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Carb Cycling Guide for Athletes

Carb Cycling Guide for Athletes

Originally published on HVMN by Nate Martins.

10,080–that’s how many minutes are in a week. Maintaining a diet through all those minutes, for weeks or months, requires supreme, almost unwavering willpower.

Even The Rock doesn’t do it; his Sunday night cheat meals are stuff of legend, consisting of thousands of calories of his favorite food.

The social side of dieting is tough. It takes dedication to remain unmoved on a diet; happy hour invites, dinners out, work-sponsored lunches–saying “no” to all these are small wins on the battlefield of dieting. For a diet like the ketogenic diet, avoiding carbohydrates can feel like tip-toeing through a minefield of Western, carb-centric eating.

 

For athletes, it can be difficult because we rely so heavily on carbohydrates for fuel. Of course, there’s growing research about how to use bodily fat as a fuel source,1 but carbohydrates have been the gold standard exercise nutrition for years.

Carb cycling is planned consumption of different amounts of carbohydrates, usually throughout the week. Everyone can develop their own carb cycle based on need; for example, keto athletes might work in carb days during especially hard training blocks.

While carb cycling isn’t for everyone, it can be a great way to optimize a diet based on your personal needs.


What’s a Carb, Anyway?

There are three different types of macronutrient fuel sources in our food: fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

 

 

The main function of dietary carbs is to be a source of energy. Some even argue they aren’t essential, and can be made from dietary protein and fat.2 This process is called gluconeogenesis, a metabolic pathway generating glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates.

Carbs (especially refined carbs) raise blood sugar, resulting in the body producing extra insulin to bring that blood sugar down. Insulin is a hormone that triggers fat storage–so more carbs means more insulin which means more conversion of carbs to fat stores.

As a fuel source, carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in the muscle and liver. They also maintain blood glucose concentrations as fuel for the body, but also for the brain. That’s the spike in energy you experience after an afternoon stack, as blood glucose fluctuates throughout the day when we consume carbs.

Simply put, carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available fuel. But when we don’t use that fuel, carbohydrate manifest as fat.

When following a keto diet, lower carb intake is necessary (like 25g of carbs per day–the amount in a single banana). This encourages the body to burn fat and also to convert fat to ketones. Consuming carbohydrates causes insulin release, which inhibits ketone production in the liver.



Science Behind Carb Cycling

What is carb cycling, and why is it beneficial? Looking at the science can provide some clarity. Maybe a more accurate definition of carb cycling is carb manipulation.

The goal is to match the body’s need for glucose depending on activity or activity level overall.

High-Carb Days


High-carb days are usually matched with workouts when you might need more glucose–like high-intensity interval sessions or a long day in the weight room.

 

When you exercise at a high intensity, the body makes most of its energy from carbohydrates, either breaking it down aerobically (with oxygen), or anaerobically (without oxygen), forming lactic acid. This would be the optimal time to introduce a higher amount of carbohydrates into the diet because the body uses more carbohydrate during the workout itself, and then after the workout to make glycogen to refuel and decrease muscle breakdown.3

When looking for your highest possible power or speed output, carbs are often necessary for the body to produce its best results during intense training sessions.

Low-Carb Days


In traditional carb-cycling, low-carb days are meant for days on which you do not train–the idea is the body doesn’t need carbs because its demand for fuel is far less than on workout days.

 

 

But further investigation by scientists have shown some of the advantages of training on these low carb days, which has two main benefits: it helps to speed up general adaptations to aerobic training, and it increases fat burning and thus improves endurance.

One of the key, groundbreaking experiments in this field was conducted using single-legged cycling exercise. Athletes had to cycle using just one leg at a time; the left leg cycled one hour straight, and the right leg did two half hours with a few hours in between where no recovery fuel was given. This means that the right leg was training in a carb depleted state during the second session. Muscle biopsy samples revealed that the twice-trained leg saw bigger gains in the enzymes that are key for aerobic respiration. This led to the conclusion that low-carb training could accelerate aerobic gains.4

Strategic low-carb days focus on switching the body back to using fat as energy and increase aerobic capacity. Research is continuing on this topic, but athletes are looking to boost the ability of the body to tap into fat as a fuel source, since we store more fat than carbohydrates.

Training in a low-carb state has been shown to increase the ability of the body to burn fat over the long haul, improving metabolic flexibility.5 There have even been studies noting keto-adapted athletes can use fat in preference to carbohydrates for moderate intensity endurance exercises, in which carbohydrates would usually be used as fuel.6

But it takes time. Robert Sikes is a professional bodybuilder and founder/owner of Keto Savage. He’s a bodybuilder on the keto diet; backstage at events, he receives inquisitive looks from competitors when they find out he’s keto. But the results speak for themselves and after events, he’ll even get asked about he’s able to train with such little carb intake. He says it can takes years to full fat-adapt, and that it’s something that doesn’t happen in the short term.

 

“You need to allow yourself to be completely adapted to life without carbs. Play the long game. Be diligent with hitting macros and eating wholesome foods.”
Robert Sikes

 

By controlling carbs, and the types of carbs consumed, there also may be a benefit in manipulating insulin and insulin responses.7,8 This would likely help with improving metabolic health.

It is becoming widely accepted that athletes should adopt carb cycling or periodization of carbs based on training needs. This ensures fuel for the work required (so training intensity isn’t compromised), while also empowering the body to metabolically trapease between carbohydrates and fats as fuel sources as available.9



Benefits of Carb Cycling

The benefits are carb cycling are measured against personal goals. Do you want to improve body composition? How about improve training or recovery?

Ask yourself what you want to achieve with carb cycling to best understand its benefits.

 

 

Body Composition


As with most diets, a major goal is usually weight loss. Because we consume such a high amount of calories as carbohydrates in Western diets, limiting those calories and carbs will ultimately lead to fat loss. The process aligns with most other diets: consume less calories than the body burns, enter a calorie deficit and promote weight loss.10

Though specific research on carb cycling is limited, generally studies show that limiting carb intake works well for weight loss. One study analyzed overweight women who had a family history of breast cancer. Three groups were randomly assigned different diets: calorie-restricted and low-carb diet, low-carb but unlimited protein and healthy fat, and a standard, calorie-restricted diet. Women in both low-carbohydrate groups showed better results for weight loss.11

 

Performance and Recovery
Training in a low-carb state can help with weight loss, boost fat burning capacity, and can speed up aerobic adaptation to training. However, athletes face a compromise when employing low-carb diets; they need the carbohydrates to perform at the highest intensity (especially in a race), and want to keep that energy system working well, but still want the benefits of carb restriction.

Making sure the body has carbs for tough training can help performance. The body needs fuel for the most difficult exercise days. Since carbohydrates are the body’s most readily available fuel source, consuming carbs before a workout enables the body to train harder for high-intensity, short-duration exercise.12 Interestingly, even the presence of carbohydrates in the mouth (meaning, not actually ingested) can lead to increased performance, because they activated brain regions believed to be involved in reward and motor control.13

Carbs can also help accelerate recovery. After exercise, consuming carbohydrates can lead to glycogen resynthesis and protein synthesis (after resistance training).14,3 So, it’s easier to perform and recover if you have enough carbohydrate in your diet. Carb cycling means those big training days can be high quality.

 

Other Benefits

By cycling carbohydrate consumption, you may be afforded some of the benefits of both higher-carb and lower-carb diets–and avoid some of the common negative side-effects.

Metabolic Health: The combination of two types of diets may help you become metabolically flexible.5

The days with low-carbs may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity; this study showed the benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet on glucose metabolism, lowering fasting glucose and insulin values.8 And when compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet led to greater weight loss, which in turn led to a decrease in triglyceride levels15–high levels of triglycerides have been associated with cardiovascular disease.16

Hormone Health: There are some concerns that hormones might be negatively affected by a badly put together low-carb diet, but this could be mitigated by strategic carb feeding.

High-carb feeding periods can potentially boost the levels of some vital hormones, like cortisol. There are some concerns that cortisol can decline when following a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet (although not much research supports this fear). To combat this possibility, either make sure your keto diet is well-formulated with enough calories and nutrients,17 or cycle periods of carbohydrate feeding to give your body a break.

