Swimmers should cycle. Runners should bike. Cyclists should do aerobics. On days off, do something differently.
You have heard it or perhaps even tried it. Little by little, people are finding out it is a bad idea. Here’s why. . . .
The best workouts are the ones which are specific to the sport or specific to the event. To prepare for a 5K, running intervals at a fast (almost 5K) pace is better than a 10 milers. Running is better than biking at preparing for running competitions. Biking is better than running when a century ride is in the future.
Athletes are slowly but surely drawing the conclusion that cross training is a not only a waste of time, it is detrimental to their sport. The pros already know this.
One main idea is that a cross training workout does not prepare you for the specific neuromuscular demands of your sport. Why? The musculoskeletal system and nervous systems work in contrasting ways in different sports, with differing accents on various muscle groups.
The second main idea is that for most people, time is a prime factor. If you are cross-training, you are taking time away from your main sport or from your rest period. You are also increasing the risk of injury and of burnout.
Stretching and weight training are a great addition to any training program but this is much different from cross training. Both a stretching and a strength program should be geared toward your given sport, not just a generalize stretch or weight lifting plan. The former needs to focus on main and support muscles used in your given sport. The latter, aside from these same principles, needs to involve low repetitions and heavy weights. (If you are doing light weights and high reps, you are wasting your time and energy.)
If you are looking to simply exercise, get in shape or have fun, cross training is ideal. It is fun while challenging, and you can use the variety as a way of “testing” to see which events, sports or activities you enjoy the most. Think of it as an exercise buffet.
If you are an athlete involved in a specific sport looking for a specific result, cross training is a bad idea. Work on your skill set. That is the best way to maximize your time.