Offseason Cross-Training Tips

Fun
We tend to think of fun as being independent of improvement in sports, but fun contributes to improvement, mainly by boosting motivation. During the competitive season of any sport your options for keeping the training process fun are limited, but in the off-season you can go wild.

At least once a week throughout your six-week off-season cross-training program, participate in an activity purely for the fun of it. Your pick should be intense enough to count as exercise (checkers isn't), but otherwise there are no limits, and you can even choose a different activity every week. Consider indoor rock climbing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, a hip-hop dance class, pickup basketball, ice skating, martial arts, and the like.

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Six-Week Offseason Cross-Training Schedule

Following is a basic six-week off-season cross-training schedule. It includes six workouts per week: aerobic cross-training workouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; core strength workouts on Wednesday and Sunday; and a just-for-fun workout on Friday. Monday is a rest day.

The specific activities you participate in within each category are up to you. Use the sport-specific guidelines previously discussed to pick your aerobic cross-training activity (or activities). Your core strength workout can be circuit strength training, yoga, Pilates or something similar.

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Get specific workout guidelines from a trusted resource such as a licensed and experienced personal trainer. And, again, your fun activity (or activities) should be just that!

Do some dynamic stretches either as a warm-up before your cardio workouts or between strength exercises in your core workouts, or both.

The progression guidelines are fairly straightforward. In the core workouts, you'll begin by doing six individual exercises once each. You'll progress by adding exercises and by repeating them. By week six you'll repeat an eight-move circuit three times.

Cardio workouts are prescribed in levels:

  • Level 1: Relatively short (20 minutes) and of moderately low intensity (easy conversational pace).
  • Level 2: Moderate in both duration (30 to 40 minutes) and intensity (breathing is slightly labored).
  • Level 3: Moderately challenging in either its duration (45 minutes to an hour) or intensity (conversation labored).
  • Level 4: Truly challenging in either duration (more than an hour) and/or intensity (conversation not possible).

Core workouts can include a Pilates or yoga class, or circuit training with a mix of exercises, including the following: dead lift, Russian twist*, forward lunge, stability ball crunch, lower back hyperextension, side lunge, reverse crunch.

*Russian twist: Lie on your back with your legs bent 60 to 90 degrees and your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Keeping your knees together, lower your legs toward the floor on the right side. Go as far as you can without lifting your left shoulder blade off the floor. Return to the starting position and twist to the left side.


Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat. Sun.

Week 1 Off Cardio Level 1 Core,
6 moves
1 circuit
Cardio Level 1 Fun Cardio Level 1 Core,
6 moves
1 circuit
 

Week 2 Off Cardio Level 2 Core,
8 moves
1 circuit Cardio Level 1 Fun Cardio Level 2 Core,
8 moves
1 circuit
Week 3 Off Cardio Level 3 Core,
6 moves
2 circuits Cardio Level 2 Fun Cardio Level 3 Core,
6 moves
2 circuits
Week 4 Off Cardio Level 2 Core,
8 moves
2 circuits Cardio Level 2 Fun Cardio Level 2 Core,
8 moves
2 circuits
Week 5 Off Cardio Level 3 Core,
6 moves
3 circuits Cardio Level 3 Fun Cardio Level 3 Core,
6 moves
3 circuits
Week 6 Off Cardio Level 4 Core,
8 moves
3 circuits Cardio Level 3 Fun Cardio Level 4 Core,
8 moves
3 circuits

Matt Fitzgerald is the author, most recently, of Runner's World Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005), The Cutting-Edge Runner (Rodale, 2005) and Runner's World Guide to Cross-Training (Rodale, 2004).

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