Tag Archives: Running

How CrossFit Changed my Running

Bulgarian Split Squat

Last year I was a thirty year-old male named Kevi Williams, at least, according to a translation error while anmelding.

It’s too early to tell who I was this year.

As I stood in the Sunday sunshine, waiting for the starting gun and wearing traditional CrossFit black in a sea of neon, I was nervous because:

a) I’ve only taken two ‘real’ runs in the past four months, the longest of which was only 40 minutes long.

b) Instead of training runs, I’ve been swinging kettle bells and doing many, many back squats.

c) It was a 10k (which means ‘fast’).

d) People (especially Germans who have sport clubs for things that aren’t even sports) are pretty serious when it comes to racing. Plus, they usually practice.

But the goal of this city race wasn’t to go fast, per say, but to have fun (if possible); represent CrossFit Ansbach (since I was wearing the t-shirt); and to test how my CrossFit Training has affected my running.

I’d been a runner for about four years before I succumbed to CrossFit’s siren song. My running had changed during that time, especially after reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (who DIDN’T start barefoot running after that?!) and slowly, I was able to change my form to a minimalist style: barefoot shoes, forefront strike. That slow evolution strengthened my arches (a previous weakness) and significantly helped my knee problems.

Now I was adding CrossFit.

I remember Rob once saying that you have to use your ass when you run; and at the time, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. However, it IS possible to run 4 or 5 or even 6 marathons without ever using the biggest single muscle in your body.

What a waste of potential.

At last year’s race, I’d only been CrossFitting 2 or possibly 3 days a week for 4 months. This time, not only did I have another year under my significantly smaller belt, but I’ve been at the box consistently 5 days a week, doing the Bogatyr training program, which I love because while my life goes to hell, it makes me feel good to be part of a group of ‘warriors.’

CrossFit isn’t simply doing some kind of exercise: it’s about mastering movement.

Mostly, you’re using your hips, core and ass–and when you do it right, it feels right.

These foundational movements are also utilized in minimalist running technique.

That was the biggest difference for me.

When others were wilting on the long, hot stretch with no breeze, I was keeping my shoulders back, my gaze up, and my hips open.

When ‘in the groove’ my core floated along, and I felt light as my feet pushed the ground away behind me.

Mid-race, I was picking people off, staying strong and increasing my speed until the final sprint at the finish.

After the race (and this morning) I could feel it in my butt, which is something new (of course–that COULD be leftover from Saturday’s Bulgarian Split Squats; but my legs didn’t feel tired at all.

I don’t know how Kevi Williams did this year, but as for CrossFitter Mama, when she crossed the finish line the clock said 54 minutes (not bad for a chick turning 41 this week); and she finished strong and smiling–like a Bogatyr should.

It was a PR.

Next stop: Swiss Alps.

After that…the sky’s the limit.

As long as I can take my kettle bells.  

 

 

 

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In the Groove

running

There is a certain phenomenon in running when everything falls into place and you feel like you can run forever–this is called ‘flow.’

Crossfitters and other athletes experience this too: where your body and mind work together so well, you KNOW this game or fight or race or WOD is yours.

It is part training, part mental focus, part relaxation, and part endorphine high.

Flow is also elusive: the more you think about accomplishing it, the more it slips away.

It is not about ‘thinking;’ it’s about ‘knowing.’ It’s a difference I can hardly even put words to. You just have to be there once, even for a moment, to understand.

Buddhists probably have a term for this.

Many of us add a spiritual component to flow–a higher power that gives you this ability to face a giant with a slingshot and walk away with more strength than an entire army.

Last week my life was in the groove.

I hadn’t had a job interview since 1994, and last week I had three, back to back. I walked away from each feeling that I’d nailed it. When my resume didn’t speak for itself, I was able to put in the right words.

When you’ve been trained to move around like the stage crew, working, hidden between scenes of someone else’s play, it’s hard to step into the spotlight–to sell yourself. To make a potential employer see that you are worthy of the job at hand. To make them see that they would be foolish NOT to hire you.

