According to Punxsutawney Phil, Groundhog Day 2012 indicated six more weeks of winter – which is good news, if your fitness program has been hit-or-miss over the holiday season and first of the year. But all too soon, you’ll be shedding bulky winter clothes – and the spring fashions already in stores are sounding a wake-up call to get your program back on track. This could be the perfect time to consider the numerous benefits of cross-training.

Cross-training is the combining of different exercises for different parts of the body that will improve strength, agility, fitness, and power. It usually involves big compound movements where multiple joints are working at once, which elevates the heart rate, giving you a cardiovascular and strength workout at the same time.

Cross-training has long been used by professional athletes. Although the pros have to train specifically for their sports, practicing the same movements over and over again can lead to overuse injuries and even burnout. It can also result in muscular imbalances by overdeveloping the muscles used for their sport while neglecting others. For example, a basketball player may focus on shooting free throws and running drills on the court, but also cross-train with yoga and other strength exercises. This prevents injury and boredom, and develops an all-around fit body.

Exercise in general can strengthen the cardiovascular system, bones, muscles, joints, reduce body fat and improve flexibility, balance and coordination. But if you want to see all of these benefits, you’ll need to start cross-training. What better time to start than now? Check out our 10 excellent cross-training programs, tailored to all levels of fitness, from beginners to advanced. Sign up for the one that’s right for you, and be ready to enjoy the fashions and activities that spring will bring!