Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Care and Prevention of Injuries Part 3: Cross Training

Cross Training
This is Part 3 of a 4 part series
I have worked in the Health, Fitness, and Dance Industry for over 20 years.
My education and experience has given me the knowledge to understand how
Cross Training can impact the care and prevention of injuries

I love this photo!
However, if one is a cyclist, this would NOT be an example of an optimal cross-training choice.
; )

The human body is designed to adapt, in order to survive

When an athlete, dancer, or fitness enthusiast is training to reach a specific goal, there is a point in the conditioning process where the body adapts to the demands placed on it. The adaptation is sometimes referred to as a plateau by fitness professionals; many fitness enthusiasts would call it a rut. Whether the adaptation occurred in cardiovascular training, muscular conditioning, or while trying to achieve a specific body weight, many fitness professionals will suggest cross training in order to avoid these plateaus.

Cross training includes the use of incorporating a variety of fitness modalities in order to avoid hitting a fitness plateau, avoid muscle imbalances, retain interest in physical activity, and to care for and prevent injury. It is important for athletes, dancers, and fitness enthusiasts to understand which activities, exercises, and modalities would be considered appropriate cross training in relation to their specific goals.

The term cross training is thrown around in fitness magazines, ads for gyms and fitness studios, encouraging people to “mix it up” and “try something new.” Cross training is often misunderstood by many fitness enthusiasts.

When athletes, dancers, and fitness participants begin to experience muscle imbalances, injuries, or are stuck in a performance rut, it is helpful to analyze their cross training routines. Many runners will list cycling and swimming as their preferred choice for cross-training, along with trail running and mountain biking. The activities are excellent for promoting an active lifestyle, but they are not ideal choices for cross training, because each activity focuses on the utilization of muscle groups required for forward motion.

In order for a cross training activity to be effective, it should work different muscle groups than the primary activity. It would be recommended that runners, in order to experience cross-training benefits, participate in an activity that required lateral motion such as tennis or lateral agility drills.

To care and prevent injury requires one to maintain a balanced body. A body that is as strong as it is flexible is less prone to injury. Cross-training can help maintain a muscularly balanced and functional body. If weight training for maximum hypertrophy is one’s primary focus, there is a risk of losing mobility because of overly tight muscles which can inhibit range of motion and put stress on joints, tendons, and ligaments. It would be beneficial to begin incorporating flexibility training, such as Yoga, or Pilates into a body building routine, as appropriate cross training, in order to maintain functional mobility, and to minimize the risk of injury.

When I was released from physical therapy after sustaining an injury due to a fall that split my femoral cartilage cap and crushed my knee cap, my physical therapist said “we need to figure out what kind of cross-training will actually challenge a dancer.” When asked what he meant, he explained that dancers have a heightened physical awareness, and a dancer’s body knows how to adapt to different planes of motion and transfers of weight more than any of the athletes he’s ever worked with. He asked me so many questions in order to find an appropriate form of cross training. He told me to ride a bike and start hiking. He explained that he wanted me to be challenged physically and intellectually in a way that is different than dance.

Years later, when I began helping athletes and dancers recover from injury; I contacted him to ask about how he chose different cross training activities for athletes. It was at that time he shared something very interesting; he told me, when suggesting activities for cross-training, to athletes and dancers who have sustained an injury, it’s important to choose activities that are far from what they hope to do again so they will not get discouraged. When I asked for clarification he said “If I told you to go to dance class and you couldn’t do a jump or turn the way you used to, would you have gone back to class?”

Cross training when done with consideration to specific goals is excellent for avoiding muscle imbalances, boredom, and fitness plateaus, and can be an effective way to care for, prevent, and recover from injuries.

It can be an uphill battle!
It cannot be considered efficient cross-training if one does not challenge themselves in all planes of motion when trying to improve their performance.

Written by:
Melissa Adylia Calasanz
Melissa Adylia Gutierrez
Controlled Burn Fitness
Pedal Precision Indoor Cycling Classes
Saint Mary's LEAP100 PPA Class Kinesiology Challenge

PART 1: Warm-Ups Prior to Activity
PART 2: Care and Conditioning of the Feet
PART 3: Cross Training
PART 4: Rest and Recovery (coming soon)

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