Much of the content in our previous articles has focused on injury prevention and young athletes burning out from intense training programs. One of the ways we have found useful to maximize training without burning out is to incorporate cross-training. This means training in a discipline that is not directly related to your main sport of interest.
From my own personal perspective, my main sport growing up was hockey. I practiced three times a week, played two games a week, and went to dry-land training once a week, with some other training sprinkled in. It wasn’t too much for me at the time, but I certainly didn’t want to incorporate any more formal hockey training into my weekly routine. I decided to join a local boxing gym across from the rink where we played all our home games in high school, and it was arguably the best training decision I’ve made in my life.
For me, boxing was an intense workout, definitely more intense than my hockey training. I was already in great shape walking in the gym, and I left in even better shape, having increased my muscle strength and endurance, while also cutting down on fat mass and improving my cardio. I was also able to target muscle groups like my shoulders, back, chest, and arms, while hockey primarily targeted the lower body. Moreover, all I needed to buy was a cheap pair of boxing gloves, and eventually a speed bag for my home when I became a little more serious about it, so I didn’t have to spend much money at all to participate.
This is just one example of the benefits of cross-training, but the aspect I want to highlight is that it was fun. I never felt burnt-out from hockey, and I think that was largely due to the fact that I wasn’t focused on it 100% of the time, and when I wasn’t, I was still training in some capacity.
If your main sport is individual, then maybe you will want to try training in a team setting. For example, starting a running group with similar athletes, joining a group, or simply signing up for an intramural sports team can have profound effects on training, but more so mental focus. If you stay happy, competitive, and continue to improve your conditioning, then there isn’t much bad to say about it!
One other tip to keep training fun is to reward yourself. We’re not talking “If I get through this workout I can have a Big Mac”. Instead, what we mean is something more along the lines of “If I can successfully pick the top corner, or beat my personal best lap time around the rink, I can get myself that new hockey stick”. In our opinion, we don’t like to consider the reward itself as a motivator, but rather, the competition you develop with yourself can help motivate you to train hard and think hard while you’re doing it, and the internal competition just makes things fun!
There’s not much to this article other than providing our recommendation to keep your sport fun, especially if you want to succeed at it long term. There are many ways you can do this, and it simply comes down to individual personal preferences, but you’ll be surprised at the benefits you can receive to your main sport from participating in fun cross-training!