Cross-training is defined as an exercise protocol that utilizes several modes of training that are outside the athlete’s main sport to develop a specific component of fitness. 1 Cross-training is a way to vary your fitness program by combining different types of exercise activities. An ideal cross-training routine incorporates cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises like yoga or Pilates. Benefits of cross-training include full body conditioning; improving skill, agility, and balance; flexibility in training plans; and the opportunity to continue training while injured. 2 The goal is to improve overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of one training method to negate the shortcomings of another. 3
My Cross-training Journey
In 2021, I decided to start training for my first Triathlon, an athletic contest consisting of three different events, typically swimming, cycling, and long-distance running. Prior to 2021, I had participated in and finished 11+ marathons across five different cities: Lagos, Accra, Cotonou, Nairobi, Toronto, and Ottawa. In 2022, I started incorporating swimming, cycling, and pickleball into my training regimen. Cross-training really helped me to get more focused and deliberate with my training regimen. There were days I did not feel like running, but because I had other sports to fall back on, I did go to the gym almost every day.
In 2022 4, I ran six full marathons and three 10 KM marathons and I also reduced my personal best for a 42.2KM marathon from 3:59 to 3:44. My cross-training habit helped me build my stamina, and endurance while staying consistent throughout the year. In 2023, I ran nine full marathons, two half marathons, and one 10 KM race, taking the total amount of marathon run between 2022-2023 to 15 Full Marathons, two half-marathons and four 10KM marathons. At the 2023 GMS Queen City Marathon in Regina, Saskatchewan 5, I ran a personal best of 3 hours 20 minutes for a full marathon, which is 24 minutes reduction from the 3 hours 44 minutes that I previously ran at the Beneva Montreal Marathon in 2022.
I attribute my being able to reduce my marathon finish time by 24 minutes mostly to my cross-training regimen. The various sports that I participate in help me work on different muscle groups and also help me stay active during the winter months. I have since included other sports such as Volleyball, Badminton, and Soccer in my training regimen in 2023. Cross-training has been life-transformative for me and it is also in alignment with my goal-stacking regimen6. Whenever I am training across these various sports, I also use it as an opportunity to either listen to an audiobook, listen to a podcast, listen to a French audio program/podcast, or read from Amazon Kindle Gadget. As a result of my cross-training regimen, I have been able to stay consistent with my fitness goals, run 15 full marathons in 2 years in the process reducing my personal best to 3:20, improve my French listening skills, and ultimately build my endurance and stamina.
As a result of my cross-training regimen, I have become more confident in my abilities to achieve anything that I set my mind to do. I strongly believe that how you do one thing is how you do everything. In 2024, I intend to participate in my first triathlon, ultramarathon, qualify for the Boston Marathon, and run a sub-3 hours time for a full marathon. To achieve these new goals, I would have to train consistently over a long period of time across multiple sports and keep showing up daily. As the saying goes, “We play the way we train”, if you cannot do it in training, it is going to be hard to do it on race day.
In his memoir, Invention: A Life, British inventor, industrial designer, and entrepreneur James Dyson describes the impact of cross-training in his life and how engaging in different activities helped him build his character, his business and ultimately navigate the vicissitudes of life. He writes:
It was playing games, however, that taught me the need to train hard and to understand teamwork and tactics. The planning of surprise tactics, and the ability to adapt to circumstance, are vital life lessons. These virtues are unlikely to be learned from academic life and certainly not from learning by rote Acting in plays, which I very much enjoyed, taught me about character, learning to express thoughts and to emphasize dramatically in speech. Long-distance running allowed me the freedom to roam the wilds of Norfolk while depending on no one but myself. Running also taught me to overcome the pain barrier: when everyone else feels exhausted, that is the opportunity to accelerate, whatever the pain, and win the race. Stamina and determination along with creativity are needed in overcoming seemingly impossible difficulties in research and other challenges in life.
In Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, Journalist and Runner Alex Hutchinson describes the cross-training regimen of Stéphane Mifsud, the current record holder in static apnea, The Frenchman on a Monday afternoon in 2009 managed to stay submerged in his local pool for a hard-to-fathom 11 minutes and 35 seconds. Hutchinson writes:
Mifsud trains like an endurance athlete, putting in months of running, cycling, and swimming, including grueling Ironman triathlons. Only after his aerobic fitness is sharpened does he move to what he calls the “apprentice fish” stage, adding 30-second breath-holds to his cycling, repeated 20 times with a 15-second break between each one. Eventually, he moves into the water, spending as much as two hours, out of a six-hour training day, without breathing. His lung capacity is a remarkable 11 liters.
- Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Pausing
- During times when we are really busy, tired, or stressed, we react to triggers more swiftly. When we are stressed we are more susceptible to reacting without thinking. Stopping to pause allows for a brief space between a trigger and our response. Purposeful breathing acts as a break to the sympathetic nervous system and helps our emotional mind calm down and think clearly,
- Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Spread the Light
- Writer Edith Wharton once said: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Most of the time, we try to be the candle, we do whatever we can to spread our own light but we can also be the mirror, Mirroring magnifies because it encourages people to lean into the good they are doing and amplify their positive traits.
- We often underestimate the impact that we have on other people but your appreciative words and actions have the power to make someone’s day, even to change their life.
- MULTI-MILLIONAIRE Entrepreneur Tells ALL Her Secrets! “Trusting My GUT Made Me $255 Million” – Alli Web on Jay Shetty Podcast.
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.