A few weeks ago we gave a rundown of the year-long endurance schedule and how our work fits into the bigger picture. (Long-story-short: Off-Season for CrossFit athletes = Peak-Season for Endurance.) Because we’re in the peak of our Endurance season, we’re running a lot: more miles per week, more days per week, and longer runs. This article is designed to give you tips on how to make this running increase less terrible possibly even enjoyable..
- Footwear. If you’re only running in nanos (or any other CrossFit shoe), you’re going to get hurt. CrossFit specific shoes have harder soles for better stability across the range of exercises. Wikipedia explains the shoes were “designed to be used for high impact movements, weightlifting and short-distance running.” Short-distance running is anything under a mile.
Think of running shoes like you do weightlifting shoes. They are movement specific shoes that you’re going to need when running over a mile.
Because we’re running several miles at a time, you need a shoe with good cushioning. (Yes there are people out there who run with minimalist/0 drop shoes- those people are an exception to the rule; and for every person running in those shoes, there are 10 who hurt their lower legs trying to use them.) I have run in Nike Pegasus shoes for over 10 years now. Every model year provides a great all around shoe that will last 1000 miles.
- Mobility. You need to stretch after each run. The longer you run your range of motion gets shorter and shorter. This is because of muscle fatigue and swelling as well as the subconscious brain making your body shorten the running cycle in order to preserve resources. Because of this shortening system your legs are tight when you stop running. The best thing you can do for your legs is spend 5 minutes going through some stretches:
A) Downard Dog: Stretch posterior chain for 1:00 total
B) Figure 4 Stretch: 1:00 each leg
C) Calf Stretch: 1:00 each calf (work all angles)
D) Hip Flexor Stretch: 1:00 each side. Tuck hips underneath and truly feel the stretch.
E) Ball in Foot: Get a lacrosse ball and smash it into your foot fof 1:00 each foot.
Half the battle of running more mileage is getting through the run mentally. Your mind is constantly telling you “this is dumb” and “you’ve never run this far” in a constant effort to get you to stop. These are normal thoughts all runners experience and they come from our primal instincts that are designed for self-preservation.
When cavemen ran, it was to track down food. When we run for purposes other than catching dinner our DNA screams for us to stop. The purpose of this inner voice is to get us to save energy for the time we’re chasing dinner. The point here is to understand why we’re thinking that running sucks. Running does suck, but at the paces we’re running now, the suck comes primarily from the mental game.
- Music. One way to get over this mental hurdle is running with music. Bring your phone with you and put it in an armband or spibelt or bring a tiny radio/music player. This will help distract you from the voice in your head that’s trying to get you to stop.
Music can both motivate and soothe us while we run. I personally have playlists for both. If I’m out for a long slow run, I listen to low-key folk or acoustic music. If I’m in a race or doing a workout at higher intensity I listen to hard core rap or fast rock. (Spotify even has a feature that picks music to match your cadence.) Pick something that matches your run goal and you’ll find running a little easier.
- Nutrition/Hydration. As an athlete you know pre & post nutrition is key to maximizing your training. But how you fuel intra-workout is just as important and is often overlooked by athletes new to the Endurance spectrum.
Your body stores enough glycogen for roughly 1 hour of intense cardiorespiratory training. During these runs we are simply training the body to move longer distances, we’re not trying to lose weight or train our body to be fat adaptive. (We can do those things later, but that is not the focus of our Endurance program.) As athletes we want to replenish our glycogen store in order to maximize our training for the day.
I suggest eating a “goo” every 45 minutes while running anything over 6 miles or 50 minutes. This will give you a noticeable kick of energy to help you continue the run. You can also eat a fruity baby-food packet or condensed gatorade. I suggest 75-100 simple carb calories every 45 minutes.
Don’t overlook hydration. Drink water no less than every 25 minutes or every 3 miles. Even if you’re not hot, your body needs the water to keep up with the increased demand for hydration. This will help keep muscle tightness down. I always like to know where all the drinking fountains are along my running route and stop along the way to get a drink. This helps break up the monotony of running and gives you a mental break here and there. This 30 second break won’t hurt the effectiveness of the workout unless we’re at Gear 3 or higher.
- Routine. Having a regular run routine is key to making your Endurance work a reality. You need to pick 2-3 times throughout the week you can dedicate to the Endurance work. You need to protect this time like you would your squat programming for the week. Don’t use excuses to stray away from your regular schedule. If it’s rainy or you just can’t run, find another cardio workout that you can do under the conditions (sub rowing/biking for running). You’ll quickly notice that even though you don’t want to run, your body will warm up after the first mile and you’ll feel much better if you can just push through.
Having a partner will also maximize your ability to complete the workouts. Do these runs with a friend. Talking is a great way to distract yourself from the monotony of running. It also helps you stay true to your running schedule. If you’re not super dedicated to running, find someone who enjoys running to be an “accountability buddy.”
It’s true that running sucks sometimes. But another truth is that people who truly want to accomplish their goals do what’s necessary to accomplish them. That means you have to get out and do the work. The athletes who are making it to the Games are doing their Endurance work. Those athletes who don’t do the Endurance work don’t make it to the Games…