Fall Into Cross Training: Benefits of Incorporating Multiple Modalities of Fitness for Adults, Athletes & More

October 2022

By Ashleigh Boyce, High School Teacher, Fitness Instructor, Coach


While some of us are clinging to the remnants of the summer season, there are many of us looking forward to the beginning of fall; a time that can serve as a fresh start for those who may have fallen off track in the summer with workout routines, healthy eating, and daily regimens. Life is about balance, right?

The fall is the start of a new school year, which can have many of us, especially teachers, parents, and students, getting back into our typical routines. This may include our usual meal preps, work routines, and fitness regimens structured mainly around these schedules. This fall you may be looking to get back to your yoga studio, or back into the gym to lift more frequently and while following the same routines can provide us with structure and consistency, sometimes we miss the benefits that can be provided to us by a workout program that encompasses more than one fitness element. As I mentioned, life is about balance.

For anyone looking to add recovery to their fitness routine, a new way to lose weight or gain muscle, or anyone looking to just switch things up and keep things exciting, cross-training may be the move for you; a balance between your typical routine and the introduction of something new.

Cross-training, simply put, is the incorporation of multiple modalities of fitness. It could be combining your high-intensity interval training or favorite cardio style class with a barre or swim workout. It could be incorporating your slow yoga flows with heavy strength training sessions. Adding in these multiple modalities of fitness can have a variety of benefits for the average person, as well as top athletes. Dr. Jeremy Paster, PT, DPT, shares that “the most important aspect to training is finding a routine that you enjoy, allowing for consistency over a long period of time. Cross training can be a great way to prevent monotony in your training while providing quality movement that can help prevent overuse type injuries.” These important factors can help adults, as well as young athletes, tap into physical activity that promotes an enjoyment of fitness and sports, along with a lifelong development of varying, but quality movement.

For your student-athletes or lifelong athletes, engaging in athletic events or activities other than their primary sports can have a great benefit in the long run. According to Nick Zaneto M.ED, ATC, CSCS, “GOATA training can benefit any athlete who is looking to improve in any sport. This type of cross-training focuses on injury prevention and fixing human biomechanics. As most student athletes and office worker sit down for long periods of the day, the body degrades and needs to re-code in the gym with proper movement patterns.” Nick is an athletic trainer who sees youth athletes on a daily basis and his insight into athletic injury prevention is one that can be beneficial to understanding the importance of cross-training. According to Nick, “the multi-sport athlete is a dying breed but I have seen as an athletic trainer, the athlete that plays multiple sports is more injury resistant. Those that train all year round are more injury resistant to those that take time off.” Cross-training can provide athletes with an opportunity to not only stay in shape for their seasons but provide them with an opportunity to develop healthy competitiveness (think more fun, less stress) with supplemental sports and activities.

As you head into workouts each week, whether it be a program you’re following or your local gym classes, the workouts can grow monotonous even with the best trainers and instructors in the game. Changing up your routine by adding in supplemental training or other classes can help to keep workouts fun and exciting. While some classes may feel out of your comfort zone, pushing through for the sake of your health can be a game changer.

If you’re looking to break through plateaus with the goal of leaning out or building muscle for a specific aesthetic look, Personal Training Manager at The Fort Athletic Club, Steve Gallagher, finds that “more people want to look like athletes and more specifically, they want to have the bodies of elite level basketball players, sprinters, or any athlete that performs a sport that has a hybrid of speed, power, and finesse. In order to create this aesthetic, I need to train my gen-pop members as if they were athletes by incorporating cross training.” It is important to consider your goals when choosing a cross-training program. Goals not only help us to stay motivated and accountable but also determine the outcome within our bodies. Steve Gallagher adds that “our choices in compound muscles will yield a higher heart rate, train type II muscle fibers (fast twitch), and help expedite fat loss. When our members only have 2-4 hours a week to put to their fitness, being able to cram as much motion as possible while helping the member get to a goal more effectively will always be the better solution.” With many of us in a time crunch, cross-training can help us to incorporate more effective movements in our often limited time.

