This month we address the concept of cross training, not to be confused with “cross trainers,” a synonym for the elliptical exercise machine. Cross training is a concept that is easy to grasp because it is based on good old common sense. Rather than continually working the same muscle group when you pursue your favorite form of exercise, try out different activities that work different muscle groups. This broadening of activities provides better overall conditioning. Just as an aside, there is much repetitive muscle use on an elliptical machine which can lead to contracted hip flexors without proper stretching techniques. That is just another reason to add in some variety to your exercise routine. So it’s simply a matter of expanding your interests. If you are a regular walker or runner, try out an activity that requires side to side motion like tennis or skating. Remember to wear your protective gear. For skating try knee pads and or wrist splints, similar to those made for roller blading. Just because you have knee problems, you don’t have to shy away from activities like tennis, basketball or hiking. Knee braces allow those with mild to moderate osteoarthritis an opportunity to continue participating in their favorite activities and even try new ones.
When beginning a new activity, it might be worth your time to do some reading on it first. Look for tips from experts and recent study results to develop your understanding. Put some consideration into the lifestyle requirement of the activity. Does it require a partner(s) like tennis or can you engage in it alone? Is it expensive like snow skiing or getting into the world of horses? You don’t want to start an activity that you may later need to ditch due to financial constraints. How often will you participate in the new activity? In order to develop skill, there must be consistency. Will you have to drive to get there or can you simply walk out your front door?
Variety is important and keeps us engaged. Doing the same exercises over and over can get boring and boring leads to lack of motivation. Don’t worry about the number of calories burned per unit of the exercise. That is not as important as your enjoyment factor because that is what will keep you moving over the long haul. It is fun to have an exercise buddy but hopefully you will enjoy the activity as much as your friend. Participating to please someone else may lead to burnout. Depending on someone else to participate in an activity may result in disappointment if you’re buddy is not as committed as you are. So consider these factors as you make your choices. I have taken some energizing group classes over the years that keep me coming back for more. It’s a great way to squeeze in some socializing time as well. On the other hand, solitary activities offer their own benefits. Walking in the solitude of the alfalfa fields allows me an opportunity to have that important “alone time” to think and sort things out. I call it my “therapy.”
The assumption of our discussion is that our cross training activities will have a cardiovascular benefit so make sure you do not forget to include your resistance training, an even more effective fat burner that revs up the metabolism. You don’t need to go to the gym although a gym will have complete equipment and the ability of socialize. I prefer barbells or a straight bar where I can adjust the weights. Shoot for multi joint moves like squats and overhead presses to decrease the amount of time you need to spend. Do start slowly if you are just beginning weight resistance exercises. DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness is no fun and it’s unnecessary. Twice a week is an effective schedule to maintain. Depending on your fitness level, you might want to start with only one set of 8 repetitions, then 2 sets and then the standard 3, gradually increasing the weight as you get stronger. There are many how to videos on the internet showing you the proper way to perform an exercise or you can seek the professional advice of a certified fitness instructor.
Don’t feel discouraged when you miss a day; just pick the activity back up when you can. Over time you will start to see the positive changes in your mind and body. Stay motivated by surrounding yourself with trainers/instructors and family/friends that are inspirational, whether they are on a tape you are following in your living room or in the flesh at the gym. An excellent instructor will support your limitations as well as inspire you to try harder. If something doesn’t feel right or you feel uncomfortable, look for a different trainer. Attitude is important and there are some trainers who should not be teaching. An example is a former spinning instructor who used to like to ask us why we were doing the spinning. Her answer was “because we can.” Not everyone “can” and the instructor’s job is to make all feel welcome even when the participants are on different levels. One well known trainer is Billy Blanks who developed Tae Bo, a form of cardio boxing and kicking. I consider him to be an excellent trainer who combines both the inspirational power to bring out the best in someone while supporting their efforts to get there.
So after that great workout, how about some lunch? One of my favorites is a caprese salad, although as you can see in the picture, I usually prepare an expanded version, based upon what veges I happen to have on hand. The traditional salad is a slice of mozzarella cheese, topped by a slice of tomato and a sprig of basil and drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The serving size is one cup or one small bowl or approximately 135 grams. Calories usually range from about 250 to 330 per serving. If you add in more veges, you will not greatly increase the number of calories. I like to add cucumber slices, spears of bell peppers, radishes, carrot curls and celery but most of all, avocados. If you add in the recommended serving size of an avocado, one fifth or approximately two slices, it is only an additional 45 calories. Add in a half of avocado and it becomes 114. Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat and along with the extra virgin oil, you are consuming a “healthy fat” lunch. If you need to increase the protein requirement, just add slices of hard boiled egg, offering an extra 76 calories. Vegans can add in tofu crumbles or chia seeds. I top it off with sunflower seeds, feta or goat cheese crumbles and a sprinkling of turmeric and cayenne pepper that goes on just about everything I eat. The orange and red colors also increase the eye appeal of the dish. If you like you can substitute the balsamic vinegar with 2 teaspoons of dry white wine, and 4 teaspoons of lemon juice whisked with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, one half teaspoon of fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If there was ever a dish to bring out your artistic talents, it is a caprese salad. It is as lovely as it is nutritious and delicious!