When undertaking physical training, as opposed to practice and skills drills, for your chosen sport, how much benefit is there in cross-training?

For example, I'm a cyclist, I'm preparing for various long distance, quite hilly events. Should I train solely on the bike, what is the benefit in shifting to running, skiing or swimming?

There's the theory that says train the body to do the thing you're training for, after all you don't get better at the violin by sitting at the piano, but that's skills. If you're training the body to be in the saddle for 6 or 7 hours, with lots of time with the pulse well into the red zone, is doing running for an hour or two still training the right stuff?

Mentally, breaking up the sessions is important as a bit of a rest from the routine, but am I wasting a session?

  • 2
    To extend your analogy, you DO get better at music theory by playing the piano, which can influence your violin playing.
    – corsiKa
    Feb 9, 2012 at 21:37
  • @corsiKa that is a perfectly valid point - and indeed, running for 2 hours is also training the mind and various of the body's systems too. But would you be better just doing the thing you're preparing for?
    – Unsliced
    Feb 9, 2012 at 22:22
  • 1
    If I thought I could answer that, I would have posted an answer and not a comment. :-)
    – corsiKa
    Feb 9, 2012 at 23:28
  • 1
    And the cross training can also help saving you from all sorts of stress related problems, yet still maintain your fitness. E.g. I run 50+ km/week. Instead of adding 10-20 km/week more to the training load - which could easily lead to problems in my knees and legs I take my bike for 30-40 km/week. Feb 10, 2012 at 13:51

2 Answers 2


Cross-training provides two potential benefits, one mental and one physical. It can potentially reduce the risk of injury and, as others have already mentioned, it can provide some mental benefit by reducing boredom and burnout through different physical activities.

As this article notes:

Cross training is a great way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills, and reduce boredom that creeps in after months of the same exercise routines. Cross training also allows you the ability to vary the stress placed on specific muscles or even your cardiovascular system. After months of the same movements your body becomes extremely efficient performing those movements, and while that is great for competition, it limits the amount of overall fitness you possess and reduces the actual conditioning you get while training; rather than continuing to improve, you simply maintain a certain level of fitness. Cross training is also necessary to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse.

The article goes on to note a few different areas in which to cross-train:

  • Cardiovascular exercise
  • Strength training
  • Flexibility (stretching, yoga)
  • Speed, agility, and balance drills
  • Circuit training, sprinting, plyometrics and other forms of skill conditioning

Runner's World also had an article discussing the benefits of cross-training from a runner's perspective that may apply to other sports as well:

  • Injury Prevention
  • Rehabilitation
  • Greater Running Fitness
  • Active Recovery
  • Enhanced Motivation
  • Rejuvenation
  • Enjoying Other Sports
  • Fit Pregnancy

Finally, there are anecdotal stories about the increase in young athletes getting injured at higher rates due to sports specialization. One article discusses some of the dangers of specializing in sports at an early age, while another article quotes Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu:

"I didn't just play football as a kid," he told ThePostGame.com recently. "I played soccer, baseball, basketball as well. It made me a far better all-round athlete than I would have been otherwise and it is the reason I am in the league. I don't like to see kids playing just one sport. It is like they are pros from the age of 9 or 10. I don't like it and I don't understand it."

In short, cross-training can provide mental and physical benefits by improving mental health and physical fitness while reducing the risk of injury from overuse. Specializing strictly in one sport may bring about a faster increase in performance, but the articles above suggest that the performance and skill improvements will plateau and may lead to greater injury risks.


training spesific on one thing, gives you great improvements in short ammount of time, but it does not target the muscles that support the muscles you train spesific. so for preperation, yes, going for a bike ride everyday, but for preperation there is no danger in 2 weeks before, having 2 - 3 intervals in one week and then 2 the week before competition, and then having just a slow bike ride in intesity level 1-2 for an hour with and going really fast for 10 seconds and doing 5 sets of those, the day before, not breking down the body like interval training does, but just awekening the body.

Yes doing skiing is good for cycling, it gives u leg strength. and both sports has to do with endurance. and running gives you cardio.

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