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A CrossFit introduction for runners

A crossfit introduction for runnersIn the last year, it finally happened. That CrossFit phenomenon I had observed from a safe distance took grasp of my hometown. It reached its muscular arms around my community and sprouted spirited boxes filled with enthusiastic people looking for intense, challenging workouts. A whole new breed of athletes emerged.

Just as hot yoga and triathlon training had done in years past, some of my running buddies were lured in and started experimenting. And some have never returned to the sport of running – at least not in the same way they had engaged before. One friend even said, “CrossFit is a far superior workout (to running), and I’d rather not waste time logging miles anymore.”

What is CrossFit?
The name “CrossFit” comes from a California-based company started in 2000 by former gymnast Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai. The sport itself, however, has been around since the mid 1990s and incorporates “high-intensity interval training (HIIT), olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman, and other exercises” into one powerfully convenient package. There are now more than 10,000 affiliated gyms in the US alone.

What are the workouts?
Every WOD (Workout of the Day) is different. There’s a mix of activities meant to challenge the body and tax the muscles/mind in new ways. There are a range of basic body weight workouts and free weight training, as well as a time component – workouts are often completed as quickly as possible at max capacity. That’s the HIIT part that so many have come to know and love.

CrossFit is that it’s universally scalable. A large group of people can engage in the same workout at the same time. This also means people who workout together can provide support to one another – like running. And that’s a clear advantage to both sports. These athletes stick together and their team spirit is infectious – motivation and moral is high.

Watch this video to get a better idea of the community and the workouts.

What does this mean for runners?
Whether or not CrossFit is better than running isn’t the issue, nor should it be the focus of discussion. It’s cross-training, and runners can benefit from doing exercises that move more than just the usual suspects. If you’re curious, many CrossFit locations offer free introductory classes. You can also try CrossFit workouts at home with just a few tools (kettlebell, hand weights) and your own body weight.

But don’t burn the candle at both ends. If you’re in the middle of training for an event and performing demanding running workouts, doing CrossFit everyday is a recipe for burnout. Coach Jenny at Runner’s World puts it best, At the end of the day, it’s all about energy … Very few people can get away with squeezing long runs, tempo, speed, and [CrossFit] HIIT strength into one week, especially as the marathon training plan progresses to high mileage toward the middle and end of the season.”

Have you tried CrossFit? What do you think?

Written by Ashley Marcin / Photo Creative Commons

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