It’s getting difficult fitting it all in. Not the running – although I skipped my short run at the weekend, I managed to make up the miles in the other four outings of the week, totting up a weekly mileage just shy of 45. It’s the extra strength & conditioning stuff that’s suffering. I just can’t fit it all in. But I think I’ve found the answer: Crossfit.
That’s the mix of weightlifting, gymnastics and cardiovascular madness usually associated with blokes stripped to the waist with torsos chiselled from granite and Amazonians whose thighs would make RedRum blush. But there’s more to Crossfit than all that. I reckon it’s perfect for runners. That’s why this week’s schedule (see below) includes four Crossfit workouts (WODs) and no other gym sessions.
Five reasons why runners should do Crossfit
It’s short and sharp
An hour and you’re done. There’s a warm up, focus on a key skill (anything from Olympic weightlifting movements such as the clean and jerk to sprints or handstands and much more besides) and then the workout of the day (WOD). These are usually no more than 15 or so minutes of intense, heart pounding, lung busting exercise combining weighted, body weight, gymnastic and cardiovascular movements. It’s a good job they’re short, because they’re sharp as hell.
I love the solitude of running. On top of all the fitness benefits, Crossfit gives me something different: company. There can be up to 15 or so people in each session. And they’re not all intimidating Amazonians and granite warriors either (even the ones that fit that stereotype at first glance are welcoming and friendly). There are people of all abilities and fitness levels. They soon become your mates. That gives extra motivation for getting there on time and sharing in it all.
If you turn up on your first day as with wobbly bits on your wobbly bits (as I did five years ago), you’re not going to be able to do chest to bar pull ups and hoist 80kg above your head with the rest of the tops off crew. That wouldn’t end well. But there’s an alternative to every exercise for every fitness level. If pull ups are out of reach, there’s resistance bands and ring rows. Those new to the Olympic weightlifting movements can use empty bars or medicine balls. You gradually scale up until you’re snatching away with the rest of the tops off crew!
It gets you up hills quicker (injury free)
It really does. All those short, sharp bursts of intense exercise mean that I can now bound up hills that would have left me a quaking mess a few months ago (this little gizmo is probably helping too). That’s not all. All the squats, lunges, core exercises, handstands, rope climbs… the list goes on… are building strength throughout my body and putting me in good stead for avoiding injury. Of course, that was the aim of the gym sessions, but Crossfit allows me to do this in less time.
Once upon a time, exercise was a chore. Not anymore. When I first joined my local Crossfit gym five years ago, I was overweight and unfit. The welcoming atmosphere, the coaches, the rapid improvements in my fitness and the fact all this was only taking a few hours a week were a revelation. Suddenly, exercise was fun. There’s a limit to how many WODs you can do in a week before you break yourself, of course, so I started running too. Crossfit and running, I’ve found, compliment each other perfectly. Give it a go.