From November to March, I took an extended break from running. During that running break, I started attending about three CrossFit classes a week (obviously quite a few less than that while I was busy with Dogfight). Since I picked up running again, making time for both has been a bit challenging, but has also had some excellent benefits.
Obviously, CrossFit is not for everyone, but for me, combining CrossFit with running has been doing great things for my running, and I hope to continue with both. Here’s why.
I’m sure it goes without saying, but being strong is great for a runner. I’m physically stronger now than I’ve ever been before in my life, and I’m only going to keep getting stronger. My legs, core, and arms are strong and balanced, so running feels a lot easier than it ever has before. I used to have occasional pain in my right hip after longer or harder runs, probably due to some un-diagnosed weakness or imbalance, but those days are gone.
Just as mental toughness is essential for a runner, it’s essential for a CrossFit athlete. At least once during every CF workout I think, “How can I possibly keep this up for another x number of rounds or minutes?” But I don’t give up. I take a breath, adjust my pacing, and keep going. I remind myself that I haven’t quit on a workout yet, and if I’ve gotten through in the past, I will this time too.
That mental toughness totally translates into running. I’ve gotten practiced at pushing through to the finish even when I’m gasping for breath and my legs are shaking and I just want to quit. I just remind myself that I’ve done harder things before, and keep on moving.
CrossFit has been an INCREDIBLE confidence boost. I’ve done things I never thought I could do, lifted weights and executed movements I never imagined I was capable of. My form and strength have improved boatloads since I started. My friends at the box only ever encourage me, and congratulate me every time I reach a new milestone. I know for a fact that I can do hard things. And that is VERY powerful.
CrossFit is Harder Than Running
I do not in any way intend to offend with this statement. I know running is very hard. But for me, CrossFit is harder. The average CF workout is WAY harder than an average run, so now, running just seems… easier by comparison. Especially just run-of-the-mill steady state running. It makes getting out there and hitting the pavement a lot less daunting.
Knowing My Limits… And Pushing Beyond Them
A big piece of CrossFit is learning how to push outside your comfort zone (in a safe, measured way). It’s about setting a one rep max in a workout, and then maybe a couple of weeks later, setting a new one. Or repeating Fran a few months after your first attempt, and finishing faster, or using heavier weights.
In my running, I was often afraid to push too hard during a race because I was afraid of blowing up or “failing,” but failing a movement is just a normal part of CrossFit. You try to add some weight to a movement, you give it a shot, and if you can’t do it, no big deal. You can try again next time. Getting used to trying hard things, to adding more and more weight, to failure, has been so instructive for me. For so much of my life, I’ve avoided taking chances for fear of failing, but CrossFit doesn’t really allow me to do that.
Now, I know what the “edge” feels like. And I’m not afraid to step right up to it, maybe put a toe over, and see what I can do. And I’m SO EXCITED to see what that attitude will continue to do for my running.
Have you found a form of cross-training that’s the perfect compliment to your sport of choice?