No matter if you're an avid runner, Soul Cycle addict, or yoga junkie, finding a the right cross-training activity can make you better at the workout you love so much.
Improve Your Overall Fitness Game
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You already know that cardio and strength training go hand in hand—the ultimate duo for fitness success. So we've taken cross-training one step further and found workouts that are great alone, but even better together. These pairs perfectly complement each other so that you get the most out of each routine. No need to perform two-a-days, just incorporate both into your regular workout schedule and watch the results roll in.
Running + Yoga
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You already know runners should lift weights, but yoga has major benefits too. As a high-intensity weight-bearing exercise, running puts a lot of compression on your legs and feet, which is beneficial to bone health (a particular concern for women as hormones and age can reduce bone density). Yoga, on the other hand, gives you a chance to slow things down, and get reacquainted with your posture and breathing, says Jimmy Minardi, personal trainer and founder of Jimmy Minardi Training. "Yoga allows you to stretch your legs out and move connective tissue, which is important for fitness longevity," he says. "You want to be able to run in 20 years."
Barre + Spinning
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Opposites attract and make magic together with this combo of heart-pounding low-impact cardio on the spin bike coupled with small but mighty moves at the mellowed down barre.
"Practicing Barre will make you better at barre, but it will also make you better at everything else," says Ashli Katz, instructor at both Flywheel and Flybarre. That includes spinning. Katz has been teaching both techniques for five years, and has seen many clients' improve their performance on the bike from the hard work they've put in at the barre.
Barre classes focus on lots of core work and on smaller intrinsic muscles, both of which support larger muscle groups like the quads and hamstrings—key players during indoor cycling. "You're going to be stronger and fitter overall," says Katz.
Spinning + Yoga
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You're devoted to your instructor, and can't image NOT vying for the front row at your trendy cycling studio. We get it, but there's more to fitness than your favorite studio. It can be difficult to break an exercise habit, but doing more and more of the same thing can lead to overtraining and injury, says Heather Milton, senior exercise physiologist at NY Langone Sports Performance Center.
"Our bodies are incredibly smart," she says. "You adapt well to the given stress, and you're body will become more efficient. If you do the same cycling class four times a week, you are replicating the movement and routine, and you begin to burn less calories." Remember this mantra: 'If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.'
Milton suggests supplementing spinning with yoga because it opens up hip joints, which can be tight from the seated forward lean position on the bike, as well as helps you stay flexible and maintain range of motion.
Rowing + Recreational Sports
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Unless you're on a college rowing team, chances are you're more familiar with the machines used in the gym and in studios, like City Row. Although rowing is a total-body workout (legs-core-arms) that burns fat at lightning speed, it's missing one thing—a team. Joining a community soccer or softball league is a great way to stay engaged in your workouts and remain accountable, says Minardi. "It's not all about you and your workout anymore."
Plus, the rowing sequence of movements is one that continuously runs through the same kinetic chain—think about how you repeat the movement driving from your feet, engaging your core, and lifting your arms. Milton says sports like tennis allow you to work in other planes of movement—running side to side or backward, twisting, and changing direction quickly—all of which keep your neuromuscular system active and guessing.
Swimming + Weight Training
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It's equally important to protect joints from injury (low-impact exercises can help), as it is to maintain bone health (where weight-bearing workouts come in). Swimming and lifting comprise the power couple that makes sure you do both. With proper form, weight training can help build bone density, while swimming helps you maintain full range of motion in your joints, says Minardi.
Pilates + Barre
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For tight abs and a sculpted butt, look no further than this combination. Smaller range of motion and lower-body work at the barre help to contract inner stability muscles, while hoping on the Pilates reformer allows you to lengthen and tone those same spots to create a long and lean, but strong body, says Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at FLEX Studios. She teaches the gym's 30/30 class, which features 30 minutes of barre training followed by 30 minutes on the Pilates reformer—best of both techniques in one workout!
Seracuse says barre and Pilates reformer combine strength training and stretching, which is an optimal combination of healthy muscles, but it's the complementary core work that makes for even smarter cross training. "While there's always an ab component to barre class, Pilates takes it to another level," she says. "Tapping into your core helps you move your body fluidly and protect your spine, while also helping to work on balance and stability at the barre."
Cycling + Hiking
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There's a weight-bearing contrast with cycling (non-weight bearing) and hiking (weight-bearing), with one major bonus: nature. Exercising outdoors has been shown to have a positive impact on happiness and energy. (Looking for a new adventure? Check out these 10 picturesque national parks worth hiking.)
The strong quads and hamstrings you develop while logging miles on the bike will come in handy on a steep climb. Hiking is all about working on your balance, says Minardi. "Every step you take is different than the last, which keeps your muscles guessing," he says. So clip off your bike pedals and hit the trail to slow things down. The high you feel when you reach the top is worth every step.