In men, testosterone concentrations were higher after a ten-day high-carbohydrate diet, while cortisol concentrations were consistently lower on the same diet, suggesting the power of diet (specifically the ratio of carbohydrate to protein) as a factor in hormone regulation.16

Thyroid hormones are essential to regulating metabolism,18 being crucial determinants of resting metabolic rate. But they themselves are in turn regulated by diet and metabolism because glucose fuels the production of those thyroid hormones. The thyroid produces a large amount of T4 hormones, which are then converted into T3 hormones (T3 is the active thyroid hormone influencing many body processes). When carb intake is reduced, conversion of T4 to T3 reduces.19 People worry that this might lead to a lower metabolic rate and thus slow down weight loss with a low-carb diet

Longevity: The ketogenic diet may help to increase lifespan and healthspan.

This might be increased further by taking a cyclical approach to the diet: alternating high-carb and low-carb weeks. One study fed a ketogenic diet to mice every other week. Results showed avoidance of obesity, reducing midlife mortality, and prevented memory decline.20



How to Carb Cycle

Anyone from ametuer dieter to serious athlete can carb cycle. There are different options for how carefully you implement carb cycling, depending on training and recovery needs as well as your overall goals.

Creating a schedule, tracking your progress and targeting carbohydrate intake can help develop a well-formulated plan to succeed cycling carbs.

Create a Schedule

Before a single carb touches your lips, think about your goals. These will formulate your carb cycling plan.

 

 

Do you want to lose weight, or maintain weight? Do you want to boost aerobic fat burning capacity or target a lean body composition?

Then consider your typical training week. Which days are your most intense workouts? Which days can you recover, even without carbs? Do you meal prep to make sure you get enough quality, low-carb foods?

Serious athletes might want to take it one step further and consider carb cycling over a longer period, to keep up with training or competition cycle. Instead of breaking up a single week into high-carb and low-carb days, each week would have a different carbohydrate goal. Weeks with a heavy training load would be carb-heavy, while weeks with a lower training load or coming into a weigh-in could be more low/moderate-carb.

Your answers to these questions will determine how you go about cycling carbs. Don’t be afraid to change the schedule and be a bit flexible once you get started.

 

Log calories and macros

Establishing a calorie goal could prove helpful (especially if you’re trying to lose weight). Multiply your bodyweight by ten, and that’s the amount of calories to work toward if you want to lose weight. To gain weight, you can multiply your bodyweight by 15 to garner a ballpark daily calorie target.

Tracking your macros in a food journal or an app will help keep you accountable. Taking note of everything you eat will let you make sure you get enough calories from the right type of macronutrients while giving you a better understanding of how diet impacts your training output.

Target for a High-Carb Day

High-carb days should accompany your toughest training sessions of the week, such as intense intervals or prolonged weight training. These days call for about 2g of carbs per pound of bodyweight, and they’ll be your highest calories days. If you’re working out four times a week, and weight training once or twice a week, then you should have about one or two high-carb days each week.

Note that you might want to eat high-carb the night before a heavy morning workout to make sure that you are fueled up and ready to go, even if the training on that day was not that intense.

 

Target for a Medium or Low-Carb Day


Low-carb or medium-carb days can be used to fuel less-intense workouts or recovery days. Depending on training volume, low/medium carb days can be anywhere from 50g – 150g of carbs.

Training low doesn’t mean training on zero carbohydrates. On low-carb days, be sure to prioritize other macronutrients such as good quality protein and fat. High protein intake is important for post-workout recovery and the development of muscle mass. When cutting back on carbs, make sure you get enough calories, and the bulk of these should come from fat.

There are a few strategies that you can use to control your carb intake around your training sessions.

Training low: start your training having limited your carb intake beforehand. Implementing this strategy is simple. You may wake up and workout in the morning without eating before. You may even increase the effect by limiting carb intake the night before. If you workout during the evening, you may limit carbs from morning until that evening training session.

Sleeping low: don’t refuel using carbs after a workout, and stretch out the period before you refuel by sleeping overnight before refuelling with carbs at breakfast. This has shown promise, with a recent review in elite cyclists describing how the “sleep low, train low” method (where morning exercise commences with less than 200 mM of glycogen), improved results for cycling efficiency.20

On low-carb days, be clever to ensure quality training and recovery. Performing on a low-carb day can be difficult, so consider taking a low-carb or keto energy source, such as HVMN Ketone. Elite athletes have used HVMN Ketone to give them BHB as a fuel during high intensity time trials, showing that if you really want to avoid carbs, swapping in ketones can be a great energy alternative.

Another way to get a boost is to mouth rinse with carbs; this can improve performance without needing to actually eat carbs. You can also use caffeine before your workout, which is another reliable, carb-free way to get your body ready to perform.

What about recovery? BHB from HVMN Ketone is a carb-free alternative for recovery on low-carb days. Studies have shown that not only is less glycogen broken down in training with HVMN Ketone,21 but glycogen22 and protein resynthesis23 are also increased by 60% and 2x respectively. BHB could be a great way to help protect your recovery but also keep carb intake low.

 

Foods to Remember

 

With all this talk of carbs, you need to know where to find them so you can either stock up or steer clear.

A carb cycling diet requires high quality, healthy carbs and whole foods. Every once in a while it’s fine to treat yourself in epic, The Rock-like proportions, but from day-to-day, it’s all about maintaining balance. Good carbs include whole grains (like brown rice and oats), legumes (like beans, a good slow-digesting carb) and tubers (sweet potatoes).

Foods low in carbs include meat (beef, chicken, fish), eggs, vegetables (like bell peppers, broccoli and mushrooms), nuts (almonds, walnuts) and dairy (cheese, yogurt). Building a meal plan to incorporate all these types of food should help with each phase of the carb cycling. Even better? Meal prepping, so the stress of cooking depending on the day goes out the window.

But don’t forget about fiber; it plays an important role in weight loss, energy maintenance, regulating blood sugar and controlling hunger. Though fiber is a carb, it doesn’t raise blood sugar like other carbs and plays an important metabolic role because it doesn’t convert to glucose.



Is Carb Cycling Right For You?

It depends on your goals. It also requires some experimentation–based on your lifestyle and fitness routine, finding the right balance of high-carb and low-carb days can take some time and will probably change over the long-term.

What’s nice about carb cycling is the flexibility. It empowers a dieter some choice, while also providing the ability to fuel on days where it’s required, like ahead of intense training sessions. Benefiting from each could help an athlete reach goals for exercise, as well as goals for body composition. But remember to check with your doctor before implementing such wholesale changes to the way you eat.

If you’ve tried carb cycling, let us know the results in the comments.



Scientific Citations

1.

Volek, J.S., Noakes, T.D., and Phinney, S.D. (2015). Rethinking fat as a performance fuel. Eur J Sport Sci 15.

2.

Westman, E.C., Yancy, W.S., Edman, J.S., Tomlin, K.F., and Perkins, C.E. (2002). Effect of six-month adherence to a very-low-carbohydrate diet program. Am J Med 113.

3.

Borsheim E, Cree MG, Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR. Effect of carbohydrate intake on net muscle protein synthesis during recovery from resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2004;96(2):674-8.

4.

Hansen AK, Fischer CP, Plomgaard P, Andersen JL, Saltin B, Pedersen BK. Skeletal muscle adaptation: training twice every second day vs. training once daily. J Appl Physiol. 2005;98(1):93-9.

5.

Kunces L, Volk B, Freidenreich D, et al. Effect of a very low carbohydrate diet followed by incremental increases in carbohydrate on respiratory exchange ratio. FASEB Journal. 2014;28(1).

6.

Volek, J.S., Freidenreich, D.J., Saenz, C., Kunces, L.J., Creighton, B.C., Bartley, J.M., Davitt, P.M., Munoz, C.X., Anderson, J.M., Maresh, C.M., et al. (2016). Metabolic characteristics of keto-adapted ultra-endurance runners. Metabolism 65, 100-110.

7.

Reaven GM. Effects of differences in amount and kind of dietary carbohydrate on plasma glucose and insulin responses in man. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979;32(12):2568-78.

8.

Gower BA, Goss AM. A lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet reduces abdominal and intermuscular fat and increases insulin sensitivity in adults at risk of type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2015;145(1):177S-83S.

9.

Impey SG, Hearris MA, Hammond KM, et al. Fuel for the Work Required: A Theoretical Framework for Carbohydrate Periodization and the Glycogen Threshold Hypothesis. Sports Med. 2018;48(5):1031-1048.

10.

Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(9):859-73.

11.

Harvie M, Wright C, Pegington M, et al. The effect of intermittent energy and carbohydrate restriction v. daily energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers in overweight women. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(8):1534-47.

