While the stereotype that people who do CrossFit hate running isn't universally true, it has certainly been true for me. I hated running. The idea of going on a run for fun never made sense to me. At first, I assumed it was because I was terribly out of shape. Then, after I discovered CrossFit and began to improve, I assumed it was because I simply found running boring (There may still be some truth to this one. I'd still rather spend 15 minutes doing sit ups, barbell cleans and kettle bell swings than go on a run.)
It turns out, though, that something different was at play too. For a long time, whenever running was announced as part of the workout, the grumbling in my head immediately drowned out anything that the coaches might try to say. If I did hear them, I would tell myself that they didn't understand how terrible I was at running and that their advice wouldn't apply to me until I got better.
Somehow, at the beginning of this summer, I was actually able to hear some coaching before we left on our run. It wasn't any super secret trick. It was just about breathing. I was told to inhale twice before exhaling. Simple.
So, I inhaled twice.
At first I developed a rhythm of connecting my inhales to pairs of foot falls (inhale-step-step, inhale-step-step, exhale-step-step-step-step). Then, as I began to need more frequent breaths, it became: inhale-step, inhale-step, exhale-step-step. Suddenly I could run.
Why was this so helpful?
1. If breathing can get people through labor, it can get you through your run
Well now, instead of the not so helpful grumbly voice drowning out my thoughts, I have something to calm my focus. I'm not consumed by how much I hate running. I'm just thinking, "inhale inhale exhale," and that small manageable thought usually carries me through at least half the run. I mean seriously, if people can focus on their breath to make it through an unmedicated labor, I can use my breath to run around Trader Joe's and back.
2. I stopped cramping up
Other than the "boredom" of running, the other element that made running so terrible for me was that muscles would always cramp, even on short runs. My back and abdomen would seize. As it turns out, quick shallow breaths will do that. The double inhale insured that my muscles were getting the oxygen I needed to keep me from cramping.
It's been a few months now, and I'm still surprised when I have energy at the end of my run. Now, obviously part of this is that my CrossFit training has been consistent, and my body's capacity to work has grown incredibly. However, I really think that breathing was the missing link that kept me from translating my CrossFit skills to running.
Now, I can actually enjoy running on the 606 with my kids and am disappointed if they decide that their limitless supply of energy has come to an end, and we need to walk. I'm curious to know how much I can do. I might not love running, but I don't hate it.
So the moral of the story is breathe...oh and listen to your coaches, because while you may be going off on your own trying to find the secret sauce to make you better, they're probably telling you exactly what you need to be doing.
P.S. If you do not yet have access to the coaching at Goose Island CrossFit and would like to try it out, consider signing up for our FREE intro class. You'll get half an hour to talk one on one with a coach followed by an hour of personalized coaching in addition to the coaching of the group class.
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