Aging Gracefully Blog

Whole Body Movement: Cross Training Workouts

I spent this past week in Florida, with a lovely outdoor swimming pool two steps from my front door.  Since it was too hot to run and such a good opportunity to do a little cross-training, I took the plunge every morning.  As I was swimming laps, alternating front crawl and breast stroke, I thought about how satisfying it is to create balance in training, doing different kinds of exercise for whole body movement. 

Running and swimming are a perfect combination.  Running is primarily a lower body exercise, while swimming engages more upper body muscles along with the legs.   Running is high impact, benefiting the bones and burning calories, but pounding the body with each stride.  Swimming is easy on the joints, non-impact and weight-supported.  The buoyancy of the water allows a restful glide and stretch in between each stroke.

Alternating front crawl and breast stroke engages two opposing muscle groups of the upper body:  front crawl using the large muscle of the back, the latissimus dorsi; breast stroke using the large muscles of the chest, the pectorals.  The flutter kick is primarily a linear movement of the legs, while the frog kick works muscles in the horizontal plane.  Again, a good balance.

When you do resistance exercises, using body weight, free weights or machines, pay attention to working opposing muscle groups: abdominals and spinal extensors, quads/hamstrings and inner/outer thighs; chest and back; front shoulder/rear shoulder; biceps/triceps.  And try to move the body in different planes of motion:  forward and back, side to side and on a diagonal.

As you think about your exercise routine, ask yourself if you've created a good balance in your choice of activities for whole body workouts.  If you've been stuck in a routine, doing the same exercises over and over, find a way to introduce new movement patterns to create a more holistic approach.

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