12.

Pizza FX, Flynn MG, Duscha BD, Holden J, Kubitz ER. A carbohydrate loading regimen improves high intensity, short duration exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr. 1995;5(2):110-6.

13.

Chambers ES, Bridge MW, Jones DA. Carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth: effects on exercise performance and brain activity. J Physiol (Lond). 2009;587(Pt 8):1779-94.

14.

Ivy JL. Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 1998;19 Suppl 2:S142-5.

15.

Yancy W, Olsen MK, Guytib JR, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(10):769-777.

16.

Harchaoui KE, Visser ME, Kastelein JJ, Stroes ES, Dallinga-thie GM. Triglycerides and cardiovascular risk. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2009;5(3):216-22.

17.

Volek, J.S., Gomez, A.L., and Kraemer, W.J. (2000). Fasting lipoprotein and postprandial triacylglycerol responses to a low-carbohydrate diet supplemented with n-3 fatty acids. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 19, 383-391.

18.

Chidakel A, Mentuccia D, Celi FS. Peripheral metabolism of thyroid hormone and glucose homeostasis. Thyroid. 2005;15(8):899-903.

19.

Bisschop PH, Sauerwein HP, Endert E, Romijn JA. Isocaloric carbohydrate deprivation induces protein catabolism despite a low T3-syndrome in healthy men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2001;54(1):75-80.

20.

Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice Newman, John C. et al. Cell Metabolism , Volume 26 , Issue 3 , 547 – 557.e8

21.

Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Ashmore, T., Willerton, K., Evans, R., Smith, A., Murray, Andrew J., Stubbs, B., West, J., McLure, Stewart W., et al. (2016). Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes. Cell Metabolism 24, 1-13.

22.

Holdsworth, D.A., Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Stradling, H., Impey, S.G., and Clarke, K. (2017). A Ketone Ester Drink Increases Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Synthesis in Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc.

23.

Vandoorne, T., De Smet, S., Ramaekers, M., Van Thienen, R., De Bock, K., Clarke, K., and Hespel, P. (2017). Intake of a Ketone Ester Drink during Recovery from Exercise Promotes mTORC1 Signaling but Not Glycogen Resynthesis in Human Muscle. Front. Physiol. 8, 310.

 

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Episode #60 Julian Rosen on how to live a Fearless Life

THE BASICS

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Next Level Guy Show podcast with your host Ian Dawson Mackay.

NextLevelGuy is a men’s interview, interest and improvement website, dedicated to teaching you the life hacks successful people are making and providing concrete action steps for you to change your life for the better.

Today I am talking to Julian Rosen, creator of the Fearless Life Project. Julian’s mission is to help men who are feeling lost and hopeless, rediscover the passion and fire that is within you and become the man that you truly want to become. Julian’s content is mind-blowing and he can help you change lifelong BS in a matter of hours. I knew I had to get him on when I found his site.

Before we get to the interview, here is a quick word about my affiliate deals…. I have a lot of them. There is something for everyone, regardless of the person, their interest or occasion. Or just treat yourself. There are cognitive enhancers to improve the mind, sports equipment to become better on the playing field, styles to make you look the true reflection of yourself and so much more. There are deals on kindles, jeans, sex aids, supplements, and everything in between. I won’t bore you with too much info but if you enjoy the interview, please visit www.nextlevelguy.com/affiliates and use the links on that page to shop at some awesome companies and enjoy some amazing deals, special offers and listeners exclusives. All sales made through my links result in a small commission for the site, which is used to help develop and make the site better.

Now let’s get to the interview with Julian, this is one of my favourite interviews and I cant wait to hear what you think, so please leave a review on iTunes and add a comment on the show notes

LISTEN HERE

WHAT WE COVER

  •  Who is he
  • How did his upbringing shape him and build the interest in helping others
  • How the brain dictates how we act and what we do, regardless of what we want to achieve in our lives
  • Why do we procrastinate?
  • How does he work with a client on making the most of their lives
  • How everything starts with what we think and the chain of reactions that come from it
  • The importance of fitness, team games to keep you afloat and elevate your state
  • Low hanging fruits you can reach for right now to create a big change in your life for the positive
  • The link about the link between feelings and actions
  • How do we turn off the faucet of wasteful emotions
  • How do we figure out how to act and cut through the noise and bs of the media, work and family vibes and ignore the bombardments and find out what you truly want to do in life
  • How do you overcome impostor syndrome? How do we stop comparing ourselves to others and live for ourselves and not in competition with others
  • What will really matter on our deathbed
  • How do you deal with the naysayers and people who will try to pull you back into bad habits when you try to change
  • What message does he want everyone listening to take from this interview

SOME THINGS TO REFLECT ON

  • Julian isn’t characterised by his job but by his mission in life – what is your mission in life? When it is all said and done, who do you want to be remembered as and for what?
  • School is a great part of our lives but it is not the only part of life. Don’t judge yourself or others by their achieved or lack of qualifications or letters after their name or on their jacket. Everyone has a unique gift to help others and make the world a better place. 
  • Julian admits his struggles and is open and honest. He doesn’t play a character on social media, he is his real, authentic self. 
  • Please remember that the people you admire on social media are like you, you are just seeing their best side, their highlights of recent times, with photos taken countless times to best showcase their life. It is rarely a true reflection of them as a person. Don’t judge your entire life against someone’s stage managed highlights.
  • People will always judge others. It won’t change. But you can. Want something different in your life? Then you will need to do something different that the norm to achieve that. 
  • Our brain seeks comfort of the norm, it is scared by change, to change your life, we need to overcome our brain standard programming to change our lives
  • Your thoughts are not 100% truth, most are bs and not real.
  • How you start your day, by how you wake up, and what you do straight away, affects what you do for the rest of the day and how it may go for you
  • Are you doing what society or your family wants you to be doing or are you being authentic to yourself and living the life you truly want?
  • Keep it simple. Focus on the fundamentals of each action. Take it easy, start now and build on the fundamentals. It will not kill you but it will change your life. 
  • You need to drop the bullshit and the baggage that you are carrying to succeed. You are enough to succeed right now, you don’t need anything else. 

LINKS YOU WILL NEED TO CONNECT WITH THE GUEST

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How to Add Cross Training to Your Workouts

How to Add Cross Training to Your Workouts
Originally published on HVMN by Nate Martins.


Dedicated training is something to be admired. Many athletes strive for the ability to get up and get out every single day whether it’s for a specific race or event or even, simply driven by a goal. Often that can mean adhering to a training plan based on both repetition and incrementally increased difficulty–monotony and overuse be damned.

But you may get hurt. Or plateau. Or experience a disruption in your training schedule. These can all be detrimental to accomplishing a goal. Then there’s also that inevitable boredom of doing the same training day in and day out. You swear that footprint on the trail was yours from yesterday.

 

Enter cross-training, an exercise program usually employed outside of these intense training blocks to add some variance (physically and mentally) to workouts. It keeps the body guessing, and has many athletes reap the benefits for their main sport: decreased injury potential, and added strength to the most-used muscles.

Here, we’ll detail the science behind cross-training, how to work it into your schedule, and some new exercises to try. Your main sport will thank us.

This is Your Body on Cross Training

Simply put, cross training is training in another discipline in improving your main sport. The options are almost limitless–runners can strength train, swimmers can paddle board, cyclists can do yoga. The goal is to supplement your main sport with training that’s beneficial for certain muscles, movements, or even, your brain and mood.

For most athletes, the inclusion of cross training into a workout plan is triggered by an injury sidelining them from regular training. I was no different–hours of basketball and running led to knee pain (from patellar tendonitis, known as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee”). But I was stubborn. When I should have stopped the joint-pounding activities, I continued to beat them like a drum. It got to a point where the pain wasn’t worth the workout, but I couldn’t give up working out all together. So I started swimming and incorporating yoga into my routine, which delivered positive and painless results.

Turns out, I’m not alone. Up to 56% of recreational runners experience injuries, with most of those relating to the knee.1 Supplements can help (like glucosamine, which promotes the development of cartilage), but up to 75% of those are overuse injuries.1



Since a majority of injuries happen due to time dedicated to a single sport, cross training can help prevent injuries for the simple fact that it forces athletes to spend less time training singularly. Cross training doesn’t just maintain activity by reducing the risk for injury–it also can increase performance.

