Because cross-training workouts aren't "one size fits all," you have to think critically about your usual routine to find cross-training activities suited for you. Consider the following tips for choosing a cross-training workout.
Add a Complementary Routine Based on the 5 Components of Fitness
There are five basic components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Most workouts are designed to improve a few of these components, but may not target them all. For instance, cycling, running, and swimming are all wonderful activities for improving cardiovascular endurance, and they can also enhance muscular endurance to a certain extent.
However, they aren't the best activities for building muscular strength or flexibility, and they may or may not contribute to significant improvements in body composition, depending on other cofactors, such as food intake.
When you're trying to pick a cross-training workout, it's a good idea to select a complementary routine that targets one or two of the five components of fitness that you're not already focused on. For instance, if you do a lot of running, you may want to start building muscular strength or improving flexibility. Your cross-training workout, then, could include strength training and/or yoga a few times a week.
Alter Your Impact
There are three basic levels of impact you engage in when exercising: high impact, low impact, and no impact. None of them are necessarily "better than" the others—they all have their benefits and drawbacks.
High impact activities, such as running and jumping, are great for developing lower-body power and building strong bones. Depending on the context, they're also wonderful at developing skill-related components of fitness, including balance, coordination, agility, and speed. The downside? They can be hard on your joints and soft-tissue, and if not approached carefully and with a keen focus on proper form, they can contribute to overuse injuries.
Low-impact activities, such as walking and strength training, where at least one foot is always in contact with the ground, are also effective at building strong bones, particularly in the lower body. These activities vary widely in context and intent, so you can combine them for a well-rounded workout routine. However, they aren't necessarily as effective at developing skill-related components of fitness, including power, agility, and speed.
No impact activities, such as swimming and cycling, take the pressure off your bones and joints, significantly reducing the likelihood of overuse injury to your lower body. Also, they're often appropriate for individuals who are recovering from injuries, or those who are training for extreme endurance events and don't want to risk an overuse injury. That said, no-impact activities don't have the bone-building benefits of low- or high-impact exercise.
When choosing a cross-training workout, you might want to switch up the impact of your workout. For instance, if you're a big fan of dance cardio workouts that fall somewhere on the spectrum between low- and high-impact workouts, you might want to supplement your schedule with a no-impact alternative, such as indoor cycling or water aerobics.
Similarly, if you're a big swimmer, it might be time to get out of the pool and try your hand at strength training or jumping rope.