Thursday, November 20, 2014

Running and CrossFit, Why They Both Rule

I wanted to title this blog "Running vs. CrossFit," but I didn't feel like that was a good way to start this thing. "Running and CrossFit, Why They Both Rule," was better. As I have been starting down my weight loss journey again, I have looked back on when I started running and how that was such a great time in my life.  I got down to 244 pounds from 333 when I was running.  That is pretty awesome.  I am not running anymore, but I am doing CrossFit.  I am a friend hoarder, so any endeaver I start, I add as many people as I can as friends in that pursuit.  So I get to see a lot of running and CrossFit posts daily.

When I started running, I quickly made many friends in the running community.  Life-long friends. When I started CrossFit, I quickly made many friends in the CrossFit community. Life-long friends. I have noticed both sides tend to think the other side is crazy.  Even though CrossFit does preach the importance of having endurance, and running coaches do preach the importance of cross training.

My observations:

1. Both are very passionate about what they do.
I am pretty sure I posted just as much about running on Facebook as I do CrossFit now.  Maybe CrossFitters are a little more vocal as a whole about what they are doing, but I have several CrossFit friends who never post about it.

I think the obsession on posting so much about CrossFit is because it is still new for so many people. There are so many fun and different things to do, and then you start getting PR's and lifting heavier. You are doing things you never thought about before.  I think I can swap out the word "CrossFit" for "running" and it would almost work.  I remember how excited I was the first time I ran 30 minutes without stopping, I posted about it.  Or when I got blisters on my feet.  When you start doing something good for your body and your body starts changing, you get super excited!

2. Injuries happen.
I remember when I was talking to friends about how I wanted to start running to lose weight. I had several people tell me how bad it was for my knees, or how they tried to run but got hurt.  Guess what? I got injured a few times when I was running.  My knees did hurt some.  I stepped wrong and twisted my ankle.  Sometimes I over-trained and tried to run more miles than I was ready to run. Sometimes I would get blisters the size of silver dollars on my feet. Some of these injuries could have been prevented if I would've listened to my coach or running partners.  Sometimes they just happen. If you don't listen to your body or to the people who know more than you, then yes, you can get injured from being stupid.

I remember when I was talking to friends about how I wanted to start CrossFit to lose weight.  I had several people tell me how bad it was for my knees, or how they tried it a few times but got hurt. Guess what? I have been injured a few times doing CrossFit.  My knees do hurt sometimes. I jumped off a box and rolled my ankle.  Sometimes I over-train and try to lift more weight than I am ready for. Sometime I tear my hands from doing pull-ups.  Some of these injuries could have been prevented if I would've listened to my coach or lifting partners.  Sometimes they just happen.  If you don't listen to your body or the people who know more than you, then yes, you can get injured from being stupid.

3. It does amazing things for you.
I remember when I first started running, I thought it was going to kill me.  I could not even run from one light post to the other. But with anything you stick to and keep at, it gets better, and the weight came off quickly. I remember really looking forward to getting my 5 runs in a week.  The feeling of that runner's high that would stay with you throughout the day. I loved that. I miss it.

I remember when I first started CrossFit, I thought it was going to kill me. I could not even finish the first few minutes of the workout. But with anything you stick with and keep at, it gets better.  The weight didn't come off as quickly partly because I wasn't eating like I should.  I do look forward to getting my 4-5 workouts in the week.  The feeling of finishing a really hard workout carries you through the day. I love it too.

I can keep doing this all day.  I wanted to point out the similarities between the two things.  Maybe the two camps can have a little more understanding for each other.  My wife still runs 3-4 times a week, and she does 3-4 CrossFit workouts a week, too.  I remember when one of my running friends told me I should run more, "CrossFitters don't run, and they hate running."  But to be honest, I don't think a lot of CrossFitters love running.  I remember at this year's Tanger Throwdown, they announced the first workout was a 5k.  You should've seen how pissed off people were.  I heard one girl say, "THIS ISN'T CROSSFIT!" The funny thing is that she is wrong.  Running is a part of CrossFit!

