Cross training benefits (even when you’re 50+)

Can exercise make you happy?

You’re reading this probably because you are interested in improving your health.  Awesome!  It takes more than interest though…it takes some action.

There is no magic pill.  If you just focus on “products” to help you lose weight or look younger, those products will make you feel insecure when they don’t work as intended. That’s not healthy in the long run.

One of the best ways to do improve your health is through exercise done on a consistent basis. And the key to consistent exercise is finding an activity you enjoy doing – it makes you happier.

Even though I am 53 now (how did that happen…?), participating in running and hiking is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I look forward to it and plan my schedule to fit those activities in. It’s ingrained in my lifestyle.

If you only do one type of exercise, running for example, it can create problems with some people and cause joint pain. It’s important to “mix it up” with different work outs. I balance my running with hiking, yoga workouts, and lift light weights to help with overall muscle toning. But I know swimming and bike riding should be done more often because they are low-impact.

If you use the weather as an excuse, you can use indoor equipment like a treadmill, elliptical machine and a stationary bike. You can have this equipment at home if you don’t belong to a gym and if you have the space available.

Use of equipment is not needed at all actually. There are many other methods like stair climbing, aerobics, yoga, etc. Here’s a list of fitness ideas to choose from that fit your personality and preferences.

Note: I recommend you check in with your doctor first if exercise is new to you – especially if you have a current medical condition. It would also be a good idea to meet with a personal trainer to help you get started.

Cross-training is the backbone of any exercise program, and is ideal for anyone, even if you’re a beginner who wants to get in shape or you are experienced with exercise and want to ramp it up.

Here are five benefits to incorporate cross-training:

  1. Helps to set and reach goals. Are you trying to lose weight, tone your muscles, reduce blood pressure? What your goal(s) are for exercising will help you decide where to begin with cross-training. Yoga is recommended for runners because it helps to stretch muscles and improve flexibility.
  2. Staying motivated. Cross-training enhances your motivation when you mix it up. As much as I like running, it can become boring if done every day. Most people get turned off with monotony and cross-training by doing other exercises will help you look forward to your main “sport” or exercise.
  3. Sticking to a regular schedule. It’s easy to say you don’t have time for exercise. You need to tell yourself that it is important and block out at least 30 minutes a day for some type of activity. Once it’s part of your day and ingrained into your lifestyle, it will feel like something is missing if a work-out is missed. The time invested will be worth it.
  4. Injury prevention.  When you do the same exercise over and over, you can overuse certain muscles and become prone to injury. Cross-training prevents this and keeps your body guessing. This is a reason I prefer to run on trails – the terrain is varied and impact on the trail is easier on your body than asphalt or a treadmill.
  5. Helps with recovery. Cross-training can help you recover from an injury.  While you are healing, there are other activities you can do to strengthen and reduce muscular imbalance. This also prevents any future injuries after making sure you heal completely in the first place. There are a variety of things you do without over-stressing your body with the same movements.

After writing this article, it motivated me to dust off my bike and hop on for a ride. I’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but plan to fit in some swimming soon to counter-balance the trails.

What activities make you happier and like to participate in?  What are you waiting for? 

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On behalf of my stepfather (who loved to work-out!) and to support Veterans, I’ve decided to donate 20% of the net proceeds for my book about him, Expecting the Good, to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), a non-profit based in D.C.

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