While it has personally been a terrific year for the snow to hold off, I’m ready. Puck and I spent the weekend in Fraser to check on the house and to shovel the 2 or 3 inches of recent snow. But in the woods there was enough accumulated to snowshoe. Oh boy, did we have fun! I even took a few “running” steps every now and then. Puck – once he remembered just how fun snow was – was crazed. He just put himself to bed. At 5:30.
But the point of this blog is to remind all of us to take cross training seriously. Now – in the off-season – when we can.
Most athletes don’t have the time to integrate much cross training during the preparation and race season. In the off-season we have more flexibility. While this is a great time to work on sport specific weaknesses, it is also a great time to do plenty of cross training. There are huge benefits, physical and mental.
Let’s define valuable cross training.
Season specific sports:
Since I live in the mountains of Colorado, I am most versed in snow sports. Cross-country skiing, skate skiing, ski mountaineering (uphill skiing), and snowshoe running/hiking can all be used to build a great aerobic base, to build strength and to challenge the anaerobic system. They get us outside, instead of constantly sitting on a trainer or running on a treadmill, slowly moving toward burnout.
Any other sport that forces us to move our body in a different plane and/or use different physiological systems:
Water polo? Basketball? Soccer? Ice hockey? There is something to be gained from most sports; many require us to challenge muscles and movements that our normal training may not. Not only does this provide a mental break, it also helps create a more resilient, injury resistant athlete.
Functional strength and mobility:
This is one form of cross training I try to integrate throughout the year. But I know that realistically many athletes do not have (or make) the time to do so. And honestly, if we do this wrong, it isn’t worth the time. If we go to the gym and do bicep curls, well, we might have nice arms but they won’t be very useful. But if we commit to real strength training with a mix of functional movements, heavy lifting and power/plyometric training, we can see significant performance improvements.
By the time race season is over, I am fairly tired of swim/bike/run. But I can’t wait to get out in the snow! Then come April, I’m ready to hang up the skis and get back to the trails. I’m refreshed and ready to train, but I’m also still very fit.
Many of us worry we will lose sport specific fitness. We will. Get over it. We can get it back, and we will be stronger when we do.
Be creative. Think about what other sports you love: All the sports that went by the wayside when you decided to be competitive. Then come up with ways to integrate them in lieu of some of your traditional training.