5 Ways CrossFit Has Been Great for My Running

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.

Physical Strength
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.

Mental Toughness
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.

Confidence
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?

 

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Manic Monday – 08/14/17

 

Manic MondayTraining For: Charlotte Covered Bridges Half?

What Was Planned vs. What Happened

Monday 08/07/17: CrossFit | CrossFit
We worked up to one rep max squat snatches, which KILLED me, and then did a 15 minute workout that combined bar muscle ups and hang cleans. And then I got changed and went out to a concert. On a Monday night. Like a boss.

Tuesday 08/01/17: 5k Run | 5k Run
I didn’t feel like running at lunch, so right after work I changed into my running clothes and zipped out the door for a 5k. This meant I got to go home and shower off instead of sitting in my own sweat all afternoon. Win.

Wednesday 08/02/17: CrossFit | CrossFit
We did Open workout 17.5, which is 10 rounds of 9 thrusters and 35 double-unders. I didn’t quite finish before the time cap, but I was able to do two DUs in a row several times, and even three in a row once, which is HUGE. We finished with some sprints.

Thursday 08/03/17: 5 Mile Run | Rest
I was quite tired and sore after three straight days of workouts, so I decided to just relax. This was also the day Ben came home (FINALLY), so I made dinner for the family and we just hung out.

Friday 08/04/17: CrossFit | CrossFit
This was a doozy–basically 5 different short workouts crammed into one hour. I was a sweaty, exhausted mess at the end.

Saturday 08/05/17 : Rest | Rest
We had a relaxing morning, and then spent the rest of the day at our friends Lori and Emerson’s wedding.

Sunday 08/06/17: 9 Mile Run | 8 Mile Run
It was a perfect, breezy, overcast day. I probably could have done 9, but since I didn’t run long last weekend, I didn’t want to push it too much.

That’s probably the best week of training I’ve had in a while. I made it to three CrossFit classes and ran twice. I’m hoping I can keep this up going forward!

Back on Track

Now that Legally Blonde is over and I have a few weeks to myself before Chess rehearsals start, it’s time to re-establish a fitness routine. Towards the end of Legally Blonde rehearsals, I made the tough (but ultimately smart) decision to stop running for a while, because the strain on my shins was too much with all of the jumping rope I had to do for the show. Also as you may remember, I was too exhausted to do much but go through the motions outside of rehearsals and performances for the last week or so. I took two full days off of pretty much any physical activity, and now I’m ready to get back to it.

With the re-establishing of the fitness routine also needs to come better eating. Things have been so insane lately that convenience has become the most important thing, and my diet has consequently suffered. Too many processed carbs, too much sugar, and not enough produce or protein. That’s got to change.

I also need to come up with some more structured strength training to get ready for the Spartan Race on September 20. I’m hoping to be able to start taking Body Pump at least once a week (ideally twice per week), and I’m considering biting the bullet and paying for some personal training sessions to really come up with a plan.

I’d be lying if I said my ultimate goal with all of the above wasn’t to FINALLY lose these extra 10 or so pounds that have crept up on me over the last year or so. It will be better for my running, better for the Spartan Race, and better for my self-esteem. I think investing in a personal trainer is a smart move at this point, because obviously, what I’m doing on my own isn’t working. They say that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. I’m tired of doing the same old workouts and beating my head against a wall, wondering why I’m not getting stronger and leaner. It’s time to call in the big guns. It’s time to get professional help.

Unless and until I finally pull the trigger on personal training, and until Chess rehearsals start, here is what my schedule will probably look like.

  • Monday:  Short run at lunch; Body Pump in the evening
  • Tuesday:  Walk at lunch; stretch and roll
  • Wednesday:  Short run at lunch; Body Pump in the evening
  • Thursday:  Walk at lunch; CXWORX in the evening
  • Friday:  Short run at lunch; Body Flow?
  • Saturday:  Longer run or race
  • Sunday:  Rest

I’d still love to incorporate yoga once a week, but I’ve finally accepted that while we’re living with Ben’s parents out in the boonies, it just doesn’t make sense to drive into town on Sunday morning for a yoga class. I’d end up spending more time in the car than in yoga. There’s a 5:15 Body Flow class at my gym on Fridays, but as you can see by the question mark above, I don’t know how reasonable it is that I’d want to go to a yoga type class on Friday evening. My gut says I’d skip it more often than not, especially as the weather gets warmer and more activities start happening on Friday nights. I guess we’ll see.

I’ve also got a few races coming up–a 5 miler on May 2, a 5k on May 9 (visit my fundraising page here), and a 5k on May 14, so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy training-wise.

What’s your number one tip for getting back on track after time off?

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer?

Plan/Goals for the Second Half of the Year

I started this whole running thing without any specific goals other than finishing my first half marathon.  Now that goal has come and gone (read about it here), and I find that I’m lacking motivation.

