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Ask the experts: Why you should cross train

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Chances are you’re pretty fit, whether from doing PT with your unit or running on your own. But if you’re only doing one type of PT then you’re leaving yourself with weak areas and an increased chance of injury.

Case in point? You agree to play a pick up game of basketball or frisbee, thinking you’re fit, what could go wrong? The next day you feel like you have been hit by a stick.

Tell us: Do you have a fitness or nutrition question for our experts panel? Send them to us at pt365@militarytimes.com.

One incident that stands out in my mind was an officer flag football  game — which rapidly deteriorated into full tackle — that we played in my unit a couple years back. I remember thinking back to my glory days of returning punts and kicks and playing defensive back.

The next morning I could barely get out of bed, and a lot of the muscles I’d forgotten about were screaming.

So what does full-contact flag football have to do with fitness and delayed onset muscle soreness?

It highlights the importance of cross training — doing things your body is less or unprepared for. Some of cross training’s benefits are reducing injury risk, increasing conditioning and improving skill and agility.

All good things that help us perform our jobs, no matter your MOS.

You should vary your training, even if you’re preparing for a specific sport.

So what’s the best cross training for you?

Runners: Go for a swim to loosen up in preparation for a road race. Hit the non-treadmill side of the gym to strengthen weak hamstrings (with squatting) or try a yoga class to help to loosen up tight hips.

Cyclists: Pound some pavement to boost your endurance, or jump on the rowing machine to strengthen your back.

CrossFitters: Try a spin class to really get your heart rate up or yoga to increase flexibility.

Mixing up your route is often key to breaking the monotony of training. Plus, the variety will help strengthen muscles that are seldom used in normal working, making you more energized and less likely to get injured.

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Army Lt. Derek Wales is serving as an executive officer in Dog Troop, 1-16 Cavalry at Fort Benning, Ga. He is a former Division 1 decathlete, Modern Army Combatives competitor, and is a CrossFit competitive athlete and rugby player. He is a CrossFit Olympic Lifting and Level 1 Trainer, and former lead trainer at CrossFit Spartan Shield (Operation Enduring Freedom, Kuwait). He’s also the designer of the WOD Programmer app and runs www.wodprogrammer.com.