Pick the Cross Training Activity that’s Perfect for You

There are hundreds, maybe more, options for cross training and as much as you love your first sport you might as well enjoy what you’re doing for cross training too. All are not created equal though and not all are appropriate for all people. This week we’re taking a look at the top options. What do they offer, what are the drawbacks, who should consider and who should skip a certain option. Some options might even add more to your life than just exercise! With so many options out there it might take some time but eventually you’ll find one you love!


Though yoga seems it might be the perfect cross training activity for everyone that might not be the case. Also yoga people sometimes think the solution to every problem is more yoga. I love it and I practice astanga yoga which has taught me a lot over the years but cross training hmmm, maybe not. The thing is even the most strenuous styles aren’t cardio and for time in the muscles you build don’t really add up. Plus if you’re goal oriented (aka competitive), raises hand, you can end up injured reaching for a certain posture.

Who it’s good for: If you can go with the flow, you get your cardio elsewhere and do another form of strength training a weekly yoga class might be for you. For most it’s a better form of active recovery than cross training for athletes or something else entierly.

Who should skip: If you are walking in with something to prove and an injury walk right back out. 


Cycling is a virtually no-impact activity that could be the most intense form of cardio out there and can be great for full body strength training. A runner looking to get faster could train all out on a road bike building out serious muscles that are active in running but also support muscles without making an old injury flare up. Someone else working on balance and full body tanning could push a heavy full suspension bike down a trail with no impact as well. If you’re injured you’d be foolish to not look at cycling but it’s also the most reasonable form of active transport out there.

Who it’s good for: Almost anyone with an injury will find help form one form of cycling or another. If you’re trying to jam one more thing into a packed schedule commuting while cross training is great choice.

Who should skip: People with expensive taste who don’t already own a kick a$$ bike might want to try anything else. If you literally never have a ‘what I have is good enough’ attitude might want to steer clear unless you also have lots of extra cash. There are so many add ons you have to be able to stop at one point.


Swimming is also pretty much no impact but it can be a bigger ask to add it to your shedule. For most it involves traveling to a pool, knowing that pool’s schedule and changing outfits a few times. That means sharing lanes with people, chorine damage to skin and hair but it’s not all bad. Swimming is as close as most of us will ever get to feeling like you’re flying and it can be it’s own special thing. The buoyancy associated with being in the water also means that if you are very overweight getting in the water might be the only way you get moving at all. Aqua-arobics, walking and running are all things that you might be able to try even if swimming isn’t your thing. People also are quick to forget that there are several different strokes available to target different muscles beyond freestyle.

Who it’s good for: Swimming or at least heading to the pool is a great option for most. Runners and cyclists in particular will benefit from the upper body workout you get. Swimming is also a great form of cardio for anyone who finds themselves injured plus a dip in the hot tub after never hurt anyone! I however prefer the water slides!

Who should skip: Those with sensitive skins who don’t react well to chlorine will probably not be able to stick with it long term. Also since it does take a bit of figuring to get there at the right time, get changed and so on if you’re an excuse maker it might not be perfect for you either. If you prefer to be on your own when you do stuff sharing that space and a lane with other swimmers can take a lot out of you.

Rowing and or Paddling

Fun fact rowers and paddlers have a bit of a rivalry going on as evidenced by ‘hell no I don’t row’ t-shirts I’ve seen in the past while others don’t know the difference. Paddling is a one side of the body activity that you do in a canoe and rowing is a two sided activity that you do with oars. Most people don’t realize that both are pretty much a full body exercise that targets the upper body and core in a big way. Paddling pretty much has to be done on the water but most gyms have a rowing machine available.

Who it’s good for: People looking to build core strength would be foolish to overlook both and balance is greatly improved by paddling a boat or board. If you want to meet friends both can be a great option so go investigate your local club. Obviously it’s also a great way to round out your upper body. If you already go to the gym why not check out the rowing machine.

Who should skip: People with previous shoulder injuries should check with a doctor first. If you’ve never tried it buying something like a boat, paddle board and all the accessories to try it out might be an expensive mistake. Make sure you rent or borrow a few times before you take the plunge!

Who should skip: People with previous shoulder injuries should check with a doctor first. If you’ve never tried it buying something like a boat, paddle board and all the accessories to try it out might be an expensive mistake. Make sure you rent or borrow a few times before you take the plunge!

