By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
If you're using your home fitness equipment regularly, you've got yourself covered in the cardiovascular department. But have you found a way to round out your routine? A balanced fitness program includes three components – cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility training.
The benefits of a well-rounded routine consist of:
• Injury prevention and recovery
• Increased motivation and energy
• Improvements in muscle and bone mass
• Better long term physical and mental health
By using your warm-up and cool-down effectively, you can achieve these benefits while adding only a few minutes to your current routine, or you can alternate your cardio workouts with strength- and flexibility-focused workouts to get an even bigger cross training benefit.
Strength Training: You can add strength training to your home workouts by using your warm-up effectively. Start with a few easy minutes of cardio on your elliptical, treadmill or recumbent bike. Then, complete 10 minutes of body weight exercises such as push ups, planks and squats, repeating to fatigue. Follow your strength training with your planned cardio workout. For ideas on adding a simple strength training component to your workout, check out these suggestions from the Mayo Clinic or this at-home workout.
Extra Credit: You can take your strength training further by investing in a few dumbbells or resistance bands to expand the range of exercises available. For ideas on a full at-home, strength training workout that will complement your cardio routine, check out the ideas here.
Flexibility: If you're pressed for time, consider adding flexibility training to your routine by extending your cool-down slightly with some gentle stretching. Stretching your muscles when they're already warmed by your cardio routine allows your workout to be more effective. Slow and gentle is the way to go here, concentrating on areas of your body you know to be tight. Common culprits are the calves, quadriceps, hips and chest.
Extra Credit: For a deeper stretch and bigger mental boost, consider adding a yoga DVD, class, or home workout to your week. Many yoga poses include weight-bearing exercises, allowing you to address your needs for strength and flexibility training in one workout. The emphasis on mindfulness and effective breathing also contribute to improvements in mental awareness and pain tolerance and reductions in depression. Yoga Journal is a great resource for seeking out classes and teachers, finding suggestions on a DVD that will meet your needs, or information on starting a self-guided home routine.
There's no question that most home fitness enthusiasts see the benefit of staying healthy in the long run. By improving your overall fitness through cross training, you increase your chances of staying healthy, injury free and motivated to continue your workouts. Read more information on the benefits of cross training.
Weigh In: Do you complement your elliptical, treadmill, or recumbent bike workouts with cross training? What works well for you?