Opinion Column

FIT FOR LIFE: Rethinking approaches to cross-training

By Donna Cotnam, Daily Observer

One of the participants in my pilates class recently told me how the breathing that we focus on in class has helped her in her singing.

Now I'm not a singer (as my family and close friends can attest to) but it does make sense that how you breathe can enhance the projection of your voice. Our postural or core muscles play a key role in just about everything we do. So it should come as no surprise that the abdominal and back muscles help the diaphragm and the lungs to perform better as we sing.

This of course got me to thinking about how what we do in a class or during a workout helps our daily activities. We know that cross-training in sports is an excellent way to enhance our activities.

We see it all the time - how cardiovascular and weight-training activities are the exercise of choice for many athletes. Training of that nature is proven to improve their performance. They gain strength, endurance and stamina. Why can't that be true with other activities - for the non-professional weekend warriors?

Maybe your golf game can improve if you work on your flexibility. Think about yoga, pilates or at the very least a daily stretching program. Sport specific activities are extremely advantageous in looking to improve performance. If you were to mimic the movements of a particular sport or activity outside of its normal setting or environment it will enhance your performance. Example - you like to kayak, grab a weighted bar (heavier than your paddle), sit at the edge of a chair or workout bench. Slowly start to mimic the motion of paddling your kayak - sit tall, back straight. As you get into more repetitions really exaggerate the movement - bigger, longer strokes. Eventually you can increase the weight, so that when it's time to get back into the water and paddle for real, you will be ready for it.

Dancers often only focus on the gracefulness of the dance. They work on their flexibility, their timing, their reach. Doing some cardio and core exercises will definitely aid in their performance. Their posture will improve, as will their stamina.

Okay I hear the roars - I don't do any sports, I only like to walk, so why do I need to consider any sort of 'training'. My answer - 'for whatever life throws at you.' You want to be able to live life with ease. Take the stairs because you can. Perform your daily tasks at work and still have energy to enjoy your nightly walk. Be ready to go when you kids or grandkids say 'let's go play outside'. Just try it for a while and see if you notice that you play the piano with more gusto, that you take the stairs more often, that your home projects don't seem to take as much out of you"¦.cross-training"¦.it isn't just for athletes anymore!!

If there are any specific fitness related questions you would like addressed please email them to fitmom@hotmail.com.