Cross-Training Workouts for a Balanced Body

Cross-Training Workouts for a Balanced Body

Cardio + Weights + Yoga = Balanced Body

Your body is a highly adaptable vehicle, able to change shape and develop greater levels of coordination, flexibility, speed and strength. With training you can become stronger, faster and better at anything you set your mind to…. and at the same time sculpt a beautiful, healthy physique.

Strength training, yoga and cardiovascular exercise come together to form a fitness trifecta, each benefitting the body while challenging it in very different ways. This cross training keeps the body and mind fit, looking sexy and feeling good.

All three practices have a unique effect on your body and on your health, and while they can all do a little of what the others do it’s nothing compared to their powers combined.
Here’s a breakdown of the benefits and effects of each:


Yoga postures and sequences and the breathing techniques that go with them are an ancient exercise and wellness method, wonderful for evening out the muscles on both sides of the body, increasing general flexibility and range of motion and improving posture, core strength and coordination. There are also mental and emotional benefits that come from the relaxing breathing techniques and just paying attention to how you feel while you move.

There are many different types of yoga ranging from the very mellow to the physically intense, so if you have an open mind and do a little exploring you’ll find one you like if you haven’t already.
If you are a diehard yogi and you, like I once did, believe that yoga can provide all your strength training and cardio needs, you are partially correct but you also risk limiting your physical potential.

Yoga will indeed strengthen your arms, legs, back and aforementioned core. But have you ever squat 150 lbs or done Renegade Rows? It’s a kind of sore you just won’t get from yoga, because the weighted and strength specific exercises challenge the muscle in a way designed make them bigger and stronger. Yoga stretches and strengthens, but weight training builds the muscles up and shapes them.

When I incorporated regular strength training I found that many of my yoga postures actually improved and my muscles became more pronounced and defined.

And while your heart rate might go up a bit in a yoga class, it’s not anywhere near the same cardiovascular benefits you get from sprints or even a spirited bike ride.

I <3 Yoga Routine

Yoga can be practiced 5-6 days a week. I recommend a balance between classes and a home practice… it’s cheaper to practice at home and there’s a TON to be learn from practicing by yourself! It’s very meditative. But it’s also very important to regularly have a trained teacher correct your alignment and show you proper form. I’ve indicated 3 classes a week, but 2 or 4 would also be fine if you prefer. Heck, even 5 if you really want to, just go pick more stretchy classes over intense ones and go easy on your wrists.
yoga cross-training

Cardio Exercise

Cardio workouts like running, biking, treadmill, and stairs are healthy for your heart and build endurance so you can go harder for longer. For many women, cardio is their first fitness love… It burns calories, gets the blood pumping, it’s meditative in it’s own way and to top it off the endorphins give you a delightful rush. Want to shed extra fat and get tighter? Do cardio.

You can also do cardio anywhere, making it a traveler’s go-to for staying in shape while possibly taking in the local sites.

Cardio stimulates fat loss, can build a little muscle and takes nothing more than a good pair of shoes  it’s easy to start your fitness journey here and feel great initially. However over time cardio alone can lead to muscular imbalances and tightness. Strong and limber muscles and joints are needed for optimal functionality and pain-free activity, and luckily they can by achieved with proper doses of… yes… strength training and yoga.

Cardio Babe Routine

Do yoga after strength training to stretch the muscles and joints after working them
hard. Plus, unnecessary flexibility prior to lifting weights or running can destabilize the joints and possibly lead to injury. Warm up for runs, but stretch after. Mild yoga sessions are also optional after running on Run days.

cardio cross-training

Strength Training

There’s a stigma surrounding strength training that’s slowly unraveling but still heavily pervasive, and it’s the idea that lifting heavy weight will make you bulky. This is untrue…. your diet will likely make you bulky long before lifting weights will. It takes careful dietary tactics, exceptional genetics and possibly steroids to build bodybuilder style muscles, and the benefits of lifting weights are too good to pass up!

Moving heavy weight around in order to build muscle gives your body healthy athletic curves and tone in the right places. Want defined arms and shoulders? A round, perky butt? A six pack?   Toned legs? Lift weights. It also prevents osteoporosis, speeds up your metabolism, and when combined with cardio exercise lowers your risk of heart disease.

Strength training increases vascularity or how blood is transported to your muscles, improving your cardiovascular system in a way that’s different from running, biking, cardio machines or stairs.

If you’re unfamiliar with strength training then start with a simple beginner routine that uses mostly bodyweight and free weights like kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells.
More and more women are discovering the feel-good look-good benefits of strength training and the weights at gym at the gym are becoming less of a mystery.

Muscle Maven Routine

This program is designed to be used with a 2-day weight training split, with an upper body workout and a lower body workout done 2x each week. Yoga can be done 2-3 times a week and cardio in the morning on an empty stomach before weights.

strength training cross-training

Finding the sweet spot

So now that it’s clear that all three of these practices have awesome benefits, just how much should you do of each? Obvious there’s a limit to how much exercise one can practically and healthfully fit into a week.

The answer is based on what you enjoy the most and what your goals are. Perhaps you desire just to do more of what you love (I’m talking to you, cardio bunny and yoga girl) or maybe you prefer to cycle through 2-3 month long phases where you are emphasizing one of the three activities, while doing just enough of the other two to support your efforts to the max.

Either way, below you’ll find flexible weekly schedules to help you visualize how to incorporate cardio, strength training and yoga into one routine. There’s one program that emphasizes running (you can substitute your cardio of choice here), one that’s yoga-centric, one that’s all about building strength, and one that’s a balanced mix. You’ll be doing 60-90 minutes of activity 5-6 days a week.

There will be times where you don’t make all your workouts and that’s okay. Focus on what you love and finding a balance, and don’t stress about a missed class.
Feel free to shift the workouts to different days of the week than those shown.

The Balanced Body Routine

This is a balanced program. Tweak it as you see fit, and don’t be shy about changing it up. Maybe you want to do yoga instead of run on your strength training days? The strength training sessions indicated here should be full-body workouts.

balanced body cross-training


Ending Note

The beautiful thing about a malleable routine like this is that it can be adjusted to suit any time or phase of your life, depending upon your needs and desires. Start with basic workouts and beginner classes, and move up from there. Enjoy the process of learning and the ride!

Getting fit is as much about exploring what you’re capable of and growing confident as it is about the way you look. Challenge your entire self and watch your attitude and your body change!

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