Ask the Expert: How Do I Implement Cross-Training Into My Workout Routine?

We asked personal trainer Parker Cote.

Welcome to our Ask the Expert series, in which local health and fitness experts answer your wellness questions. Here, Parker Cote, personal trainer discusses cross-training. Got a question of your own? Email tyannone@bostonmagazine.com


battle ropes

Photo by iStockphoto.com/jacoblund

If your exercise routine is getting awfully, well, routine, it can become a problem. Imagine: All you ever do is run in a straight line, or repetitively swing a racket, or throw a ball. Eventually, imbalances, injuries, and burnout will occur, because you’re only ever taxing the same muscle groups and joints. These activities that you love so dearly may end up hurting you in the long run.

This is where cross-training becomes so important. It keeps the body balanced and happy, while also shaking up your training to keep things interesting. We chatted with Parker Cote, personal trainer and owner of Parker Cote Elite Fitness, to hear his take on cross-training and what other forms of exercise you should consider doing.

Ask the Expert: How Do I Implement Cross-Training into My Workout Routine?

Answer: By combining multiple modes of training to improve performance. 

The details: 

“If you are repetitively doing the exact same workout, you will stop seeing progress,” Cote explains. “Cross-training can help people break through a plateau and will complement other forms of training, while increasing your fitness level.”

Though Boston may famed for the sport of running, Cote says runners can strongly benefit from cross-training because the repetitive movement of running is constantly hitting your joints the same way, causing a lot of wear and tear. “So, by still being active with a different form of activity, you are letting your body rest and recover for that mode of exercise,” he explains.

For example, he recommends runners swim 1-2 times a week and strength train 1-2 times a week, incorporating things like compound movements, core stabilization exercises, and other forms of cardio like battle ropes, in order to see improved recovery and increased injury prevention. Clients who primarily weight train should incorporate some form of cardio into their routine to enhance cardiovascular health and overall fitness level, he says. But that’s not to say that by cross-training you don’t ever have to take any rest days.

“It can be easy to overdo it,” Cote says. “Make sure you have at least one full rest day each week, with no activity, to let your body recover.”

Weekend warriors who partake in recreational sports can also see a huge increase in performance by cross-training. Cote says he works with many tennis players who see benefits by doing anti-rotational core movements, direct abdominal flexion and lower back exercises, as well as compound explosive leg exercises like jump squats, sprints, split jumps, burpees, etc.

But don’t feel like you have to run to your nearest gym and sign up for a membership, if that’s not your jam. Cote says a gym environment may help, but it’s definitely not necessary. “There are countless effective bodyweight exercises, and many others, that require minimal and portable equipment,” he explains.

Cote offers this circuit to start your cross-training program:

He says to complete each exercise in succession and repeat up to four times, with a two minute rest in between each round.

So whether you’re a passionate runner training for the next Boston Marathon, a seasoned weightlifter, or a rec-league superstar, it’s worth exploring stepping outside the box when it comes to your weekly training routine.