A study of 27 male runners were assigned one of three different resistance training regimens (in addition to their normal endurance training): heavy resistance, explosive resistance or muscle endurance training. In all three groups, running endurance performance increased.2 The heavy-lifting group, in particular, saw improvements to high-intensity running characteristics, like sprinting at the end of the race.2

The benefits of cross training aren’t just physical; there’s also a potential mental benefit of switching it up. Mental fatigue can impact physical workouts–you may be less likely to workout knowing that you’re facing the exact same exercise every day. Especially if an athlete is in-season or training for a specific event, cross-training can provide an exciting challenge. It’s easy to be training heads-down; cross-training can help you see the forest between the trees.

 

Implementing Cross Training
Divorce yourself from the idea that cross training takes away from your regular training schedule. While you’ll inevitably be spending time away from your sweetheart sport, absence makes the muscles grow stronger.

There are three main groups of cross training for endurance athletes: strength training, aerobic low-impact work, and aerobic impact work, and each can be part of a cross-training program.

 

Strength Training
Touching upon all major muscle groups is important for effective strength training.

Incorporating strength training into an endurance regimen can enhance physical fitness, as it did in this meta-analysis of distance runners.3 Even just 30 minutes per week, once or twice a week, can suffice. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in a gym; you can take the at-home approach to incorporate plyometrics or things like push-ups.

Regardless of where you strength train, a full body workout will maximize the time you spend training. Consider hitting all the major muscle groups such as arms, chest, shoulders, back, core and legs (more on this later).

 

Aerobic Low-Impact Work
Probably the reason many athletes experiment with cross-training: take stress off those weary joints and reduce injury risk.

Low-impact activities or no-impact workouts can be done two or three times a week. It’s easily implemented, as it can replace an active recovery day or even a harder workout day depending on the exercise; so for those who think they’re losing gains because of cross-training, you may actually find yourself enjoying the cross training more than your main exercise.

Cycling, swimming, and rowing are some of the most popular low-impact workouts. For flexibility and core exercises, yoga and pilates are go-tos. And you may even be able to work out longer and more frequently using these types of workouts due to the lack of stress they cause the body (swimmers can work out every day, and they’re hitting all the major muscle groups). For example, if you planned on running 45 minutes, you could easily spend 70 minutes cycling.

Aerobic Impact Work
Maybe the reason you’re reading this article is because of too much aerobic impact work.

If you’re training, the amount of aerobic impact work will likely be higher (and maybe your only focus during that training block). But in the off-season, or times when you’d like to give your body a break, aerobic impact work should be done once or twice a week. As a general rule, cross-training is meant to limit the impact on the body.

Typically, cross training is meant to offer your body a break from the impact it faces during regular training. You can play team games, train runs, circuit train or do CrossFit as a cross-training method, as the impact is likely different from your normal routine. But be mindful: any impact work still puts a strain on the body.



The Importance of Rest
Before getting into the specific exercises to try, remember the need for rest. Your muscles are asking for it.

The goal of every training session is to break down muscle and without recovery, a portion of that work might be wasted. During recovery, the body begins the process of rebuilding what has been broken down.

Muscle protein synthesis can increase by as much as 50% in the hours after a workout, helping encourage muscle growth.4 Concurrently, muscle fibers are rebuilt. These processes are a normal part of the exercise, and recovery allows the muscles to become stronger. Fluid restoration is also key, as it helps deliver nutrients to organs and muscles through the bloodstream. And acids (via that hydrogen proton associated with lactate) accumulate during workouts–so recovery provides time for the body to restore intramuscular pH and blood flow for oxygen delivery.

In-season, professional triathlete, Kelsey Withrow, is laser-focused on training. When she’s not training, it’s all about recovery.

 

“As a professional triathlete, I focus all my time on swimming, running and biking. The rest of the time is for recovery.”
-Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete

 

Even though cross training is meant to give the body a break from regular training, it’s still is a source of stress and requires recovery time (or you might burnout). For most athletes, it’s difficult to slow down. Many of us are goal-oriented, hardworking and ultimately–a bit stubborn. Budgeting recovery time is essential, as is providing your body with the necessary fuel to recover properly.

Supplementing recovery may help expedite that process and get you back in the saddle faster. HVMN Ketone has been shown to improve recovery by decreasing the breakdown of intramuscular glycogen and protein during exercise (when compared to carbs alone).5 It also expedited the resynthesis of glycogen by 60% and protein by 2x when added to a normal post-workout carb or protein nutrition.6,5

Doing the same exercise can be mentally exhausting, leading to mental fatigue that wears down on your desire to even do the workout. Research has shown that the mind is usually a good gauge of the body,7 with a mental strain reported by a questionnaire being closely related to stress signals in the hormones of the body. By switching it up with cross-training, and also ensuring rest days, the mind will get a chance to recharge too.

 

Cross Training Exercises
Now is the time to incorporate cross-training workouts. The exercises below touch on several different areas of exercise, from strength training to both low-impact and impact aerobic activities.

You can begin by folding in some additional exercises to your existing workouts. Runners may try hills or cyclists may try 30-second sprints–this isn’t cross-training exactly, it’s just extra training. The benefits of cross training come with learning something new and focusing on different areas of the body that regular training can neglect.

Try working some of these exercises into your routine. It’s important to pick which is best for your personal needs.



Swimming
Benefits: Aerobic and cardio workout without the joint or muscle impact

Concerns: Technical ability can limit the quality of training

How to try it: Ensure you have the proper equipment (goggles, swim cap, fins, etc.), check lane times at your local pool, familiarize yourself with technique

A great whole body workout, swimming is one of the low-impact exercises most often used for recovery or cross training. Interestingly, reports show many people enjoy water-based exercise more than land-based exercise.8

Swimming works the whole body; it increases heart rate without the joint-pounding stress of running, it builds endurance and can also build and tone muscle. Because of these benefits, it’s a great option for recovery–a study showed that patients with osteoarthritis showed reduced stiffness, joint pain, and overall less physical limitation.9

It also torches calories. Swimming has shown improved body weight and body fat distribution when compared to walking.10 An average person can burn almost 450 calories when swimming at a low or moderate pace for one hour. At an increased pace, that could go north of 700 calories. For comparison, running for one hour at a leisurely pace burns about 400 calories.

Outside of the aerobic benefits, swimming (and water training, like deep-water running) has shown to improve cardiovascular health and lung capacity.11,12,13

To incorporate swimming into your cross-training routine, first find a place to swim. Then gather the necessary tools (like goggles, swim cap, fins, etc.), and brush up on the form before jumping in the pool. Try it one to three times a week for 30 minutes to start.



Cycling
Benefits: Low impact, aerobic, and strength building

Concerns: Risk of injury and cost of equipment

How to try it: For outdoor cycling, get a bike properly fitted and map your cycling route. Or find a bike / spin class at your local gym. For beginners, try cycling 45 minutes to an hour

Another low impact workout, cycling is a great way to reduce stress on those joint while still clocking in the aerobic hours.

Similar to swimming, cycling burns calories at an impressive clip, anywhere from 400 – 1,000 per hour depending on the intensity of the ride. And since cycling is also a resistance exercise, it’s not just burning fat–it also builds muscle.

A systematic review analyzed the benefits of cycling, showcasing a myriad of results. There was a positive relationship between cycling and cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiovascular fitness, and general fitness.14 Whether on the road, the track, or in the gym on a stationary bike, the benefits of cycling as a cross-training mechanism stem from the fact it’s a low impact, muscle building, aerobic workout. It can help athletes train if they have experienced an injury.

There are several ways to train on a bicycle. You can ride hills to build muscle and strength, or do shorter sprints to build speed. There’s also an option for endurance, with riders cycling hundreds or thousands of miles over the course of a long session. For beginners, get a feel for the workout on a stationary bike. As you advance, visit a local bike shop to get your bike properly fitted.



Strength Training
Benefits: Increased muscle strength, bone density, injury prevention, mental health

Concerns: Improper form and too much weight can lead to injury

How to try it: Find a gym with the proper equipment and build a training plan, picking exercises that target both the upper and lower body.

Many endurance athletes don’t consider strength training as part of their workout routine, but it can help prevent injury while improving strength for your main sport. For runners, maybe that’s improved core strength for economy. For cyclists, maybe the outcome is a higher power output. Regardless of your sport, strength training is imperative to improving endurance for runners15 and cyclists.