One of the biggest benefits of cross-training is giving our muscles the opportunity for some much-needed recovery and rehabilitation time. Repetitive training can cause injuries and issues due to overuse. Developing a cross-training program to allow time to target other muscle groups can help avoid nagging or severe injuries. According to Dr. Jeremy Paster PT, DPT, variability is a term used to describe the small differences (or variations) within our movement across different tasks. Variability is essential to prevent repetitive stress applied to a focal area of the body. Essentially, the importance of variability can be defined as, while there is no ‘one way to move,’ the problem is when we move ‘only one way.’” Dr. Jeremy continues on to say that “it is possible to provide movement variability with skilled exercise selection and proper execution, even when using the same mode of training (weight training, yoga, pilates, etc.), however, cross-training can be an effective way to promote different movement patterns while providing different training stimuli.”

For some of us, our goals to incorporate cross-training include a desire to prepare for the future. Nurturing the body through movements that will help protect it throughout our various life stages is extremely important. What we do now in our bodies will have an impact for many years to come. Steve Gallagher explains that “the aging population’s biggest enemy is not cancer or illness. It’s something that we are near every day and take for granted: the floor. Statistically, a person who develops cancer after 65 has a higher chance of survival than an individual who falls and breaks a bone. Our goal is to help our aging populations fight this threat by training power through cross-training modalities. Power is the ability to speed up and slow down. Through jumps, steps, and hops, we can help our members relearn how to create force as well as decelerate it leading to less fear of falling and a longer more prosperous life.” Cross-training can provide the opportunity for our aging populations to grow physically stronger as well as mentally stronger, eliminating some fears that come with growing older.

Cross-training programs deliver many benefits to us, including recovery, motivation, new movement patterns, and plateau breakthroughs, but it also helps our overall mental health. Allowing ourselves the opportunity to explore new activities, adapt to new challenges, and engage in fitness for the sake of enjoyment can provide great benefits for the nervous system, mind, body, and soul. Finding a variety of activities to incorporate into lifelong fitness goals can help to improve the overall quality of life. While exploring different options can help you to find programs that support you as you grow throughout different life stages or as your fitness goals change throughout your lifetime. Fall back into love with your workouts by switching it up with something new.

Interested in developing your own cross-training program?

  • Start simple. Keep your main modality of training, but add in a new style of exercise 1-2 times per week.
  • Engage in exercises that utilize a different skill set and different movements/muscle groups than your typical training
  • Get your friends and family involved by engaging in and exploring any new activities together, whether it be recreational sports or challenging classes
  • Try an exercise style and don’t like it? Don’t quit! There are so many different opportunities to move. If one doesn’t suit you, keep trying on something new until it fits! On the flip side, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone

Our Contributors:

Nick Zaneto M.Ed., ATC, CSCS. Nick currently serves as a health and physical education teacher in Metuchen, while also serving as an ATC on the side and a coach of football, wrestling, and tennis. Nick is currently trained in GOATA, which you can find more information about here: https://www.goatamovement.com/

Jeremy Paster PT, DPT. Jeremy is the founder of Game Changer Physical Therapy located in Freehold, NJ. Dr. Jeremy has worked with NFL, MiLB, Olympic, NWSL, WTA, collegiate and youth athletes of all major sports, weekend warriors, and individuals with chronic, recurring pain. You can check out more about the changes Dr. Jeremy has made in the healthcare world and why Game Changer is a suitable name for Dr. Jeremy’s practice at https://game-changer-physical-therapy.mykajabi.com/

Steve Gallagher, CFSC. Steve has been serving as the Director of Personal Training at The Fort Athletic Club in Oceanport, NJ. You can find him at the club working with members, training youth athletes, and even serving up some pointers on the Pickleball court. Haven’t checked out The Fort yet? Check out this facility that provides endless opportunities for cross-training here: https://fortathleticclub.com/

Photocredit: elenabs

Ashleigh Boyce, High School Teacher, Fitness Instructor, Coach
Ashleigh is a diehard Jersey girl and health enthusiast. Ashleigh grew up as a three-sport athlete and currently is high school health and PE teacher, as well as a fitness instructor and lacrosse coach. Ashleigh came into yoga after two knee surgeries and is a firm believer in finding contentment within our yoga practice as well as outside of it. She believes we should be proud of each step of our journey, enjoying the growth process throughout it, having fun, and not being fearful of challenges. Ashleigh’s love of books, laughing, fitness, and hard work along with her light, fun energy will bring you a flow that challenges you physically, inspires you mentally, and encourages you spiritually.