I recall cross training during the 80’s as a popular strategy used off-season in-between sports to sustain fitness levels. Today the same cross training fitness principles are used by a new generation of athletes and activity enthusiasts to sustain superior physical condition year round.
Cross training exercise is identified and made new again by a popular brand known as “CrossFit” training. CrossFit, Inc. is a fitness company founded by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000. Its training philosophy and programs make use of a wide variety of age old sports conditioning, physical activities and exercise to sustain high fitness and performance levels.
For instance, CrossFit exercise incorporates a mix of high-intensity interval training, girevoy sport (Russia Kettle ball lifting), plyometrics (jump training), strongman, powerlifting, calisthenics, gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting and other exercise. A mix of these exercise activities are now offered within 9,000 affiliated gyms with this particular cross train brand.
If a gym offers cross training, or CrossFit programs and services, then there will be exercise areas that offers more than free weights, stationary weight lift and aerobics equipment, swimming pool, racquet ball courts and aerobic dance classes. For example, in/outdoor boot camps and/or specialized and singular workout areas within fitness centers may also offer obstacle exercise stations specifically designed to move the body, e.g., climb, jump, roll, leap, etc. Parkour courses originated within the military and are still used today to condition and cross train soldiers for the rigors of war. To relate, think of the popular game show “survivor,” which uses a variety of Parkour course-like physical challenge stations to win immunity and awards.
Cross training programs have been introduced to the “Y” and millennial generation through numerous newly minted small 24/7 secure access workout centers that may or may not be affiliated with the CrossFit brand. As a matter of fact the cross training principled fitness philosophy may fall under many types of fitness brands offering unique variations of exercise modalities that can accommodate any customized fitness program need.
Back in the 80’s we used cross training routines to maintain superior fitness levels through exercise activities that included martial artistry, gymnastics, climbing, running, jumping and leaping station challenges.
These unique training areas were created or accessed in a back yard, field, natural wooded area or garage. We customized our cross training areas based on exercise activity ideals found in magazines, books and imagination. These customized training areas weren’t traditionally offered within any commercial gym, or fitness facility of the time. For instance, you couldn’t go into any facility and find a rock climbing wall, Parkour exercise area, free weights, aerobics, gymnastics equipment, or unique combination thereof to meet all fitness programming needs. Today you can find a plethora of cross training programs and services built into one fitness facility.
The market supply and demand model of the 80’s basically offered free weights and circuit training equipment. Some aerobics equipment and dance classed were also offered. You may have also had access to a swimming pool, gym and racquet courts and indoor track in large facilities at in increased membership expense.
However, if you needed specific cross training equipment in preparation for the standard sports season, you were limited to the local offerings of the time. For example, if you played football, your cross training program off-season would revolve around jog-sprint activities performed on urban roads if you didn’t have access to a school track. Weight lifting facilities offered free weights to exercise chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs. To include clean and jerk, bench and dead lift strength and power exercise stations, etc. These exercise staples are still used today to cross train and condition a football player’s fitness levels year round.
Regardless of fitness programming, resources and training practices during off-season; to get an athlete to the next fitness level requires an interim cross training resources to achieve the competitive condition.
Professional athletes must exercise and scrimmage to its sport specific activity to work muscle memory [neurological mind-body connection] as close as possible within its natural environment to be competitive. Although cross training exercises are used to keep the brain-body system(s) firing at a good rate of return, it is not “peak or optimum relative to competitive sport play if not performed with frequency, within its natural and conditional environment.”
Now let’s focus on a competitive rock climber looking to challenge themselves by preparing a vertical rock face climb for the first time. How should he/or she cross train in preparation for the event? An indoor rock climbing area, yoga class and weight lifting center with endurance and resistive workout stations are all good cross training resources to precondition the necessary strength, flexibility and endurance in preparation of the actual event. But in no way is a substitute for the real thing.
Controlled facilities cannot provide the specific environment, weather conditions and test the mind-body in the same way as natures opposing gravitational forces. To obtain a well-conditioned and relative muscle memory performance focus for this event, environmental field training is necessary. Like a football training camp, a relative rock climbing base camp must be part of the training program. If you climb vertical mountains year round you’re likely in a conditioned league of your own and using your natural environment as a relative Parcour training ground.
To maximize your rock climbing skillsets a preconditioning period of acclimation, strategy and exercise training at ground zero is necessary. For instance, ground zero training areas is considered smart planning and strategy prior to negotiating a vertical climb similar to the NW face of half dome in Yosemite Park, CA. Those that don’t program and plan accordingly are at greater risk of injury and/or death when cutting corners in this particular sport.
Regardless of physical activity or personal challenge, many athletes and adventure seekers cross train by using a mix of swimming, biking, jogging, running and resistive weight lifting exercise and other routines.
We didn’t have the variety of facilities and equipment during our generations competitive sport years. But we all understood the benefits of cross training fitness principles. If we needed to condition ourselves with a similar exercise we’d build it in our garage or back yard, or find an obstacle course in an outdoor rural environment. At the time we didn’t know it, but we were the innovators and developers of modified Parkour courses and cross training within urban and rural areas.
Cross training centers may not offer a training program specific to your competitive needs. However, if you’re serious about taking your fitness condition to the next level, you can find a skilled fitness trainer to help you customize a relative cross train program in support of your fitness goals.
For example, if your training to become the next American Ninja Warrior then your cross training program must focus on upper body and grip strength [hang time], powerful and explosive legs for jumping, vaulting, swinging and leaping; free running (high intensity run through obstacles) with the cardio muscular endurance and flexibility to endure such an event. You must find a skilled trainer and/or facility to help customize an exercise program that includes relative quadrupedal (hand-leg) movement within a similar Parcour or similar exercise area and conditional environment.
The variations of balance, movement, hand-eye coordination, flexibility, power and cat-like reflex skillsets needed to compete in Parcour courses can be improved upon through the study of shaolin Kung-Fu philosophies rooted in the animal kingdom. There is a lot to learn in movement and balance by watching how cats, dogs and monkeys play. For instance, if a Ninja Parkour course requires a “cat-like” run-jump-grab-swing to reach a 10’ platform, then study a video of a cat’s movement as it jumps from ground to top of fence and then balances itself. A Parcour training facility should include this exercise station, or assembly and training provided relative to animal movements.
I’ve watched professional sports players compete in physical challenges outside of their trained professions. Because body types, passion, genetics and training techniques favor particular strengths, every one of us is wired to be competitive at various activities and at different levels. The point is, if you’re looking to be physically good or competitive at something, or you simply want to stay in shape, determine your physical strengths, weaknesses and passion for a particular exercise activity.
Start out with a low-intensity cross training exercise program. Then train to the environment 30-60 days before the actual activity or event to achieve a competitive advantage regardless of age group. When you cross train relative to your fitness goal you activate more musculoskeletal movement and stimulate more neurological functionality of the brain and body then you would otherwise. Thereby making you more competitive and healthy relative to your age.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2014 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.