I asked our endurance coach at CrossFit Republic, James Pettit, why running is important for a person who wants to do CrossFit.
"It's important to run while doing CrossFit, because endurance is part of the 10 general physical skills. But beyond that, it's a super accessible way for anyone to get into fitness. Also, endurance is a huge part of being better at CrossFit. Once that 10-minute mark hits, a person's endurance comes out in a big way. In order to be more competitive, you need endurance, and I believe running is one of the best ways to acquire it."
James was a runner before he ever found CrossFit, and he has crushed his previous PR's since he started his regular WODs. My wife can say the same thing. She just ran a 1:38 half-marathon, her best time ever and a 5-minute improvement!
Coach James
I wanted to get to the bottom of why running is hated by CrossFitters, and why do CrossFitters hate running so much? I liked it a lot when I was doing it. I fail at it now,though, and that makes me not enjoy it that much anymore.  So I put the question to our endurance coach James.
"I don't think all hate it but a lot do. Here's my opinion of why. Running is boring, slow, lonely, and not glamorous. None of those adjectives are used to describe CrossFit. CrossFitters love CrossFit, because it's fast, exciting, loud, and community-based. Typical CrossFit hashtags: liftheavyshit, beastmode, etc. So taking this and combining it with the 'why run' info above, I think CrossFitters eventually come around to embracing running, because it's a weakness that needs to be attacked in most people."
Maybe we will see more and more running in CrossFit.

I remember my coach Shannon Cochran from Nixa Running would always preach how important any kind of cross training is.  It doesn't have to be CrossFit; it can be many different things.  So I asked her, "Why is it important to run and cross train? If it's CrossFit, yoga, body pump or anything."  I really enjoyed her response.
"Cross training is important for any sport. It can reduce the chance of an overuse injury with one specific exercise. Cross training for runners, for example, needs to be something that mimics the heart rate of running. Examples are cycling, rowing, skiing, etc. It needs to be challenging but use different muscles.
Strength training is important  to runners and cyclist because it builds those muscles up to where they can sustain the hard work these two exercises put on particular muscles. 
I am a believer that endurance runners need endurance strength training: more reps, lower weight.
It is irrelevant if a runner can squat hundreds of pounds if their back, glutes, and abs (core) are weak from ignoring them.
A runner and cyclist both need ST for upper body. As you know carrying your arms in the same position for HOURS can be exhausting. ST (at an endurance level) can help with that fatigue. 
Three fundamentals of fitness are: cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility. Pilates and or yoga are great for runners. 
A lot of heavy lifters forget they still need to work their Hearts. Cardiovascular health is as equally important as being functionally strong."
Shannon doesn't just run. She cycles, stair climbs, goes to body pump classes, rows and teaches boot camp.  I would never challenge her to a plank contest.  I don't think I know of many people who could hold a plank longer than her.
Coach Shannon
My unprofessional opinion from just someone who has been immersed in both worlds, I feel like it is important to find balance in running/endurance activities with strength training. I, for one, am going to make an effort to start running more.  Who knows, I might even sign up for a race.


jennifer f said...

Yay, I'm glad 5love both, me too! I have been running for 25 years and started doing CrossFit 3+ years ago . . I love the body weight stuff but I often RX down the weight because I'm pretty small, have gone from being able to do 1 pull up to 25+ kipping unbroken . . . until my hands give out. I even got a bar muscle up about 6 months ago . . . .heck ya for a 47 year old! Also completed the CrossFit Games Open last year - now that was humbling, but so thrilled I finished.

Meredith said...

LOVE this post. There are so many benefits to both, and the comparisons you identify are so interesting and so RIGHT. There's always a new goal, always something to be excited about, always a community to be involved with.. I think runners can be just as annoying/overenthusiastic as crossfitters, but as you point out, CrossFit is newer, so it just comes across more strongly I think.

It's totally possible to enjoy and reap benefits from BOTH. I think in general, it's best to not do just one thing anyway, so why not both?