If you've committed to a consistent walking routine, you're making major strides for your health. Walking improves your cardiovascular health, helps you maintain a healthy weight, boosts your mental health and can even add years to your life.
But there should still be room in your routine for other types of movement, too — specifically strength-training exercises.
Studies show that doing a combination of cardio and strength training is more effective in improving strength, lean body mass and cardiovascular fitness than performing just cardio exercise alone. And when done strategically, it actually can improve your cardio performance, helping you to be more stable and efficient when walking and increasing your walking speed and endurance.
This strategic way to design your workout routine is called cross-training. Essentially, cross-training means incorporating different exercise modalities that complement each other into your routine. If you’re a walker, it means training your body in a way other than walking, like adding strength-training to your routine.
Why is cross-training good for walkers and runners?
Training your body in different ways will help you build endurance and improve coordination, form and posture.
By engaging muscles that support you every step of the way (literally!) you’re training your body to move functionally and in tandem, instead of just using your legs and feet to move your body forward.
Specifically for walkers and runners, training the body to move side to side helps support the muscles used to move forward. Building strength in the upper back allows your shoulders to draw back to improve your posture while walking. Strengthening your core can help you to walk with more ease, less soreness, a longer stride and even a faster pace.
In addition, cross-training helps to prevent injury due to overuse or repetitive motions.
Cross-training challenge for walkers
Pretend you’re looking at yourself in the mirror when walking. Your head is facing forward, your arms are pumping, your core is engaged, your glutes squeeze with each step, your legs are working, and your feet step one after the other on the ground. Walking is truly a total-body workout that can be enhanced when we cross-train and strengthen the whole body!
That's why in this month’s challenge, we’ll be doing full-body cross-training exercises to complement your walking or running workouts. I’ve chosen strategic, full-body exercises that help improve endurance and speed and reduce risk of injury.
Cross-training workout routines
Each cross-training routine contains 10 moves that work your upper body, lower body and core. We will alternate between walking and cross-training, but always feel free to walk on training days, too! You can also replace walking with your cardio of choice, be it swimming, biking or dance cardio. These are forms of cross-training, too, because they move the body differently than walking or running does.
After two weeks of building foundational strength with the first routine, we will move on to tackling some more challenging exercises with the second cross-training routine.
Cross-training workout routine 1
Perform 3 rounds of the following 10 exercises:
Start on all fours with your palms and knees on the ground. Straighten your left arm out in front of you and your right leg out behind you, balancing on your opposite hand and knee. Hold for a few breaths. For an added challenge, bend your left elbow and your right knee in until they touch underneath your stomach. Switch sides and repeat using your right arm and left leg. Continue alternating, performing 10 reps on each side.
Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart and your core engaged. Squeezing your calf muscles, slowly raise your body, lifting your heels until you’re on your toes. Make sure to stand tall and straight, and then lower your heels back to the floor with control. Repeat 10 times.
Single leg deadlift
Stand with your feet as wide as your hips. Put your weight into your left leg and come up on to your right toe, using it as a kickstand for balance. Begin to hinge at your waist, keeping your left knee soft. Place your hands on your hips or at the center of your chest for balance. Continue to hinge forward as you slowly lift your right leg up and back until your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Ensure that your hips stay square to the ground. Pause, and then return to the starting position and repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
Bent over row
Start standing with your feet as wide as your hips. Hinge forward at your waist and pull your abs in. Reach your torso on a diagonal so that you’re slightly bent over. Let the weights dangle down by your sides and pull the abs in. Then, hug your elbows in toward your sides and pull the weights up toward your chest. Tighten your upper back and the area in between your shoulder blades. Then, lower the arms down keeping the elbows hugging in toward your sides. Repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms down at your sides. Tilt your pelvis under and forward, engaging the core, and push down through your heels to lift your hips up toward the ceiling, engaging your glutes. Slowly lower down and repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground as wide as your hips. With your hands behind your head and your elbows bent out to the sides, use your abs to lift your left shoulder blade off the ground. At the same time, bring your right knee to meet your left elbow. When your right knee is bent, straighten your left leg and reach it out in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Come through center and perform on the opposite side, bringing your left knee to your right elbow and straightening the right leg. Continue alternating legs and squeeze your core. Brush your inner thighs together as you switch sides to ensure you’re hugging your legs in toward the midline of your body. Repeat 10 times to each side.
