We often hear we should have a well-rounded fitness program. But it’s confusing what exactly that means. It seems like a different celebrity is endorsing a new workout every day on Instagram. Boutique fitness studios continue to pop up offering unique classes everyone says you must try. You feel like you ‘should’ do yoga, but all you really want to do is run. Do you need to do it all?
The answer probably won’t surprise you: Yes and no.
There are some elements of fitness everyone should do to be their healthiest. However, that doesn’t mean you need to do everything, and it also doesn’t mean you need to give up what you love. Here’s how you can do it all — on your terms.
THE BENEFITS OF CROSS-TRAINING
Just as balance is important when it comes to eating, it’s also important when it comes to exercise.
“A well-rounded fitness routine is one that focuses on the various health-related components of fitness: cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition,” explains Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise. “Research shows that when you do this, you experience health improvements.”
For example, cross-training has been shown to be more efficient than only resistance or aerobic training at reducing body weight, waist circumference and fat mass in overweight and obese adults, according to a study in PLOS One.
And, in a 2015 study, researchers compared 620 women who followed one of four training programs: cross-training, only running, only weight training or no training. They discovered that those who did more than one modality of fitness had greater muscular endurance. The study authors concluded that, “cross-training may be the best option for improving physical fitness when compared to just one mode of fitness training.”
Mixing it up also keeps you mentally engaged and helps prevent injuries. “It keeps you excited about fitness and prevents boredom, plus a well-balanced program keeps you from experiencing overuse injuries and repetitive motion injuries,” says celebrity trainer Kira Stokes, creator of the Stoked Method and Stoked Series workout classes.
FINDING A BALANCE
Balance is obviously healthy. But just as you won’t stick to a diet if you don’t like the food, you also won’t stick to your workouts if you don’t like them. “Doing activities you enjoy is central to promote lasting behavior change so you do it consistently and long term,” Matthews says.
Luckily, there is a way to be balanced and do what you love. “How a well-rounded routine can be applied can vary so vastly,” Matthews says. “Everything doesn’t have to fit into nice, neat boxes.”
She gives yoga as an example. Yes, it improves flexibility. But it’s also been shown to increase muscular strength and endurance, and depending on the class you take, you may even get cardiorespiratory benefits. Or consider Stoke’s Stoked360 class, which includes strength, plyometrics, cardio and core work. These are just two of many modes of fitness with multiple benefits.
Remember fitness isn’t black and white. Cardio isn’t only running — it’s also walking and swimming and hiking and so much more. Strength isn’t only using barbells — you can use your bodyweight, kettlebells, a TRX … you get it.
Lastly, don’t forget to challenge yourself.
“The thing you love is like a cozy blanket,” Stokes says. “You shouldn’t stop what truly makes you happy, but you need to step outside your comfort zone and work your body in all planes of motion. Find new activities and new ways to see changes in your physique.”
So look at your program and see if it needs a little more balance and diversity. You may discover your favorite fitness classes are giving you more benefits than you thought.If not, figure out what would round things out, but also challenge and excite you. It’s natural to feel less motivated to work out some days than others, but you should never force yourself to do something you hate.