Cross training is a way to alternate your workout routine in a way that can improve your performance, mental outlook, and essentially your overall fitness. Cross training is used by athletes of all levels. I have yet to meet a coach, doctor, or high level athlete who thought that cross training was not a good idea. The truth is that there seems to be far reaching benefits for those who incorporate cross training into their personal workout regimen.
The idea behind cross training is to elevate your performance through overall fitness, rather than training continually in the same way. Say you have consistently jogged 3 times a week for years, but then when a friend not as active as you asks you to go cross country skiing you can’t keep up. Or say you are a body builder who lifts 6+ days a week and are very strong, but then find that you are completely exhausted after a short game of tag with your kids and they aren’t even breathing hard. When you only train in one activity you can become very proficient at that activity. However, you might also realize that you are not in as good of shape as you think you are. Studies have even shown that training a lot for just one activity can increase the risk of repetitive injury.
As a Shoshin Ryu practitioner you are already cross training. You work your body and cardio through activities such as basic drills, kata, throws, ground work, and drilling self-defense techniques. Already you are working your body in a very well-rounded way, which is one reason why martial arts can be such great cross training for athletes of any other discipline. Even if you are a dedicated martial artist, though, cross training can benefit you. Besides the obvious benefits of becoming even more physically fit, it is also beneficial for your mind. If you are familiar with the path of Mastery you understand that you will spend a lot of time on a plateau during your life-time of training. Cross training can give you a different outlet to continue improving during those times that perhaps you don’t feel like you are improving with your martial arts. Perhaps it is while cross training some day that you achieve a personal best and reach a level that you didn’t think you were capable of. If you can shatter boundaries in your cross training you can surely achieve the same in your art.
There are many types of cross training. Weight lifting, cycling, running, swimming, rowing, cross fit, interval training, rock climbing, rollerblading, hiking are just a handful of the many ways you can cross train. You can stay more socially active while you hike or cycle with a friend who maybe doesn’t do martial arts, or enjoy your own training and solitude while you forge yourself through committed training. If you don’t incorporate cross training in your workouts it is something to seriously consider. If you already do incorporate cross training in your workout plan, great! Now use it as a way to not only improve your physical fitness, but also as a way to elevate your martial arts training!