Get Stronger and Leaner With Cross Training

Using the technique favored by pro athletes can get you better results and fewer injuries.

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

You've faithfully jogged three times a week for years, and think you're in pretty good shape. But when a less athletic friend suggests you go inline skating, you're shocked to discover you can't keep up.

Perhaps you've mastered the elliptical machine, and regularly work out on it for 45 minutes at a stretch. But one day you bend over to pick up your 4-year-old, and you end up with a back injury that lasts for weeks.

Or maybe you're a power weight lifter, the top bench presser at the gym. But when your son's new puppy takes off around the block, you get winded trying to catch him -- and the puppy isn't even breathing hard.

All of these scenarios show what can happen when you think fitness means mastering a single sport or activity.

"When you only do one fitness activity -- like running or weight lifting, for example -- and you only work on the muscles involved in that sport, you may discover that you are far less fit than you think," says Todd Schlifstein, DO, a sports medicine rehabilitation doctor at New York University Medical Center's Rusk Institute.

Using just one set of muscles repeatedly can also increase your risk of repetitive injury, Schlifstein warns.