In a study of postmenopausal women, high-intensity strength training exercises showed preserved bone density while improving muscle mass, strength and balance.16 It can also help prevent injury. In a study of soccer players who strength trained in the offseason, hamstring strains were lower (and that group also saw increases in strength and speed).17

 

“You spend so much time beating your body down in-season, but I find that I’m healthier and stronger when I lift. With long distance, being strong helps. I try to put on a lot of muscle during a short period of time.”
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete

 

The mental benefits of resistance training have also been documented; studies have shown it improves anxiety and depression.18,19

A good strength training regimen will focus separately on different muscle groups. There are several options for lifters of all different levels, but starting with some simple bodyweight exercises (like push-ups or pull-ups) can allow you to build toward free weight training, weight machines, or rubber tubing. A meta-analysis of periodized training–varying your strength training workouts–has shown results for greater changes in strength, motor performance and lean body mass.20 So don’t get stuck doing the same routine over and over again. A good way to push yourself is to incorporate overload training into some of that strength work.

If you’re strapped for time, a full-body workout once or twice a week (with dedicated recovery time) should suffice. Make sure to also spend some time nailing down form in the weight room, as improper form and too much weight can lead to injury.



Yoga
Benefits: Increased strength, mobility, flexibility, and mood

Concerns: Improper form can lead to injury

How to try it: Find a studio and pick a class level that’s appropriate for your skill level.

An ancient practice designed to create a union between the body and mind, many athletes seek out yoga for its ability to increase strength and flexibility while also promoting mental health benefits.

Yoga can improve performance by targeting specific aspects of flexibility and balance–one study, which took place over the course of 10 weeks in male collegiate athletes, saw improvements in both balance and flexibility.21 In older adults, studies have shown improved balance and mobility.22 Strength is also a target of many yoga programs, especially in the core. Even a study in which a specific pose (sun salutation) was used six days per week for 24 weeks, participants saw increased upper body strength, weight loss and endurance.23

But with yoga, the body is only half the game. It has been shown to decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone),24 along with the ability to lower levels of depression, stress, and anxiety.25 There have even been studies which showed overall quality of life improvements in seniors.26 Maybe part of these mental benefits are linked to better sleep quality. One study illustrated that a group participating in yoga fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning.27

Yoga isn’t an aerobic workout, but it stretches muscles, builds strength and has been shown to improve mood. Because it’s low-impact, yoga can be done every day. Typically gyms or studios have beginner classes, and they will typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. Athletes can use yoga as recovery days, so between one and three sessions per week would be perfect.

Remember: listen to your body. Athletes always want to push the limit, and many may scoff that yoga is difficult (compared, say, to running). But extending a stretch too far, or practicing yoga without learning form, can lead to injury.

 

Other Exercises
There are different activities that may be considered cross training, outside of the usual suspects we detailed above.

Hiking, for example, is a great way to build strength and get outside during a recovery day. Same goes with exercises like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding28–these can help build upper body strength while encouraging an athlete to get out of their comfort zone (literally, and figuratively).

 

“I spend a lot of time training indoors, so getting outside is a lot of fun. I’ll do one long run per week outside, and I’ll bring my dog. It’s a reset for me.”
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete

 

We wouldn’t recommend team sports because there’s a risk of injury. But tennis might be an exception. While there are of course injury concerns with every sport and exercise, tennis has shown to improve aerobic fitness, lower body fat percentage, reduce risk for developing cardiovascular disease and improve bone health.29

For more passive cross training, think about everyday things you can do to improve strength and balance. Even investing in a standing desk, or sitting on a medicine ball at work can encourage better posture and more movement overall.

 

Cross Training for Athletes
During peak training season, athletes feel the grind. You’re putting in the hours with a race or event or goal in mind, laboring over the same path, the same laps, the same routine, with little variance.

Cross training is meant to serve as a break, but one that’s productive. It can be a break from your normal routine, both physically and mentally. But it can also invigorate the mind, providing it with a new task to learn, a new challenge to face. And of course, the physical benefits of testing the body in new ways are evident.

To incorporate cross training, try one or more of these exercises a couple times a week. See how you feel. You’ll likely find one you enjoy more than others, one that maybe provides better results than the rest. It’ll take some time to find a balance.

What’s your cross training routine? Let us know in the comments and share your experience.

Improve your running form...
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Scientific Citations

1. Van mechelen W. Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature. Sports Med. 1992;14(5):320-35.
2. Mikkola J, Vesterinen V, Taipale R, Capostagno B, Häkkinen K, Nummela A. Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular performance in recreational endurance runners. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(13):1359-71.
3. Yamamoto, Linda M; Lopez, Rebecca M; Klau, Jennifer F; Casa, Douglas J; Kraemer, William J; Maresh, Carl M. The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: November 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 6 – p 2036-2044 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318185f2f0.
4. MacDougall JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDonald JR, Interisano SA, Yarasheski KE. The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6.

  1. Holdsworth, D.A., Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Stradling, H., Impey, S.G., and Clarke, K. (2017). A Ketone Ester Drink Increases Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Synthesis in Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc.
    6. Vandoorne, T., De Smet, S., Ramaekers, M., Van Thienen, R., De Bock, K., Clarke, K., and Hespel, P. (2017). Intake of a Ketone Ester Drink during Recovery from Exercise Promotes mTORC1 Signaling but Not Glycogen Resynthesis in Human Muscle. Front. Physiol. 8, 310.
    7. Steinacker JM, Lormes W, Kellmann M, et al. Thaining of junior rowers before world championships. Effects on performance, mood state and selected hormonal and metabolic responses. J SPORTS MED PHYS FTTNESS 2000;40:327-35.
    8. Lotshaw AM, Thompson M, Sadowsky HS, Hart MK, Millard MW. Quality of life and physical performance in land- and water-based pulmonary rehabilitation. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2007;27(4):247-51.
    9. Alkatan M, Baker JR, Machin DR, et al. Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol. 2016;43(3):666-72.
    10. Cox KL, Burke V, Beilin LJ, Puddey IB. A comparison of the effects of swimming and walking on body weight, fat distribution, lipids, glucose, and insulin in older women–the Sedentary Women Exercise Adherence Trial 2. Metab Clin Exp. 2010;59(11):1562-73.
    11. Broman G, Quintana M, Engardt M, Gullstrand L, Jansson E, Kaijser L. Older women’s cardiovascular responses to deep-water running. J Aging Phys Act. 2006;14(1):29-40.
    12. Cider A, Sveälv BG, Täng MS, Schaufelberger M, Andersson B. Immersion in warm water induces improvement in cardiac function in patients with chronic heart failure. Eur J Heart Fail. 2006;8(3):308-13.
    13. Sable M, Vaidya SM, Sable SS. Comparative study of lung functions in swimmers and runners. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012;56(1):100-4.
    14. Oja P, Titze S, Bauman A, et al. Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011;21(4):496-509.
    15. Hoff J. Maximal Strength Training Enhances Running Economy and Aerobic Endurance Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2001; Volume 33 ,Issue 5, p S270
    16. Miriam E. Nelson, PhD; Maria A. Fiatarone, MD; Christina M. Morganti, MD; et al. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;141(5):428.
    17. Askling C, Karlsson J, Thorstensson A. Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2003; 13(4);244-250
    18. Gordon BR, Mcdowell CP, Hallgren M, Meyer JD, Lyons M, Herring MP. Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms: Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(6):566-576.
    19. Gordon, B.R., McDowell, C.P., Lyons, M. et al. Sports Med (2017) 47: 2521. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0
    20. Fleck SJ. Periodized Strength Training: A Critical Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1999l;13(1).
    21. M Jay Polsgrove, Brandon M Eggleston, and Roch J Lockyer. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun; 9(1): 27–34. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.171710
    22. Tiedemann A, O’rourke S, Sesto R, Sherrington C. A 12-week Iyengar yoga program improved balance and mobility in older community-dwelling people: a pilot randomized controlled trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013;68(9):1068-75.
    23. Bhutkar MV, Bhutkar PM, Taware GB, Surdi AD. How effective is sun salutation in improving muscle strength, general body endurance and body composition?. Asian J Sports Med. 2011;2(4):259-66.
    24. Katuri KK, Dasari AB, Kurapati S, Vinnakota NR, Bollepalli AC, Dhulipalla R. Association of yoga practice and serum cortisol levels in chronic periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016;6(1):7-14.
    25. Michalsen A, Grossman P, Acil A, et al. Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program. Med Sci Monit. 2005;11(12):CR555-561.
    26. Oken BS, Zajdel D, Kishiyama S, et al. Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: effects on cognition and quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006;12(1):40-7.
    27. Manjunath NK, Telles S. Influence of Yoga and Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population. Indian J Med Res. 2005;121(5):683-90.
    28. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M. The physiological, musculoskeletal and psychological effects of stand up paddle boarding. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2016;8:32.
    29. Pluim BM, Staal JB, Marks BL, Miller S, Miley D. Health benefits of tennis. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(11):760-8.