Hiking or walking

This one is often overlooked as an easy cheap way to get moving. For a lot of the athletes out there that consider themselves more serious they’ll overlook such a simple activity. It’s a great easy way to spend time with your friends and family in training season. Hiking or walking might not be your go to cross-training activity all the time but it’s a gentle, simple way to round out your workouts.

Who it’s good for: Almost everyone can get a walk in even if they are out of shape or injured. Cyclists in particular might find themselves surprised with sore legs after a long hike because it is in fact working slightly different leg muscles. Lifters sometimes neglect their cardiovascular health by focusing on only one thing. Lots do cardio but also hate to run. Here’s a secret walking is pretty much just as effective as running it just takes longer

Who should skip: Runners can walk or hike as much as they like for fun but it’s not great for cross-training, it just more of the same for you. The exception is injured runners who can get their fix in while just going a bit slower.

Strength Training

STRENGTH TRAINING IS THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO PREVENT INJURIES IN OTHER SPORTS!! Was that clear enough? Endurance athletes in particular are terrible for going farther more often and neglecting all their other muscles. Whether you want to call it correcting imbalances or building support muscles working with a great personal trainer or sports physiotherapist is a sure fire way to make your injury a thing of the past. Sometimes were quick to count the wrong things like carrying stuff or lifting the odd box as strength training but it is not the same thing!

Who it’s good for: Everyone doing a sport that isn’t lifting.

Who should skip: Lifters, you’re good.

Barre class

Sometimes we know what we should be doing (see above) but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. If you’re just never going to do targeted strength training for some odd reason barre is a great way to tick yourself. It sort of has it’s roots in ballet but just the drills and none of the dancing. Focusing on tiny repetitive movements it’s actually doing the same things it’s just more group oriented and fun. Pilates will also fall into the same category since it’s about the repetitive motion of poses and not getting to a position where you can lick your own butt eventually.

Who it’s good for: Since barre and pilates are more moderate forms of strength training it’s pretty much good for everyone. Plus it improves balance and unless you’re on a reformer it doesn’t come with a lot of complicated and intimidating equipment.

Who should skip: People who don’t like pilates or barre class, that’s it, but try it first.

Martial arts

Usually woking out makes you feel like you can kick a$$! What if you could workout and literally learn to kick a$$? Believe it our not I did Karate as a kid until my dojo closed and I was prepping for my blue belt test. It was super fun and if I remember correctly really, really affordable since it’s a group setting. Maybe that’s why the studio closed though. Classes start with a cardio warm up, drills and then sparing exercises. Martial arts are great for overall conditioning, building muscles, flexibility and balance. Plus punchy, kicky is super fun.

Who it’s good for: If you feel unsafe in the world for some reason taking a martial art for a time can really help with that. If you’re a freaked out lady jogger this might lessen your anxiety. If you’re part of a serious running or cycling family this might be a great way to trick your kids into cross-training.

Who should skip: If it sounds like fun to you go for it!


Running is great for a lot of things but it’s also what we most often need to cross train because of. Running can be hard on your body but it’s also so simple, exhilarating and fun! It’s one of the cheapest, easiest things to do and the solution to most of your running problems is only a click away. I even wrote a whole post about why someone would ever want to go running here. But it’s not for everyone and truthfully runners can be prone to injury.

Who it’s good for: Lifters are well set up to use running as their go to form of cross training since their support muscles are probably well developed. If they do develop an issue they have the body awareness and skills to address it.

Who should skip: If you’re already a runner and love it, sorry there is no way more running will ever count as cross training. If you’re heavier or running physically hurts you almost right away unless you have a deep burning need to run (hire a coach) you really could find something else.

Something else

No one, not even me says this is a comprehensive list and that there aren’t like hundreds of other fun ideas. Join a local sports team, play a ball sport or cross country ski. If you are semi-serious into your sport of choice, especially if that’s running, you need to find a second thing to dabble in to prevent injuries. All the better if you like that a lot too. In writing this I now sorta kinda want to go back to karate! Moral of the story with so many choices out there you should be able to find two things you love!

What’s your favorite cross training activity? What is your main activity and why do you find that your cross training activity works well for that? What one are you dying to try?

6 thoughts on “Pick the Cross Training Activity that’s Perfect for You

Add yours

  1. I’m not sure if lifting is my main activity and running is my cross-training or vice versa 🙂
    Thanks for your informative, funny and engaging writing!


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