Why Women Over 50 Should Cross-Train

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You might think cross-training is only for the elite athlete as a way to further enhance her sport of choice. Or, that cross-training is something frustrated athletes succumb to due to an injury that sidelines them from their main activity. My suggestion for all us women of a certain age is that we are also candidates for cross-training.

We’ve been at this thing called ‘life’ and all its’ adventures for quite some time now. Even if we haven’t sustained an actual injury in our physical activity; we are nursing injuries, so to speak. Arthritis, loss of muscle mass, lethargic metabolism – these can all be considered ‘injuries of the ageless’. Cross-training, in our 50s, is a great way to further enhance our ‘sport’ of choice; even if that ‘sport’ is a healthier, longer, more productive life. Or, just getting to sit down on the ground to play with a puppy and/or a grandkid and then STAND BACK UP.

If we’ve been exercising since the 80s, now in midlife, we can attest to that being a LOT of exercise. From the days of Jane Fonda’s high-impact aerobics to body building; running; pilates; jump roping; martial arts; Body Pump; biking; swimming; TRX; Orange Theory; yoga; Barre; Cross-Fit; and Peloton (these are just the ones I’ve tried, so I’m sure I’m missing a bunch); we’ve lived through a gajillion exercise phenomenons across many years.

 Imagine if we were still doing this 40 years later? I think my leg would have fallen off by now.

 

Maybe it’s time to bring back a few of those ‘phenomenons’ – except those silly Jane Fonda fire-hydrant kicks. Cross-training is a fantastic way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills, and stave off boredom from doing the same routine month after month. It is also necessary to cross-train if we want to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse. Honestly, the more variety, the better. It pays to mix up the cross-training you decide to incorporate as well… a cross-training of the cross-training… if you will.

Why Should We Cross-Train?

Muscle memory starts to occur when we utilize our bodies in the same way for extended periods of time. Our body becomes incredibly efficient performing the same movements, over and over again. If we are headed into a competition; that’s great! However, this level of efficiency actually impedes our overall fitness and reduces the actual conditioning we get while training.

It’s somewhat akin to when we get in the car and find we’ve arrived at our destination with little to no awareness of how we got there. Our brain and body utilized muscle memory and little to no effort actually went in to driving ourselves there. Once again, great for performance…but, not so great for the ‘active’ participation and ‘exercise’ of our brain. Our body is no different.

 Cross-Training Helps:
  • Reduce exercise boredom
  • Improve overall conditioning – over the entire body
  • Continue training even while injured; we can focus on the non-injured muscles
  • Improve our skills, agility, and balance
  • Reduce the risk of injury
  • Us be flexible with our training – if it’s raining outside; hop on the stationary bike

If we agree that cross-training is the way forward, (assuming we aren’t participating already); the next question is: “How?”

First, it helps to understand what types of cross-training are available.

 

Second, if you want to better understand some of the activities in each category, HVMN’s Nate Martin has a great primer on How To Add Cross-Training To Your Workouts. Yes, it is mostly geared to those elite athletes I mentioned above; but the overall analysis, description, and pros/cons of each type of training is worth the look. It may spark some creativity and inspiration to try something new.

I would love to hear from all you KUEL women out there regarding your thoughts on exercise, cross-training, or anything else of interest to you. And, please, please don’t do anything crazy that could cause injury. If all these exercise choices seem foreign or nuts to you; they probably are. Check-in with your medical professional before doing anything I suggest.