How to Add Cross Training to Your Workouts

Originally published on HVMN by Nate Martins.

Dedicated training is something to be admired. Many athletes strive for the ability to get up and get out every single day whether it’s for a specific race or event or even, simply driven by a goal. Often that can mean adhering to a training plan based on both repetition and incrementally increased difficulty–monotony and overuse be damned.

But you may get hurt. Or plateau. Or experience a disruption in your training schedule. These can all be detrimental to accomplishing a goal. Then there’s also that inevitable boredom of doing the same training day in and day out. You swear that footprint on the trail was yours from yesterday.

Enter cross-training, an exercise program usually employed outside of these intense training blocks to add some variance (physically and mentally) to workouts. It keeps the body guessing, and has many athletes reap the benefits for their main sport: decreased injury potential, and added strength to the most-used muscles.

Here, we’ll detail the science behind cross-training, how to work it into your schedule, and some new exercises to try. Your main sport will thank us.

This is Your Body on Cross Training

Simply put, cross training is training in another discipline in improving your main sport. The options are almost limitless–runners can strength train, swimmers can paddle board, cyclists can do yoga. The goal is to supplement your main sport with training that’s beneficial for certain muscles, movements, or even, your brain and mood.

For most athletes, the inclusion of cross training into a workout plan is triggered by an injury sidelining them from regular training. I was no different–hours of basketball and running led to knee pain (from patellar tendonitis, known as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee”). But I was stubborn. When I should have stopped the joint-pounding activities, I continued to beat them like a drum. It got to a point where the pain wasn’t worth the workout, but I couldn’t give up working out all together. So I started swimming and incorporating yoga into my routine, which delivered positive and painless results.

Turns out, I’m not alone. Up to 56% of recreational runners experience injuries, with most of those relating to the knee.1 Supplements can help (like glucosamine, which promotes the development of cartilage), but up to 75% of those are overuse injuries.1

Since a majority of injuries happen due to time dedicated to a single sport, cross training can help prevent injuries for the simple fact that it forces athletes to spend less time training singularly. Cross training doesn’t just maintain activity by reducing the risk for injury–it also can increase performance.

A study of 27 male runners were assigned one of three different resistance training regimens (in addition to their normal endurance training): heavy resistance, explosive resistance or muscle endurance training. In all three groups, running endurance performance increased.2 The heavy-lifting group, in particular, saw improvements to high-intensity running characteristics, like sprinting at the end of the race.2

The benefits of cross training aren’t just physical; there’s also a potential mental benefit of switching it up. Mental fatigue can impact physical workouts–you may be less likely to workout knowing that you’re facing the exact same exercise every day. Especially if an athlete is in-season or training for a specific event, cross-training can provide an exciting challenge. It’s easy to be training heads-down; cross-training can help you see the forest between the trees.

Implementing Cross Training
Divorce yourself from the idea that cross training takes away from your regular training schedule. While you’ll inevitably be spending time away from your sweetheart sport, absence makes the muscles grow stronger.

There are three main groups of cross training for endurance athletes: strength training, aerobic low-impact work, and aerobic impact work, and each can be part of a cross-training program.

Strength Training
Touching upon all major muscle groups is important for effective strength training.

Incorporating strength training into an endurance regimen can enhance physical fitness, as it did in this meta-analysis of distance runners.3 Even just 30 minutes per week, once or twice a week, can suffice. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in a gym; you can take the at-home approach to incorporate plyometrics or things like push-ups.

Regardless of where you strength train, a full body workout will maximize the time you spend training. Consider hitting all the major muscle groups such as arms, chest, shoulders, back, core and legs (more on this later).

Aerobic Low-Impact Work
Probably the reason many athletes experiment with cross-training: take stress off those weary joints and reduce injury risk.

Low-impact activities or no-impact workouts can be done two or three times a week. It’s easily implemented, as it can replace an active recovery day or even a harder workout day depending on the exercise; so for those who think they’re losing gains because of cross-training, you may actually find yourself enjoying the cross training more than your main exercise.

Cycling, swimming, and rowing are some of the most popular low-impact workouts. For flexibility and core exercises, yoga and pilates are go-tos. And you may even be able to work out longer and more frequently using these types of workouts due to the lack of stress they cause the body (swimmers can work out every day, and they’re hitting all the major muscle groups). For example, if you planned on running 45 minutes, you could easily spend 70 minutes cycling.

Aerobic Impact Work
Maybe the reason you’re reading this article is because of too much aerobic impact work.

If you’re training, the amount of aerobic impact work will likely be higher (and maybe your only focus during that training block). But in the off-season, or times when you’d like to give your body a break, aerobic impact work should be done once or twice a week. As a general rule, cross-training is meant to limit the impact on the body.

Typically, cross training is meant to offer your body a break from the impact it faces during regular training. You can play team games, train runs, circuit train or do CrossFit as a cross-training method, as the impact is likely different from your normal routine. But be mindful: any impact work still puts a strain on the body.

The Importance of Rest
Before getting into the specific exercises to try, remember the need for rest. Your muscles are asking for it.

The goal of every training session is to break down muscle and without recovery, a portion of that work might be wasted. During recovery, the body begins the process of rebuilding what has been broken down.

Muscle protein synthesis can increase by as much as 50% in the hours after a workout, helping encourage muscle growth.4 Concurrently, muscle fibers are rebuilt. These processes are a normal part of the exercise, and recovery allows the muscles to become stronger. Fluid restoration is also key, as it helps deliver nutrients to organs and muscles through the bloodstream. And acids (via that hydrogen proton associated with lactate) accumulate during workouts–so recovery provides time for the body to restore intramuscular pH and blood flow for oxygen delivery.

In-season, professional triathlete, Kelsey Withrow, is laser-focused on training. When she’s not training, it’s all about recovery.

“As a professional triathlete, I focus all my time on swimming, running and biking. The rest of the time is for recovery.”
-Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete

Even though cross training is meant to give the body a break from regular training, it’s still is a source of stress and requires recovery time (or you might burnout). For most athletes, it’s difficult to slow down. Many of us are goal-oriented, hardworking and ultimately–a bit stubborn. Budgeting recovery time is essential, as is providing your body with the necessary fuel to recover properly.

Supplementing recovery may help expedite that process and get you back in the saddle faster. HVMN Ketone has been shown to improve recovery by decreasing the breakdown of intramuscular glycogen and protein during exercise (when compared to carbs alone).5 It also expedited the resynthesis of glycogen by 60% and protein by 2x when added to a normal post-workout carb or protein nutrition.6,5

Doing the same exercise can be mentally exhausting, leading to mental fatigue that wears down on your desire to even do the workout. Research has shown that the mind is usually a good gauge of the body,7 with a mental strain reported by a questionnaire being closely related to stress signals in the hormones of the body. By switching it up with cross-training, and also ensuring rest days, the mind will get a chance to recharge too.

Cross Training Exercises
Now is the time to incorporate cross-training workouts. The exercises below touch on several different areas of exercise, from strength training to both low-impact and impact aerobic activities.

You can begin by folding in some additional exercises to your existing workouts. Runners may try hills or cyclists may try 30-second sprints–this isn’t cross-training exactly, it’s just extra training. The benefits of cross training come with learning something new and focusing on different areas of the body that regular training can neglect.

Try working some of these exercises into your routine. It’s important to pick which is best for your personal needs.

Swimming
Benefits: Aerobic and cardio workout without the joint or muscle impact

Concerns: Technical ability can limit the quality of training

How to try it: Ensure you have the proper equipment (goggles, swim cap, fins, etc.), check lane times at your local pool, familiarize yourself with technique

A great whole body workout, swimming is one of the low-impact exercises most often used for recovery or cross training. Interestingly, reports show many people enjoy water-based exercise more than land-based exercise.8

Swimming works the whole body; it increases heart rate without the joint-pounding stress of running, it builds endurance and can also build and tone muscle. Because of these benefits, it’s a great option for recovery–a study showed that patients with osteoarthritis showed reduced stiffness, joint pain, and overall less physical limitation.9

It also torches calories. Swimming has shown improved body weight and body fat distribution when compared to walking.10 An average person can burn almost 450 calories when swimming at a low or moderate pace for one hour. At an increased pace, that could go north of 700 calories. For comparison, running for one hour at a leisurely pace burns about 400 calories.

