By Joel Pino
I absolutely love to run. I don’t know what it is about it, but tying on shoes and getting out the door does something for me. I’m sure plenty of you feel the same way. So when some other activity comes up that may take me away from my running; say rock climbing, or bowling, or tennis or something, I always view it with plenty of caution and a healthy dose of don’t touch my quality time with running. Sure, I’ve ventured out and done plenty of cycling (definitely love the endless miles I’ve spent on my bike!) and a bit of swimming, but running has been my hearth, my home, my genesis that got me off the couch and away from video games way back during my junior year of high school. I’ve never looked back.
The problem is, as most runners realize, that the more you run, the more you learn about running; either by accident, or by necessity. The more you learn about running the more you understand that if you want to continue to enjoy the sport and be healthy, you need to develop some good cross-training habits as well. It breaks up the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again, it makes you stronger and presents new challenges. Now, as I mentioned, the issue with all this is that it starts to take you away from running. And how could not running make you better at running? It’s a vicious cycle that plays over and over again in the mind: I know I should probably hit the gym and do some strength training, to improve my power and core strength, but then I have to sacrifice time with running -and running won’t like that.
I had this debate with myself all the time. As a result, I kept my gym time to a minimum, and as the years ran on, I found myself combating the same issues, injuries and finally boredom over and over again in my running. As you get older, you realize that true health and fitness lies in the balance you can achieve between all the aspects of your life. I wasn’t feeling balanced anymore. My core wasn’t strong enough. I would hunch over and slow down at the end of a long run and during my workday. But I hated doing the same sit-ups I had learned in high school gym. I had a nasty case of Plantar Fasciitis that wouldn’t leave me alone. But I had no idea that it was a symptom of weaker muscles that I needed to develop. I had no strength, no speed or kick for the end of a race. I had no idea how to develop power. Finally, I was tired of looking like a runner. I didn’t want to be the skinny guy that could barely do two push-ups to save his life. It didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel balanced any more. Yes, running makes me a healthier, more balanced person. I was a strong runner but I wasn’t a fit person. I was too focused on one thing, a one-trick-pony. I was out of balance, that’s a bad thing.
Then, I heard about Crossfit. It’s a relatively new form of exercise that as of late has garnered much hype and cool points in the media and from the exercise savvy. The thing that makes Crossfit so unique, so functional is that it trains your body to be strong and flexible in movements that are common in everday life. For instance, squats are a staple of any Crossfit diet, and this movement is replicated a dozen times a day by any parent who needs to pick their kid up off the floor. Any good crossfit coach would rather you just don’t show up rather than perform a squat with bad form, and this focus on correct form and proper movement (rather than just throwing up a heavy weight) makes the workouts extremely beneficial. A crossfit workout will also vary from day to day. The idea is to keep the body guessing and never allow it to plateau or become too familiar with what you are having it do. I love this idea. A typical Crossfit workout may have you hurling medicine balls up a wall and doing box jumps one day, and then running 400m and doing some deadlifts the next. This type of variation is very challenging.
I started Crossfit six months ago now as a way to supplement my running and focus on becoming a stronger, more balanced athlete. I can’t belive the changes I’ve seen not just in my strength and agility, but in my body as I move through everyday life. My flexibility still isn’t great, but I rarely have my Plantar anymore. I don’t slump over as the day drags on. I absolutey feel stronger and much more balanced and although I may not be doing quite as many miles a week as I was before crossfit, my running has become much more focused and, ultimately, much more enjoyable.As race season gets closer and closer, I’m looking forward to how I’m going to incorporate Crossfit into my run heavy weekly regiment. But, I know that if I can do this successfully, I’ll be a fitter happier runner on the other end of the finish line.
My crossfit gym of choice: Crossfit NRG