Why So Many CrossFitters "Hate" Running and What to do About It

Why So Many CrossFitters "Hate" Running and What to do About It

CrossFitters are not known for their love of running.  The day we did the 1-mile time trial we might as well have just closed the gym (even though everyone claims to NEVER cherry pick their workouts! Busted!!)  What is it about running that so many people, and by people I specifically mean CrossFitters, dislike??

I entered the CrossFit world from a background as an endurance runner.  For me, my legs start to feel good when I get to mile 4 in my runs.  Most running we do in CrossFit never comes close to any kind of distance like that, but instead focuses on short intervals of 400 or at most 800 meters (and of course the once-a-year Murph workout that incorporates a mile run on the front and backend of the workout).

So, let’s start with why do you need to run in CrossFit?  Well, first of all, it’s a regular part of CrossFit programming. Like I often say to my kids, “Because I said so!”  Why do we need to do any of the skills in CrossFit - to get bigger, stronger, faster.  RIght?!  Secondly, running builds your engine. Who usually dominates any extended workout? The strongest? The best gymnasts? Nope, the people with the best engine, the people who have trained their cardio capacity - the ones NOT bent over grasping their shorts during and after every wod.  Lastly, CrossFit is the “sport of fitness” and the goal is to be good at a broad range of skills.  You never know when a longer run will be part of a wod or even life in general. In 2016, the CrossFit Games had a 7K run as one of the wods!  Even Games level athletes can’t escape running!

I believe there are several reasons that CrossFitters “hate” running, but I also believe that running is a skill that can be taught and practiced, much like many of the skills embraced by the CrossFit methodology. 

Reason #1:  You are wearing the wrong shoes!  

CrossFitters love to wear flat shoes, which are great for lifting and doing squats, but terrible for running.  When I run in my CrossFit shoes, it hurts!  (I understand the whole argument for minimal running shoes, but unless you are willing to dedicate a LOT of time strengthening your feet and perfecting your mechanics, CrossFit shoes are a terrible shoe choice for most athletes to run in.)  My feet feel like they are slamming into the ground, my shins start shooting pain, my stride starts to shorten and become choppy and I’m practically running on my tippy toes by the end of a mere 400 meters when I wear my flat shoes.  You wouldn’t wear high heels to go bowling, so why would you wear a shoe with no support to go running?!  It makes no sense! Get a good pair of running shoes and keep them in your gym bag to wear for wod’s with running in them.  Your feet will thank you. 

Reason #2:  You don’t warm up correctly!

There are certain muscles that need to be activated prior to running.  Skipping, bounding and leg swings are all fabulous dynamic stretches to do to get the leg muscles firing.  Prior to that, I recommend taking a few minutes to roll out your feet with a lacrosse ball.  That’s right, roll out your feet before you use them!  CrossFitters love to foam roll all of the feel good parts, but what about rolling out the IT Band (the outside of your quad), your calves, hamstrings and don’t forget the glutes!  And you know what the absolute best warm up for running is….walking!  I know it’s not very “hard core” and us CrossFitters love to hit it hard, but think about what running is - high intensity walking!  So take a lap kiddos before that 3..2..1…go sounds!

Reason #3:  You’ve got no engine!

Cardio endurance takes time to build up.  If you are instantly sucking wind any time there is rowing or running in a wod, then you are lacking a cardio base.  Think back to a time when you were working on mastering a skill - double unders or pull ups for instance.  Did you become proficient in that skill just by occasionally doing it when it popped up in a workout? I’m guessing that you did not, but instead you probably dedicated a great deal of time to practicing that skill until you mastered it.  The same holds true for developing a cardio base.  You will never build up your “engine” if you don’t practice.  I will say from experience that I cycle in and out of running every year and when I start back up in the spring time, it sucks, literally!! It takes me about 4 weeks of sucking wind and consistent running 4-5 days a week to build my engine back up.  If you want to get a bigger cardio engine, you have to dedicate some time to practicing.  ‘Nuf said! 

Reason #4:  You’re mindset SUCKS!

If you go into any experience thinking it is going to suck, then guess what?  It is going to suck!  CrossFitters love numbers and benchmarks.  Ask any CrossFitter what their deadlift PR is and they will probably launch into a whole story about the day they set that glorious personal world record down to the music that was playing as they lifted their enormous load.  However, if you ask a CrossFitter about their running benchmarks they might be able to tell you their mile time but that’s probably about it.  All CrossFit athletes should know their running PR’s and when you have running in a workout, you should be striving to meet a goal for the workout.  Be intentional.  It is much easier to have a positive mindset around something when you know the goal for that skill.  News flash - you don’t need to run every 400 meters in a workout like your pants are on fire, just like you don’t go for a new one rep max every time you do a lift.  If you know your numbers, you can look at a workout and set a goal for it.  That will keep your head in the game and make each run like a little mini achievement when you nail it!   

In short, if you want to become a better runner, the best way to do it is to, well, run. Just don't run 400’s, run miles. Run miles more slowly, sprint occasionally and don't treat every run as a complete panic. The tenets of CrossFit are: Constantly varied, functional movement at high intensity. Running is as much a part of CrossFit, as gymnastics and weight lifting. So to be a well-rounded CrossFit athlete, lace up those running shoes and hit the pavement.  3…2…1….RUN!

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