Outside of the aerobic benefits, swimming (and water training, like deep-water running) has shown to improve cardiovascular health and lung capacity.11,12,13

To incorporate swimming into your cross-training routine, first find a place to swim. Then gather the necessary tools (like goggles, swim cap, fins, etc.), and brush up on the form before jumping in the pool. Try it one to three times a week for 30 minutes to start.

Cycling
Benefits: Low impact, aerobic, and strength building

Concerns: Risk of injury and cost of equipment

How to try it: For outdoor cycling, get a bike properly fitted and map your cycling route. Or find a bike / spin class at your local gym. For beginners, try cycling 45 minutes to an hour

Another low impact workout, cycling is a great way to reduce stress on those joint while still clocking in the aerobic hours.

Similar to swimming, cycling burns calories at an impressive clip, anywhere from 400 – 1,000 per hour depending on the intensity of the ride. And since cycling is also a resistance exercise, it’s not just burning fat–it also builds muscle.

A systematic review analyzed the benefits of cycling, showcasing a myriad of results. There was a positive relationship between cycling and cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiovascular fitness, and general fitness.14 Whether on the road, the track, or in the gym on a stationary bike, the benefits of cycling as a cross-training mechanism stem from the fact it’s a low impact, muscle building, aerobic workout. It can help athletes train if they have experienced an injury.

There are several ways to train on a bicycle. You can ride hills to build muscle and strength, or do shorter sprints to build speed. There’s also an option for endurance, with riders cycling hundreds or thousands of miles over the course of a long session. For beginners, get a feel for the workout on a stationary bike. As you advance, visit a local bike shop to get your bike properly fitted.

Strength Training
Benefits: Increased muscle strength, bone density, injury prevention, mental health

Concerns: Improper form and too much weight can lead to injury

How to try it: Find a gym with the proper equipment and build a training plan, picking exercises that target both the upper and lower body.

Many endurance athletes don’t consider strength training as part of their workout routine, but it can help prevent injury while improving strength for your main sport. For runners, maybe that’s improved core strength for economy. For cyclists, maybe the outcome is a higher power output. Regardless of your sport, strength training is imperative to improving endurance for runners15 and cyclists.

In a study of postmenopausal women, high-intensity strength training exercises showed preserved bone density while improving muscle mass, strength and balance.16 It can also help prevent injury. In a study of soccer players who strength trained in the offseason, hamstring strains were lower (and that group also saw increases in strength and speed).17

“You spend so much time beating your body down in-season, but I find that I’m healthier and stronger when I lift. With long distance, being strong helps. I try to put on a lot of muscle during a short period of time.”
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete

The mental benefits of resistance training have also been documented; studies have shown it improves anxiety and depression.18,19

A good strength training regimen will focus separately on different muscle groups. There are several options for lifters of all different levels, but starting with some simple bodyweight exercises (like push-ups or pull-ups) can allow you to build toward free weight training, weight machines, or rubber tubing. A meta-analysis of periodized training–varying your strength training workouts–has shown results for greater changes in strength, motor performance and lean body mass.20 So don’t get stuck doing the same routine over and over again. A good way to push yourself is to incorporate overload training into some of that strength work.

If you’re strapped for time, a full-body workout once or twice a week (with dedicated recovery time) should suffice. Make sure to also spend some time nailing down form in the weight room, as improper form and too much weight can lead to injury.

Yoga
Benefits: Increased strength, mobility, flexibility, and mood

Concerns: Improper form can lead to injury

How to try it: Find a studio and pick a class level that’s appropriate for your skill level.

An ancient practice designed to create a union between the body and mind, many athletes seek out yoga for its ability to increase strength and flexibility while also promoting mental health benefits.

Yoga can improve performance by targeting specific aspects of flexibility and balance–one study, which took place over the course of 10 weeks in male collegiate athletes, saw improvements in both balance and flexibility.21 In older adults, studies have shown improved balance and mobility.22 Strength is also a target of many yoga programs, especially in the core. Even a study in which a specific pose (sun salutation) was used six days per week for 24 weeks, participants saw increased upper body strength, weight loss and endurance.23

But with yoga, the body is only half the game. It has been shown to decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone),24 along with the ability to lower levels of depression, stress, and anxiety.25 There have even been studies which showed overall quality of life improvements in seniors.26 Maybe part of these mental benefits are linked to better sleep quality. One study illustrated that a group participating in yoga fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning.27

Yoga isn’t an aerobic workout, but it stretches muscles, builds strength and has been shown to improve mood. Because it’s low-impact, yoga can be done every day. Typically gyms or studios have beginner classes, and they will typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. Athletes can use yoga as recovery days, so between one and three sessions per week would be perfect.

Remember: listen to your body. Athletes always want to push the limit, and many may scoff that yoga is difficult (compared, say, to running). But extending a stretch too far, or practicing yoga without learning form, can lead to injury.

Other Exercises
There are different activities that may be considered cross training, outside of the usual suspects we detailed above.

Hiking, for example, is a great way to build strength and get outside during a recovery day. Same goes with exercises like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding28–these can help build upper body strength while encouraging an athlete to get out of their comfort zone (literally, and figuratively).

“I spend a lot of time training indoors, so getting outside is a lot of fun. I’ll do one long run per week outside, and I’ll bring my dog. It’s a reset for me.”
Kelsey Withrow, professional triathlete

We wouldn’t recommend team sports because there’s a risk of injury. But tennis might be an exception. While there are of course injury concerns with every sport and exercise, tennis has shown to improve aerobic fitness, lower body fat percentage, reduce risk for developing cardiovascular disease and improve bone health.29

For more passive cross training, think about everyday things you can do to improve strength and balance. Even investing in a standing desk, or sitting on a medicine ball at work can encourage better posture and more movement overall.

Cross Training for Athletes
During peak training season, athletes feel the grind. You’re putting in the hours with a race or event or goal in mind, laboring over the same path, the same laps, the same routine, with little variance.

Cross training is meant to serve as a break, but one that’s productive. It can be a break from your normal routine, both physically and mentally. But it can also invigorate the mind, providing it with a new task to learn, a new challenge to face. And of course, the physical benefits of testing the body in new ways are evident.

To incorporate cross training, try one or more of these exercises a couple times a week. See how you feel. You’ll likely find one you enjoy more than others, one that maybe provides better results than the rest. It’ll take some time to find a balance.

What’s your cross training routine? Let us know in the comments and share your experience.

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Scientific Citations

1. Van mechelen W. Running injuries. A review of the epidemiological literature. Sports Med. 1992;14(5):320-35.
2. Mikkola J, Vesterinen V, Taipale R, Capostagno B, Häkkinen K, Nummela A. Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular performance in recreational endurance runners. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(13):1359-71.
3. Yamamoto, Linda M; Lopez, Rebecca M; Klau, Jennifer F; Casa, Douglas J; Kraemer, William J; Maresh, Carl M. The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: November 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 6 – p 2036-2044 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318185f2f0.
4. MacDougall JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDonald JR, Interisano SA, Yarasheski KE. The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6.

