My apologies to the UPS man. I've added strength exercises recently to my usual workout schedule of swimming, biking and running. I train with Chris Reynolds, a certified kettlebell instructor and Normal firefighter.

Kettlebells look like cannonballs with handles. Kettlebells so exercises are done powerfully to build strength fast.

I've bought three kettlebells since starting. They weigh 26-, 35 and 44 pounds. Mr. UPS man, I'm sorry.

It's all in the name of cross-training. It's is something to consider if you need something to spark your New Year's weight-loss /fitness resolutions or to combat the winter blahs.

We're creatures of habit, but experts say habit isn't a good thing when it comes to fitness. Focusing only on one sport just won't do. We need cross-training, and winter is a great time to do it.

"Cross-training is very important for continually challenging the body," said Reynolds, of www.leanbodyonline.com. "If your current routine has become easy, then your body has adapted. You must seek to become inefficient, and do things that are new and difficult for you. Push yourself. That's the way to constantly improve."

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons agrees. Cross-training will force the use of different muscle groups, which "not only improves your overall fitness, it helps to prevent overuse injuries that are more common in single-sport activities." Doing different exercises also helps prevent boredom.

I love the bike. This time of year, my two-wheeler is attached to a Computrainer for four workouts a week. A computer adjusts the resistance on the back wheel to simulate hills or flat land and everything in between. I'm getting ready for several triathlons this year. My longest race is an IronMan 70.3 in the hills of Branson, Mo.

I also run outside in winter when I can do so without fear of slipping and breaking something, or on the treadmill when necessary. I swim twice a week with the USA Masters Swimming Association at Illinois Wesleyan University.

And now I do kettlebells at least twice a week.

My own weight loss experience proved the need to cross-train. I lost weight fast from 2005 to mid-2008. But weight loss slowed to a crawl when I had about 40 pounds left to lose. Why, I didn't know. I was riding more miles than ever and I seemed to be riding harder than ever, but the pounds were coming off slower. I know now as Reynolds says, the human body is great at adapting to the strains we put on it. If I do something long enough, what once seems hard becomes easy. The body finds an efficient way to get the job done, and it burns fewer calories doing it. I had to mix things up. I started running with the Lake Run Club and joined the USA Masters Swimming Association.

My weight loss started to accelerate again as I rode the bike four to five times, ran three times and went swimming. That was the same weekly routine I used to prepare for IronMan Wisconsin last year.

Along with the kettlebells, I'm also using the Paleo Diet, which is heavy on vegetables, fruit and lean meat, with no white potatoes, grain or dairy. So far, I'm down eight pounds since the first of January, my body fat slipped under 10 percent, I have plenty of energy for workouts and I feel generally better.

Scott Richardson is Pantagraph outdoor editor. Contact him at 309 820-3227 or email srichardson@pantagraph.com. Share stories and read past outdoor and fishing columns at www.pantagraph.com/blogs.


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