Stand with your feet as wide as your shoulders, toes pointing forward. Pull your navel in toward your spine, and then sit back by bending at your knees and reaching your glutes back as if you’re sitting into a chair. Press down through your heels to return to standing. Repeat 10 times.
Start by getting down on all fours with your palms on the mat a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Make sure your arms are straight. Scoot your knees back a few inches and shift forward to make sure your shoulders are over your wrists, but your knees are behind your hips. Bend at the elbows, lowering your body until your chest almost touches the mat, then press down into the ground to straighten your elbows and push your body back up. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Side jump or side step
Standing with your feet as wide as your hips, bend your knees and jump to the right, then jump to the left. Move your legs together or, for a modification, simply step to the right with your right foot and have your left foot follow, and alternate to the left side with the left foot leading. Go 10 times to each side whether you’re jumping or stepping.
Lunge with a twist
Coming into a plank, step your right foot forward in between your hands and reach your left foot back. Keep your left hand on the mat and twist to the right with your right arm reaching out to the right and then up toward the sky. Pull your abs in, and then bring the right arm down to the outside of your right foot. Switch legs, stepping the left foot forward and the right foot back. Keep your right hand on the mat as you twist to the left, reaching your left arm out and up. Repeat this 5 times to each side.
Cross-training workout routine 2
Perform 3 rounds of the following 10 exercises:
Side lunge into standing crunch
Standing with your feet as wide as your hips, place your hands behind your head. Then step your right foot out to the right and perform a side lunge by sitting back into the right glute. Reach the right glute backward as you keep the left leg straight. Press down through your right heel as you come back to center with your knee up, and twist your torso to the right. Reach your left elbow toward your right knee. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
Backward lunge into knee lift
Start standing with your feet hips-width apart. Then, step your left foot back and lower down into a lunge. Press down through the right heel to straighten the right leg as you lift the left leg forward and up toward your chest. Balance for a few seconds then slowly step the left foot back into the backward lunge. Repeat 10 times before switching sides.
Single leg deadlift (optional weighted)
Stand with your feet as wide as your hips. Put your weight into your left leg and come up on to your right toe, using it as a kickstand for balance. Begin to hinge at your waist, keeping your left knee soft. Place your hands on your hips or hold a weight at the center of your chest for a challenge. Continue to hinge forward as you slowly lift your right leg up and back until your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Ensure that your hips stay square to the ground. Pause, and then return to the starting position and repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
Stand with your feet as wide as your hips and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Reach your arms toward the floor as you hinge forward at the hips, leaning your torso forward on a diagonal. Then fly your arms out to the sides as high as the shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then release down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Heels elevated squat
Stand on your tip toes with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pull your navel in toward your spine, and then sit back by bending at your knees and reaching your glutes back as if you’re sitting into a chair. Press down through your toes to return to standing. Repeat 10 times.
Lie on your back with your arms straight out at your sides in a “T” position for stabilization. Lift your legs up, with knees bent in a tabletop position (for a more challenging move, straighten your legs toward the sky) engaging the core. Using your abs to control the movement, slowly lower your legs to the right hovering a few inches off of the floor. When your feet get close to the floor, reverse the movement of your legs, moving them back through center and down to the left side of your body. One movement of the legs from the right to the left completes one rep. Repeat the move 10 times.
Start by getting down on all fours with your palms on the mat a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Make sure your arms are straight. Reach your legs straight behind you, tucking the toes under to come into a plank position. Bend at the elbows, lowering your body until your chest almost touches the mat. Then press down through the palms to straighten your elbows and push your body back up. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Start standing tall with your feet hips-width apart. Then, as you step or hop to the right, step the left foot behind and to the right of the right foot, tapping it lightly on the floor. Begin to swoosh your arms like an ice skater to build momentum and help with balance. Then step to the left and bring the right foot behind you to tap the floor as you swoosh your arms. Repeat 10 times to each side.
Jump both feet out to the sides as you raise the arms out to the sides and overhead. Bring the arms down as you jump the feet back to center. Repeat 10 times.
Plank to downdog
Starting on your hands and knees, walk your knees back, tuck your toes under and lift your hips and shoulders off the ground into a plank position. Your body should be in a straight line. Maintain a flat back and keep your shoulders over your wrists. Reach the soles of your feet toward the back of the room. Then, pull the abs in and lift your hips toward the ceiling, coming into an upside down “V” position. Take a breath in and then exhale as you shift forward into plank. Repeat 10 times.