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by Stacy Choquette PTA

How do you become physically fit?  Does running 20 miles a week or completing the same gym routine three times a week mean you can safely compete in any sport?  This is in fact a common misperception among people of all ages.  Just because you are efficient in the athletic activity you choose to partake in does not mean that your body as a whole is physically fit.

If you are familiar with the concept of cross-training then you are headed in the right direction.  Many of us like to stay active and keep our bodies in good health with our favorite extracurricular activity.  Unfortunately, what we don’t know is if you are completing the same repetitious workout day after day you are not improving your body’s fitness, but instead optimizing your efficiency in what you are doing.  Our bodies need a change in our workout to maintain a total body fitness and help prevent injury.  In order to achieve this you must cross-train.

Cross-training is term that describes the challenging of your muscles in multiple ways as well as varying the muscles being worked.  Jogging, soccer and yoga are all very different activities that will keep you strong and are good examples of cross-training.  Jogging, biking and elliptical are not.  While these activities may work your muscles in a slightly different way, you are still working all of the same muscle groups.  All of the latter activities are very linear, forward movement patterns while the first three I listed include balance work, endurance and sporadic diagonal movement patterns.

Cross-training will also help to prevent overuse injuries of specific body parts due to muscle imbalance and constant repetition.  Anyone that has dealt with tendonitis in their past can probably attest to this.  Cross training reduces the stress put on your muscles from the repetitious workout and allows them to work in different ways.

Whatever activities you choose to cross-train your body, try to include various speeds as well as higher and lower level activity.  Balance and movement patterns out of the normal “forward linear movements” are a must as well.  Just because you can’t compete in high level athletics anymore doesn’t mean you can’t go casually shoot some hoops or hit a tennis ball around!

Stacy Choquette is a Physical Therapy Assistant at Boston Sports Medicine