5. Holdsworth, D.A., Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Stradling, H., Impey, S.G., and Clarke, K. (2017). A Ketone Ester Drink Increases Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Synthesis in Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc.
6. Vandoorne, T., De Smet, S., Ramaekers, M., Van Thienen, R., De Bock, K., Clarke, K., and Hespel, P. (2017). Intake of a Ketone Ester Drink during Recovery from Exercise Promotes mTORC1 Signaling but Not Glycogen Resynthesis in Human Muscle. Front. Physiol. 8, 310.
7. Steinacker JM, Lormes W, Kellmann M, et al. Thaining of junior rowers before world championships. Effects on performance, mood state and selected hormonal and metabolic responses. J SPORTS MED PHYS FTTNESS 2000;40:327-35.
8. Lotshaw AM, Thompson M, Sadowsky HS, Hart MK, Millard MW. Quality of life and physical performance in land- and water-based pulmonary rehabilitation. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev. 2007;27(4):247-51.
9. Alkatan M, Baker JR, Machin DR, et al. Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol. 2016;43(3):666-72.
10. Cox KL, Burke V, Beilin LJ, Puddey IB. A comparison of the effects of swimming and walking on body weight, fat distribution, lipids, glucose, and insulin in older women–the Sedentary Women Exercise Adherence Trial 2. Metab Clin Exp. 2010;59(11):1562-73.
11. Broman G, Quintana M, Engardt M, Gullstrand L, Jansson E, Kaijser L. Older women’s cardiovascular responses to deep-water running. J Aging Phys Act. 2006;14(1):29-40.
12. Cider A, Sveälv BG, Täng MS, Schaufelberger M, Andersson B. Immersion in warm water induces improvement in cardiac function in patients with chronic heart failure. Eur J Heart Fail. 2006;8(3):308-13.
13. Sable M, Vaidya SM, Sable SS. Comparative study of lung functions in swimmers and runners. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012;56(1):100-4.
14. Oja P, Titze S, Bauman A, et al. Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011;21(4):496-509.
15. Hoff J. Maximal Strength Training Enhances Running Economy and Aerobic Endurance Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2001; Volume 33 ,Issue 5, p S270
16. Miriam E. Nelson, PhD; Maria A. Fiatarone, MD; Christina M. Morganti, MD; et al. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;141(5):428.
17. Askling C, Karlsson J, Thorstensson A. Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2003; 13(4);244-250
18. Gordon BR, Mcdowell CP, Hallgren M, Meyer JD, Lyons M, Herring MP. Association of Efficacy of Resistance Exercise Training With Depressive Symptoms: Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018;75(6):566-576.
19. Gordon, B.R., McDowell, C.P., Lyons, M. et al. Sports Med (2017) 47: 2521. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0769-0
20. Fleck SJ. Periodized Strength Training: A Critical Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1999l;13(1).
21. M Jay Polsgrove, Brandon M Eggleston, and Roch J Lockyer. Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun; 9(1): 27–34. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.171710
22. Tiedemann A, O’rourke S, Sesto R, Sherrington C. A 12-week Iyengar yoga program improved balance and mobility in older community-dwelling people: a pilot randomized controlled trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013;68(9):1068-75.
23. Bhutkar MV, Bhutkar PM, Taware GB, Surdi AD. How effective is sun salutation in improving muscle strength, general body endurance and body composition?. Asian J Sports Med. 2011;2(4):259-66.
24. Katuri KK, Dasari AB, Kurapati S, Vinnakota NR, Bollepalli AC, Dhulipalla R. Association of yoga practice and serum cortisol levels in chronic periodontitis patients with stress-related anxiety and depression. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016;6(1):7-14.
25. Michalsen A, Grossman P, Acil A, et al. Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program. Med Sci Monit. 2005;11(12):CR555-561.
26. Oken BS, Zajdel D, Kishiyama S, et al. Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: effects on cognition and quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006;12(1):40-7.
27. Manjunath NK, Telles S. Influence of Yoga and Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population. Indian J Med Res. 2005;121(5):683-90.
28. Schram B, Hing W, Climstein M. The physiological, musculoskeletal and psychological effects of stand up paddle boarding. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2016;8:32.
29. Pluim BM, Staal JB, Marks BL, Miller S, Miley D. Health benefits of tennis. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(11):760-8.

Elementor #7445

 
 
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Episode #59 Mark Divine on how to live your life The Way of the SEAL

THE BASICS

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Next Level Guy Show podcast, with your host Ian Dawson Mackay. The show is a a men’s interview, interest and improvement focused podcast and website where I interview the greats from all industries to help others better their lives.  

Today’s guest is Mark Divine, who is a former SEAL, whose experience and expertise had the American Government task him with creating a nationwide mentoring program for SEAL trainees.  Not only did it increase the quality of SEAL candidates, it reduced BUD/S attrition rate up to five percent. He is an author and creator of the SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind website and podcast. Mark is an accomplished martial artist with black belts in Seido and Goju Ryu Karate, a military hand-to-hand combat certification in SCARS, and senior ranking in Saito Ninjitsu. He is a trained Ashtanga Yoga teacher and created the innovative Unbeatable KOKORO Yoga program taught to his students. We will be focusing on his awesome book ‘The Way of the SEAL’ but this interview will allow you to utilise the SEAL way of life to allow you to achieve your own goals. 

A quick word about the affiliates before we get to the interview… Before we get into that, a quick word about our affiliates. I’ve managed to build up some great relationships with some awesome companies. This allows me to obtain special discount codes, deals, and listener exclusive. Please go to www.nextlevelguy.com/affiliates for further info. I’m using my Kindle that I got from Amazon daily, recently I have been catching up on TV series using Amazon Prime, which offers great films and shows. I have been loving my new super soft Under Armour boxers, which have replaced all my underwear, they fit great, don’t ride up and give support and comfort in all the right places. If you are hitting up Onnit or Barbell Apparell, then use my discount code of ‘NEXTLEVELGUY’ to get 10% off your order. For others, I am particularly loving the ‘The Natural’ the pick up video guidance course by RSD Max, which aims to help you become a natural with women. I am recently single again and this is pumping up my confidence and showing me the skills I need to meet fantastic women and get the dates and girlfriend I want, desire and deserve. Ross Edgley’s awesome new book ‘The World’s Fittest Book’ is another reread just now in anticipation of his new tour. In the book he provides awesome advice on training, health, nutrition and building successful lives and in which is the philosophy and tactics he has used to just finish swimming around the UK without going on dry land once (living on a boat till completion when not swimming). Tickets to his tour are available now and imo it is a must attend.

There are so many other great offers from My Protein, Under Armour, The Protein Works, Bulletproof Coffee, Me Undies, Gainz Box, Dollar Shave Club and so many more. For all of the free trials and special deals etc on these and so much more, check out www.nextlevelguy.com/affiliates. There is something for everyone, the perfect gift for family or yourself, regardless of the occasion. New deals and offers are added all the time, so please keep an eye on this page and use and share as you want, all commissions are spent on improving the website 

I hope you have as much fun listening to this one as I did during the interview. Enjoy!

LISTEN HERE

WHAT WE COVER

  • Who is he?
  • How his childhood made him who he is today
  • His inspiration or turning point for joining the military
  • How important are mentors to men in their life and pursuit of goals?
  • Why does he think men abuse drink and drugs and how can this be changed
  • What was his inspiration for writing the book – what did he hope to achieve from it?
  • The additional training that he provides that helps make the SEALS so successful
  • Does he have any favourite client transformations
  • Where do men go wrong when they read self-improvement books?
  • How can you become SEAL-like in the fastest way possible? How should you use the book to get the most from it?
  • How can we find our why in life – how do we discover our purpose?
  • Where should you start with transforming your life to become more SEAL-like?
  • The two wolfs within you and how which one you feed, dictates how you act
  • The importance of situational awareness and why you need to develop it
  • The mantra that got him through SEAL training
  • What would he want someone to use his book to focus on and work towards in the next six months?
  • What does he want people to take from this interview?
  • What is an unusual fact about him that surprises other people?
  • How can you keep in touch with Mark?

SOME THINGS TO REFLECT ON

  • Travel can help change you and make you a different person. Experiencing new cultures, and having new experiences can accelerate your learning and growth as a person. 
  • Mark mentions how a positive role model changed him and set him on his path of success today. Who could you look to as a mentor in your life? How could you ask for their help and work with them to achieve your goals?
  • It is OK not to have everything figured out and to ask for help. You can learn as you go, develop as you go along your life and ask for advice and move between domains etc. You don’t need to have a perfect plan, you just need to start. Start now, start today and work towards your goals.
  • Regret is the worst pain imaginable. Don’t go through life ‘second-guessing yourself’. Pick your goals and go for it. On your deathbed you will know that you gave it your best and not die with your best still in you.
  • We all deal with loss and suffering. However, you do not need to act on emotion as the same as the majority. You can learn to use emotions to your advantage and control yourself in all aspects, to ’embrace the suck’ and you can use these negative experiences as a positive instead and learn from them. 
  • You need to learn how to calm distractions and learn to truly focus your mind, to learn what your true purpose is in life 
  • What would be your mantra to use daily to initiate flow state within yourself?
  • What you see for yourself in your minds eye, is what you will become – what do you see for yourself?
  • Don’t just ‘get by in life’. Do the work and find your balance point, and go for your goals. You will be surprised at how far you can go in life. Stop wasting time and get achieveing. 

LINKS YOU WILL NEED TO CONNECT WITH THE GUEST

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