Having just made a few changes to the Just Dance UK timetable to include, Flowetic, Zumba, Dance, Yoga and Tone and Stretch, we thought this would be a great idea to talk about cross-training and the infinite benefits that mixing up your exercise programme can bring.
A million years ago, when myself and Dom first started teaching zumba, that’s really all we taught. Zumba proved to be so popular that we quickly added lots more classes onto our timetable. Zumba is a high impact exercise class and because we were teaching so many classes every week, we began to pick up minor injuries.
A couple of years into teaching zumba, I started cycling and Dom started regular training at her local swimming club and suddenly, as if by magic, the niggles and pains we had felt previously began to disappear. Six months after first discovering the term, ‘cross-training’, we taught our first ‘Flowetic’ class and we've been cross-training ever since.
1. Variety is the Spice of Life
One of the main reasons we were invited to teach zumba to the Fulham FC under 21's team (this actually happened!) is because the coaches were keen to mix up the way the players trained, in part, to reap the benefits that cross-training provides (see below), but also because doing the same type of training every day can be very boring. That season the players took part in zumba, yoga, pilates, body conditioning and swimming, as well as their regular daily football specific exercises and training.
2. Reduce the Risk of Injury
It stands to reason that if you do the same thing over and over again, you will certainly become stronger and more skilled in that specific activity. After a period of time though, the pressure placed on those muscle groups being used also becomes greater. Doing the same exercises repeatedly can increase the risk of picking up repetitive strain injuries.
3. Recover From Injury
Injury can be the most frustrating thing in the world (I say this from personal experience!). It takes time, patience and a lot of work to get back to where you were pre-injury. Rather than launch straight back into the same exercise regime you were on, it’s a much better idea to try alternative methods of exercising that don’t place the same stresses on the body that caused the injury in the first place and may hinder your recovery.
4. Be Fit for Life
It feels great to be skilled at a particular sport or type of exercise, but being fit in order to carry out the daily demands that life places on us is even more important: walking up stairs, carrying bags, picking up children, pushing a shopping trolley or running for a bus (see accompanying picture of a man who can jump exceptionally high while carrying a bag, in a suit no less!). Very simply, having a good level of fitness to perform these basic tasks makes life easier. Having as diverse an exercise programme as possible really does keep you fit for life, whatever it might throw at you.
5. Improved Total Fitness
Choose weight-bearing exercise and you’ll become stronger, stretch to improve your mobility, get your heart rate up for prolonged periods of time and your endurance levels will skyrocket. All of these things combined will help make you a better version of yourself.
Finding the motivation to keep exercising regularly can often prove to be the biggest hurdle to overcome in maintaining a great level of fitness. If you enjoy your choice of exercise (and this will be wildly different for everyone), you stand more of a chance of continuing. So mix it up and make sure you look forward to getting to that dance class or squash court because if you dread going, it’s highly unlikely you’ll continue - and a lifestyle overhaul is a much braver choice than exercise fads or quick fixes (losing '2 stone in 7 days' is never advisable for a number of reasons but I've written a whole other blog post on that one!).