CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Power Systems
We often hear coaches and athletes describe their training programs as "in-season," "off-season," or "pre-season." Personal trainers might refer to this as "changing it up" or "muscle confusion." However, they are all really talking about the same thing: cross-training.
Can it benefit your average health club member who exercises three to five times per week? The answer is absolutely.
It’s safe to say that a large percentage of your typical health club membership base does everything they can to not stand out. They avoid trying something new at all costs for fear of looking awkward. So they stick to their comfort zone, which is often the reason for your crowded cardio decks. Don’t get me wrong: some people really do count down the minutes until they can get to the gym and zone out on their favorite cardio machine. These members rely on that elliptical for their stress relief, and we commend them for using that as a healthy way to do so.
However, others probably reached a plateau long ago and would really like to try something new, yet they keep pedaling away because they know they have to do something and they would rather die than try something new that could draw attention to themselves. These are the members who can benefit from cross-training the most.
Here are a few of the why's and how's of cross-training that you can share with your members and staff:
Why? No. 1 - Avoid Burnout: The average person gets bored at least once or twice during that level four fat-burning cycle on the elliptical. And if their results have reached a plateau as well, they are at a high risk for either quitting exercise completely, or worse, cancelling their membership. S.O.S! Identify these members and reach out to them immediately but with caution.
How? You don’t want to offend someone who really does love their cardio time. So, you can say something such as, “I noticed the elliptical is your favorite, huh? Well if you ever run across one that isn’t working properly, please don’t hesitate to let me know.” Then use that as a way to strike up a conversation about their workout by asking “How much weight have you lost anyway?” or “Are you training for something in particular?” Then, offer them a complimentary fitness assessment and/or workout with a trainer to try something new. Perhaps if members learn the proper way to use a few of the other cardio and strength pieces in the gym, they will venture out of their comfort zone and actually start to see results again.
Why? No. 2 - Reduce the risk of overuse injury: Car makers recommend that you rotate the tires on a vehicle after traveling a specific number of miles to avoid damage due to repeated wear patterns. Our bodies aren’t that different. As humans, we spend most of our time in the sagittal plane (moving forwards and backwards) as we walk, jog, run, bike, etc. If we only stress our muscles, tendons and ligaments in one plane of motion, a “blowout” could occur over time.
How? Cross-training allows one to move in different planes of motion as in swimming or a group fitness class. These are just a few of the alternatives you can offer members who might complain to you about the shin splints they seem to have acquired from the treadmill.
Why? No. 3 - Increase strength endurance when performing activity. This is a great point when talking to a member who is preparing for an event. Regardless of whether it’s the first 5K or the third triathlon, strength training should be integrated into every racing event training program. The Kinesiology Department at The University of Maryland conducted a study on the effects of a 12-week strength-training program on lactate threshold and endurance performance. You might recognize the lactate threshold as that point during the workout where muscles burn and you wince in pain, but you continue to push through as the muscles’ oxygen supply becomes depleted. That being said, the study concluded that while strength training did not increase the overall cardiovascular capacity of the participants, their lactate threshold actually increased.1 This resulted in giving the athletes more time before their muscles began to burn to fatigue, therefore increasing their muscular endurance.
How? Ask members who have mentioned training for an event about how their strength training is going. If they look perplexed and ask “Why would I lift weights to prepare for a race?,” you can educate them about why cross-training is important not only to prevent overuse injuries but also to increase muscular endurance for the race. Suggest they change it up by adding a weight training or circuit training class two to three times per week to their running schedule.
Let me leave you with a couple of general cross-training suggestions that might come in handy when members ask how they can change it up.
- Swap out one or two dates with the treadmill for weight-training sessions
- Pull back from five days per week of weight training and add two days of yoga.
- Try swimming 3three days per week for two weeks and then go back to your regular running schedule.
Cross-training is designed to improve overall fitness, to provide much needed rest for fatigued muscles, to decrease likelihood of injury and to eliminate the burnout of a single-activity.2 Encourage your members to try something new and be prepared to give them the resources to do so.
- Hoeger, Werner W.K. and Sharon A. Hoeger. Fitness and Wellness Sixth Edition (Belmont: Thompson Wadsworth, 2005).
- E.J. Marcinick, J. Potts, G. Schlabach, S. Will, P. Dawson, and B.F. Hurley, “Effects of Strength Training on Lactate Threshold and Endurance Performance,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 23 (1991), 739-743.
Elisabeth Fouts is the education and trade show coordinator for Power Systems. She has 10 years of experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, fitness manager and regional fitness director. Fouts holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and is certified in three Les Mills Group Fitness Programs. When Fouts isn't teaching group exercise classes, you can find her training for or participating in an obstacle course race or watching Tennessee Volunteers or Dallas Cowboys football.