Overcoming Exercise Autopilot

Humans are creatures of habit. People often move through their lives on autopilot, plodding through the same activities day in and day out. Once in a comfort zone, it can be difficult to change. Typically, this behavior transfers to exercise programs. People tend to get comfortable on one type of machine or in a specific class and repeatedly perform the same routine, on the same days, at the same level of intensity, for the same amount of time, over and over again. Eventually, this can result in exercise plateaus, boredom and even injury.

The solution to overcoming exercise autopilot is cross training. Cross training also offers benefits for fitness facilities by encouraging the use of a variety of equipment and participation in different activities.

Cross-training defined

What does cross training mean? No single program or definition completely defines cross training. Historically, college professors taught that cross training, which also was called contralateral exercise, was a technique used to limit the amount of atrophy in an injured limb. Trainers would tape an athlete’s healthy leg to a stationary bicycle pedal while the injured leg was propped up on a stool.

When exercising the healthy limb, the body sends impulses to the brain and spinal cord as it normally does; then the spinal cord sends stimuli to both sides of the body, including the injured limb — a natural neurological response to exercise.

This response causes the injured limb to atrophy less and to recover more quickly due to regular stimulation to an otherwise inactive area.

But cross training has another, newer definition. In the fitness world, cross-training means varying fitness activities either within the same workout or on different exercise days. For instance, running for 10 minutes, cycling for 10 minutes and using an elliptical machine for 10 minutes is one way to cross-train. Cross training can also mean swimming on Mondays, taking a group cycling class on Wednesdays and lifting weights on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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