Click for Source

Click for Source

Yes, I could go ahead and sign up for a bunch more races (and I will), but for the moment, I’m kind of enjoying not being in “training mode.”  I like that I don’t have to forgo social engagements because they interfere with my running schedule, or avoid having a few beers on Friday night so that I can complete my Saturday long run.  In short, I like having my life back to normal.

That being said, I don’t want to just stop running.  Far from it.  I want to keep running and improving.  And I definitely want to complete another half marathon before the snow starts flying, which in Vermont, could be some time as early as October.  I’ve been seeing a lot of mid-year 2014 goal check-in posts, and they have inspired me to set some more concrete goals for the second half of the year, which will hopefully help keep me motivated.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ll be working towards for the next 6 months:

  • Sign up for and complete another half marathon
  • Sign up for and complete a 10k race (probably virtual)
  • Incorporate speed work and/or hills at least once a week, with the goal of consistently running 5k under 3o minutes
  • Get back to yoga.  I know this is kind of wishy-washy and non-specific, but I’m not sure what the yoga class schedule will be like at my new gym, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure right off the bat
  • Strength train at least once a week.  My hips were incredibly sore for a couple of days after my half, and I want to make sure that my muscles are able to support me on longer runs
  • Focus on recovery after runs.  I’ve been skipping the stretch and roll routine after runs a little too often, and I know that’s not good for me.  I’m pretty sure my tight calves are contributing to the pain in my foot, so I want to protect myself from injury and really limber up my muscles

That’s all for now.  I don’t want to have too many plates up in the air at once, especially since I’m still working on my #Chewsday Challenge as well.  I plan to do a monthly check-in on these goals to help me stay accountable and on-track.  I may also add or alter goals as things occur to me.

My running/training plan for the next little while will look something like this:

Monday:  Cross-train (yoga/body pump/strength train)
Tuesday:  Alternate hill repeats and speed work
Wednesday:  Cross-train (yoga/body pump/strength train)
Thursday:  Short, fast (for me) run (3-5 miles)
Friday:  Rest
Saturday:  Long, slow distance (6-8 miles)
Sunday:  Rest

Basically, I want to maintain my fitness, but not spend every Saturday recovering from a long run.  Once I sign up for my fall half, I’ll increase my long run mileage each week to get ready.

Do you set specific running/fitness-related goals? How do you stay motivated?

Cross-training? What’s that?

It’s not a secret that cross-training (biking, yoga, strength training etc) can help your running performance.  At the outset of my half marathon training, I was really good about getting to the gym once or twice a week to “pump iron” or hit the elliptical.  But as the weather got nicer, those gym trips became more sporadic, and then stopped altogether.  I realized recently that the only “cross-training” I’ve been doing for the last two months is riding my bike to and from work.  While that’s great, and certainly better than nothing, I could probably benefit from doing some strength training too.

I have had a membership at the local Planet Fitness for a while, but it’s just far enough away that Ben and I find it a pain in the butt to get over there.  And as I’m sure you know, PF isn’t exactly the cutting edge as far as gyms go–weights, a circuit training area, and cardio–not terribly stimulating.  So basically, I’ve been paying $10 a month to NOT work out.

The good news is, through my job I can get a discounted corporate membership with a local fitness company that has FIVE different locations in the area.  For $40 a month, I have access to all 5 facilities, which include:

  • Lap Pools
  • Aqua Classes
  • Spinning
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Indoor track (!!!)
  • Les Mills
  • Zumba
  • Hot tub

And more!  So, I finally bit the bullet and signed up.  One of the locations is about a 5 minute walk from my office, and one is halfway between Ben’s parents’ place and my office.  I’m really excited about the opportunity to try Zumba and Body Pump, and have access to an indoor track for speed work and rainy day runs.  I’m also hoping the fact that I’m paying significantly more per month will force me to actually go a couple of times a week.  I guess we’ll see about that!

I’m really excited to see what kind of impact additional cross-training will have on my running.  Before we left Massachusetts, I was attending several strength and conditioning classes a week in addition to running, and I was really strong.  I’ve already talked a bit about how I’ve gained some weigh since moving back to Vermont (and no, it’s not muscle, trust me), so I’m hopeful that mixing up my routine will also help me get back to where I started weight-wise.

Do you have a gym membership?

What’s your favorite form of cross-training?

Running Even When You Don’t Want To

As you may recall from one of my earliest posts, will power is not my thing.  Follow-through is also not my strong suit.  I’m really good at making excuses for why I don’t need to run, why I shouldn’t run.  And then I’m really good at justifying those decisions with perfectly reasonable, logical arguments, so that in the moment, I feel good about choosing not to exercise.  And then later is the regret, the guilt, the questioning-of-life-choices and why am I such an idiot?  A huge part of my running journey has been learning to overcome the voices that make excuses and just GO.  I’m getting better, but most days, it’s still a struggle.  As I said to one of my blogger friends recently, “Inertia’s a b****.”

