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Get Stronger and Leaner With Cross Training

Using the technique favored by pro athletes can get you better results and fewer injuries.

How Cross Training Can Help continued...

For example, while a runner needs to build strong leg muscles, he or she must also pay attention to the muscles that control pelvic movement, core strength -- even the upper body. "All these areas are utilized when you run," says Thornton, director of athletic training services at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a member of the board of directors of the National Athletic Trainers Association.

But that's not all. Experts say cross training can also help us with the tasks of our daily lives.

"Implementing a variety of activity into your routines almost certainly guarantees that you will be much more functionally active … and that you can complete day-to-day tasks with much more ease," says Herrera.

Climbing stairs, working around the house or yard, or taking the dogs for a walk takes much less effort when you're "functionally fit," he says. It's also easier to avoid injuries related to those everyday activities.

"You're much less likely to injure yourself bending down to pick a child or heavy box off the floor," says Herrera.

What Cross Training Involves

For people devoted to a particular sport or fitness activity, there are specific activities that make up an ideal cross training routine.

For example, if running has been your only activity, your "prescription" for overall better fitness would include strengthening exercises for the pelvis and hips, as well as weight workouts to build the upper body, Thornton says.

If you've been doing only weight lifting regimens, you'd be well served by adding a cardio workout -- like running on the treadmill -- to your regimen, he says.

But for people who are simply looking get the most out of their workout time, experts say, cross training doesn't require specific exercises. In fact, as long as you create variation in your activity, you're cross training!

"The point here is to vary activities between aerobic conditioning, strength training, endurance, and balance -- and you need to vary the workouts that emphasize each one of those areas," says Herrera.

For optimal success, he says, plan two to three days of flexibility and strength training, and three to five days of aerobic focus. But don't worry if you don't have that much time to devote to exercise.

"The most important thing is to make sure fitness is a priority in your life," says Herrera. "So if you're currently exercising twice a week, then simply finding time for one more workout during that week will help you burn more fat and make more progress."

In fact, experts say, you don't even have to do a specific workout to get the effects of crossing training if you live a varied and physically active life.

"Keep in mind, variety is the spice of life, so enjoying rock climbing, Rollerblading, cycling, hiking, jogging, or skiing with friends, which are also excellent ways to stay socially active and keep the body fit,' says Herrera.

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