There are many articles that discuss the various physical of benefits. In general the idea is that varied or different activities that are are not part of your typical training program will work different muscle groups than your body is used to working. By working these different muscle groups your body then becomes stronger overall, more capable to handle variation from your regular training regimen, new skills are developed and it in doing so you can reduce your chances of injury.
About.com has a decent article on cross training here.
For me, I find adding different cross training activities to my training schedule to break up the monotony that can settle in when training for an endurance event. For my upcoming marathon I’m running 4 times a week, I do 4 – 6 yoga classes each week and I vary the styles, and I also try to swim twice a week. Even with that variety it can be difficult to stay motivated.
To help me stay motivated I try to work in a day at least every two weeks where I get out to enjoy what it means it live on the West Coast. This past summer I made a concerted effort to start doing a lot of the the hikes in the Lower Mainland: Diez Vistas, Eagle Bluffs, the Lions Binkert Trail and Black Tusk.
With the winter still upon us (though the weather in Vancouver might have you thinking otherwise) showshoeing has become the activity of choice. This past weekend a good friend and I took off to Elfin Lakes. By 10:00am we were looking down onto the Chief and into Howe Sound. The views were absolutely amazing. There were a variety of others snowshoeing and back-country skiing (which is definitely smarter for the descent).
It’s important to add cross-training into your training schedule to keep things fun and to keep yourself motivated. (It’s also important to make sure you check the conditions before heading out and plan accordingly.) Adding these type of activities and finding friends to go with you can be a welcome change to your training regime, especially when you’re training id being done primarily on your own.
Oh and for the Sugoi shout out no cross training session would be complete without: Piston 200 Short, Piston 140 S/S, R+R Knee High Compression Sock, and the Ready L/S. The compression gear definitely helped get me ready for my 25km run the next day.