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Efficient Cross Training

photo by fang guo, via flickr creative commons

photo by fang guo, via flickr creative commons

Ever since having kids, I’ve optimized weekday workouts for efficiency over natural beauty, variety, and (unfortunately) even peak enjoyment.  This has all-too-often translated into getting up, bolting out the door for a run, coming home, and going directly into the shower (no stretching, no ice, no passing go, no collecting $200).  Efficient?  Yes.  Sustainable?  No.

The main risks of a training regimen that is this repetitive are 1) boredom, 2) plateau (seeing limited improvement in performance), and 3) injuries.  This was my trifecta, and last summer, injuries forced me to return to do more cross training to build strength and use a wider range of muscles. The challenge was to find workouts that offered the same “high” in a short time (ideally 45 minutes or less), and to my surprise, there were tons of great options.  With the proliferation of boutique fitness studios and gyms trying to stay competitive with them, there is no shortage of interesting, efficient, whole-body workouts. Beyond Tabata (see last month’s post), here are some of my favorite ways to get the best bang for my cross training buck:

  • TRX: Developed by former Navy SEAL, TRX training involves a set of straps hanging from the ceiling (you can hang them in your garage to do TRX on your own, or go to a formal class for an extra push).  The underlying philosophy is that “no part of the body is an island onto itself,” and the movements challenge the entire body in every plane of motion (think push-ups with your feet dangling from the ceiling, lunges while you work your arms at the same time).  As a result, your core is engaged throughout the whole workout, making it amazing for building both strength and stamina.  Great for: people looking to build core strength quickly, experienced exercisers, individual or group exercisers.  Classes usually have a great balance of men and women (a rarity for group exercise).
  • Shadow Boxing: I was introduced to shadow boxing in New York City, and I’m still convinced it’s the most efficient and effective workout there is.  Boxing movements coupled with jump roping are amazing for core strength, stability, and cardio (the first few times I did full boxing classes, I couldn’t even lift my hands to wash my hair in the shower)!  Great for: people who like high-energy workouts, people who can keep a beat (I had to work on this quite a bit), any fitness level.
  • Plyometrics: Plyometric exercises are fast, powerful exercises designed to build speed, quickness and power.  Examples include jumping up and down off a box, jumping forward and backward, and switch-leg lunges.  Great for: athletes, people with a workout buddy or personal trainer (these can be tough to motivate to do on your own), people interested in building lower body strength.
  • Sports Conditioning/Boot Camp Classes: These classes are offered at gyms and increasingly, in boutique exercise studios (I just tried a great one in Palo Alto called Xercise Lab, and I also loved Barry’s Boot Camp in New York City).  They basically combine instructor-led cardio and weight training exercises to challenge your body with a wide variety of movements.  Great for: people who like high-energy workouts, experienced weight lifters, any fitness level.

Re-focusing on cross training reminded me that efficiency can come in lots of different shapes and sizes (although for me, step classes are out….I wiped out in one when I was pregnant and can’t seem to get myself to give it another shot).  What works for you?  Whether it’s a new fitness craze or an old standby, at home or at the gym, what are your favorite ways to get a good workout done in under an hour?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gavin Woody #

    Crossfit! I’ve been going on and off for about 6 months. I know there are horror stories out there about people getting hurt, but the trainers at my gym are super focused on proper form. And I rarely do the prescribed weight when it comes to the barbell exercises–don’t need to throw out my back… Definitely a kick-a$$ workout in an hour…

    January 22, 2013
    • Thanks for the post, Gavin. I need to give crossfit a try. Have always been nervous about the heavy weights/injury, but want to see what it’s all about!

      January 22, 2013

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