Last night was a scheduled run, and I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was exhausted from the 5k and birthday festivities this weekend, and my legs were really sore from Monday night’s cross-training.  On the one hand was the “listen to your body” excuse–You’re tired, you’re sore, you should probably just go home and stretch.  Come on, you worked really hard yesterday, you deserve a break.  Conserve your energy for Thursday’s 5k.  And then there was the other voice–No, don’t make excuses.  You’re not TOO tired, you’re not TOO sore.  Just start.  Just go and see how it feels.  I had a huge argument with myself and as I got in the car after work, I nearly drove straight back to Ben’s parents’ house and skipped my run.

Click for source

Click for source

But instead, I pulled myself together, drove to our apartment, changed into my running clothes, and out the door I went.  It was a gorgeous evening–a bit overcast and a bit breezy, so it wasn’t too warm.  People and other runners were out all over the place.  I felt good.  I focused on just taking it slow and easy.  My legs didn’t hurt, my breathing was great, and I managed 2.6 miles.  I could have gone further, but honestly it was such a miracle I even went at all that I won’t complain or be upset.

Nicole at The Girl Who Ran Everywhere posted recently about marking runs as “wins” or “losses,” depending on various factors, and it was really thought-provoking for me.  I often think that if I don’t hit my scheduled mileage or go “too slow” that a run isn’t successful.  But when I think about it, last night’s run was definitely a “win.”  No, I didn’t complete my scheduled 3 miles, and I ran slower than I have in weeks.  BUT–I went, even though I didn’t want to.  AND–it was a good run.  No pain, no shortness of breath, good weather, and (once I got going) a good state-of-mind.  All of the doubts and the excuses just stopped the second I started running.

I am SO PROUD of myself for overcoming my excuses and just doing it.  It’s not really my natural state to exercise, and even less so to exercise when I don’t  want to.  Choosing fitness and a healthy lifestyle will probably always be a challenge for me, but hopefully it will continue to get easier, and hopefully I will make the good choices more often than not.

Do you ever had days where you just don’t feel like running?

How do you convince yourself to get out there and do it anyway?

Sunday Summary – 4/6/14

Oops!  Yet another “Sunday Summary” on Monday.  Maybe I should just change it to weekly wrap up so I can post it whenever?  But I really like alliteration…  Oh well.  Anyway…

What a difference a week can make!  Being back home has been incredible, both on the running front, and on the healthy eating front.  I have really been focusing on upping my produce and protein intake.  I also hit all my mileage goals and managed to get some cross-training in.  I’m feeling great!

Monday:  First day back in the gym for lifting in over two weeks, and boy did I feel it!  Squats, dead-lifts, bench press, bent over rows, donkey kicks, fire hydrants, lots of abs and a one minute plank.  It was nice to just get a full-body, all over workout in.  I also walked 2 miles to work in the morning.

Tuesday:  Walked 2 miles to work in the morning, and then did a lovely 3.3 mile outdoor run.  It was warm(ish), then sun was out, and I felt great, even though it was wet and muddy!

Wednesday:  Walked 2 miles to work in the am.  The weather was incredible and I thought about going for a run, but my calves were still stiff and sore from my Tuesday run, so I decided not to push it.  I had a glass of red wine and watched the Walking Dead instead 🙂

Thursday:  Walked 2 miles to work in the morning  Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as nice out as Wednesday, but I got a comfortable 4 miles in.  My calves are a bit sore again, so I’m really looking forward to getting the foam roller that I ordered.  I hear it hurts so good!

The view over Lake Champlain

The view over Lake Champlain

Friday:  Ben and I went over to our friends’ house for a couples date.  We had a few drinks and played some Wii.  We were supposed to go downtown to meet up with some people after, but I was tired, and knew I had a long run scheduled for Saturday morning, so I just hit the hay at 11.  I turned down drinks so I could get my sleep for running… Who am I?!?!

Saturday:  LONGEST RUN EVER!  Personal record of 6.1 miles.  And what’s crazy is, I actually maintained an average pace of just about 10 minutes/mile.  That’s WAY faster than I expected.  I’m feeling way more confident about my ability to complete a half after this.  From here on out, every long run will be a distance record.  Yeehaw!

Photo Apr 05, 9 37 08 AM

Sunday:  We slept in.  Had a leisurely breakfast.  Did our taxes (yuck).  We went for frozen yogurt at Orange Leaf (yum!) and then decided to go for a nice long walk along the water front and through downtown, which helped to offset the fro-yo a little bit 🙂  Then I made some absolutely heavenly butternut squash soup for dinner–recipe will be posted this week!

Frank's Red Hot makes everything better!

Frank’s Red Hot makes everything better!

This has been a really excellent week, both on the life side of things and the running side of things.  I’m feeling way more positive about running, and excited to continue on this journey.  I think it’s the weather.  It’s finally warming up and the sun is streaming through the windows as I type.  Definitely a mood booster!