Monday, 26 October 2009

Running: More than just metabolic conditioning.

Russ is good at running.  I hate him.

There is something you should know about me, EYF readers.  Something that is a central and defining character trait.  It has affected the way I train, the way I program, and the way I think about fitness.

I hate running.

I know, I know. Everyone hates running, right?  WRONG.  Not like this.  I hate running with a passion most people reserve for the leaders of a genocide against their race.  I hate running like Newton hated Leibniz (man, I'm a nerd.)

Unfortunately, I also suck at running.  A lot.  And because of this, I have to run.  A lot.  I don't like it.

But running is far, far, far too valuable a skill to ignore.

In the article "A Theoretical Template for CrossFit's Programming" Greg Glassman states "...metabolic conditioning is monostructrual activities commonly referred to as 'cardio,' the purpose of which is primarily to improve cardiorespiratory capacity and stamina."  I disagree with this statement.  The main purpose of any activity we undertake is to improve our ability to perform at that activity.  The biological changes that occur (such as an improvement in cardiorespiratory capacity) are part of the process of getting better at those activities.

In other words, what I'm saying is this:  The primary reason we run isn't to improve our metcon, it's to get better at covering distances on foot quickly.

This is an important concept to grasp.  We don't deadlift because it makes us stronger, we deadlift because we were built to pick things up off the ground, and getting stronger is part of the process of getting better at that.  The same holds for running.

Too many CrossFitters treat running as if it were merely an annoying impediment between rounds of swings and pullups during "Helen."  When was the last time you did max effort 100m or 200m sprints?  How seriously do you take it when the WOD is 4x400m run, 4x800m run, or a 5k?  Have you ever analyzed your running form with the same level of criticalness you apply to your clean & jerk?

If the answers to these questions are "not recently," "not seriously," and "no," it may be time to rethink the way you treat running.

Even if it is the most God awful exercise known to man.


Jay Ashman said...

I hate running, I suck at anything over 400m.

thank you for making me feel bad about that and realizing that I should do more.

Dick... :D

Serge said...

If you don't make running your bitch, it will make you one.

ben b said...

Some people were built to acquire important things (food, women, shiny objects) by running and catching them. Other people were built to sneak up on the runners, beat the crap out of them, and take what they wanted. Just saying.

Jay Ashman said...

I like Ben's thinking

Whitney said...

I agree with Jay, Serge and Ben. But most of all Ben because I too suck at running and would rather use my ninja skills to sneak. Just saying.

TexasPatrick said...

And don't forget the mental part . . . Long slow distance, no, that's just crap, but training up to and holding a hard pace, for a LOOONG time (more than 5k)? That's willpower baby. Training outside in the weather on a consistent basis, rain or shine? That's grit. Those are all things crossfitters have in droves and once in a while, you need to be able to go loong baby. Lift hard and heavy, but also run fast and long.


Dutch said...

Did you see Dave Tates video today? My point exactly...

Dutch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russ said...


Yeah, I watched the Dave Tate video. He has the same idea you have about specialized training, at the expense of general fitness, for generalized goals. What I didn't see, however was any data to support this. Did you get a chance to see my response to you in "Post for Dutch"?:

Dutch said...

I saw it and i just think we are going to butt heads about it. I am not seeing your point and you aren't accepting mine. I guess we are both correct...

On a separate note as per out discussion on my website about what is Crossfit's goal. This little gem was posted on the Games site today. "CrossFit is the pursuit of power, plain and simple. "

Russ said...


Power, across broad time and modal domains.

Dutch said...

Did it say that?

Catra said...

Don't hate me but I love to run..80-120 miles a week. Let me change your thinking. Go find a trail and run don't run on the road. That's not fun. I live 1 mile from the trail head where I train. I don't like the road so I make a challenge and try to run that 1 mile mostly up hill as fast as I can. I am not a fast runner but I can out run many fast runners in a 50 and 100 mile race.
Crossfit has made me stronger at going up those hills and I love it.

Russ Greene said...


I don't hate you but that is a shit-ton of running that you're doing. You must really love it.

I actually like running, but Jacob, the author of the article, still hates it.

He's recently been following your advice though and has been running on trails.

Catra said...

Yeah Jacob I'm glad you're running trails bro. If you're ever out my way I would love to take you up Mission Peak.