Hard-core athletes often suffer from the same chronic pains—swimmer’s shoulder, runner’s knee, tennis elbow—because every sport employs muscles in unique ways. Besides saving time, the new model of short, hard, and varied workouts also limits the stress that occurs on specific muscle groups. Peter Janes, an orthopedic surgeon in Summit County, Colorado, has worked with multisport athletes for 25 years and says cross-training of any length or intensity significantly reduces the risk of overuse injuries, particularly tendinitis. "When you’re using only a few muscle groups over and over again, the tendons will break down and become inflamed or even rupture," he says. "Cross-training with a number of sports forces you to use muscle-tendon units throughout your body."
Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., a West Virginia University professor of athletic coaching and education, favors cross-training because of its above-the-neck advantages: "Switching between activities is more stimulating," she says. "It’s human nature. You’re less likely to get bored." Dieffenbach competes nationally in multisport races such as Primal Quest, a 500-mile beast where she placed in the top ten last summer. Cross-training, she says, keeps her mental capacities fresh. "For me, biking requires quite a bit of concentration, so it’s a mental workout as much as a physical one," she says. "But when I’m running or paddling, I can operate on autopilot a bit more and save up my mental energy for later."
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