diet drinks raise your risk of obesity even more than regular full-sugar sodas.

Granted, the inherent toxicity of diet drinks is a much-debated subject. On one side are experts arguing that artificial sweeteners are perfectly safe and there's nothing to worry about.

On the other side, where I tend to hang out, are scientists who believe that artificial sweeteners actually stimulate your appetite, increase your craving for more carbs and invite fat storage and weight gain. We certainly know that as the consumption of diet drinks has gone up, so has obesity.

My advice? Wean yourself off all soft drinks, diet and regular. Your kids, too. If you can't live without an occasional pop, avoid the artificially sweetened ones. There isn't a shred of evidence that diet drinks help you lose weight. On the contrary, they may be short-circuiting your body's natural appetite control system; fake sugars send confusing signals, whereas when it comes to diet sodas, all the lights are blinking red.

ENERGY EXPRESS-O! CAN THE COLAS

"I ordered a soda — caffeine-free, low sodium, no artificial flavors. They brought me a glass of water." — Robert E. Murray

Marilynn Preston is the author of "Energy Express," America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new Amazon best-seller "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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