But the thing they don’t tell you about the groove, is that you still work.

Your muscles still extend and contract; your lungs might burn; your feet still hit the pavement with up to three times the force of your bodyweight; though you feel like you’re flying, no one carries you to the finish.

To put it in Crossfit terms: even those with the most unrelenting thrusters still leave a puddle of sweat. They make it look easy, but it’s not. We all know it’s not.

Life is this way too.

Even in the groove, you have to work. There is no coasting through life. And when you have a goal, you can’t give up on it–despite the naysayers. You have to give it a shot. You have to use your talent, your wit, your strength to get out and accomplish things that are hard.

The challenges will come in droves, and it’s easy to get bogged down by them–to let them frighten or overwhelm you. But you can’t turn away. You have to press on.

You have to relax and put out that positive energy so you can receive some positive energy back. It’s incredible when that happens.

That’s when we find our groove.

If I worry about potential deadfalls, I’ll lose my cadence. It’s better to just run, and deal with the challenges as they come across my path.

And I know they’re coming. Challenges are on the left and on the right, behind me and in front of me.

But I’ve got to carry on. To let life flow.

It’s still hard.

And frightening.

But eventually, I’ll get to the finish.

And there’ll be a new race to run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Challenges

lean out

“Are you up for a challenge?” our coach asked.

My first reaction was to think of all the reasons why I was NOT.

  • My legs were still sore from Wednesday
  • I’m not the strongest person in the box
  • I was a little tired
  • My toes were cold
  • I couldn’t think of more reasons, but I’m sure I had some great ones

But instead of just saying, “No,” I asked what the challenge was–and he moved on to the next person.

Out of the entire group, only two people said ‘Yes’ without question–and that, really, was the right attitude.

That’s how I want to be. 

My first instinct is to avoid challenges–to stay comfortable and hide in the middle of the pack.

My first marathon was a challenge. But the second? Third? Sixth? Not so much. I KNEW I could run and finish without doing any worse than the last time. But I wouldn’t exactly call it a challenge. A challenge would have been to set a goal, and then win or lose, go for it.

Crossfit and marathons are inherently challenging, but I am also lazy.

Yes, lazy.

It isn’t natural for me to push myself.

I’m not talking about jumping out of Seilbahn and trying to fly. But I do know that I could try to add a little more weight to the bar, even if I end up dropping the whole damned thing.

Ever since I had coffee with a random German guy at the Pitztal Gletscher Marathon last June, I’ve wanted to run the Jungfrau. He said he had done it, and I could too.

Then he showed me pictures on his phone. If you’ve never looked at pics from the Jungfrau, do so. It is INCREDIBLE. That’s the kind of running I want to do.

It IS a challenge. But is it enough of a challenge? I’ve had a crazy squirrel running around in my head telling me that while I CAN complete the Jungfrau (and I know I can, even if I had to drag an Oxygen tank with me across the finish line), I should try to finish in the top half of my age group.

That thought scares me because typically, there are very FEW women my age running, and when they are, they beat the compression hosen off me.

European women my age are members of running clubs and wear matching t-shirts and collapse when they cross the finish line; whereas I like to finish smiling and holding hands with the people I love.

Women my age (who want to do something fun) sign up for the 5k or the 10k or even the half or they clack around in the Nordic walking stick group–but they don’t run marathons unless they’re serious.

If I want to be in the top half of my age group, I’ll have to push myself, or as my son and I say at Crossfit, I’ll have to “put more weight on it.”

I still want to finish well (which means without need of medical assistance) but I also want to stay focused mentally; to correct the negative self-talk that causes me to wither during a race (around km 36); and to ignore the pain. (Marathons always hurt, and so far, slowing down doesn’t help anything).

Most of all, I want to finish smiling.

My goal is to spend the next few months not just training my body, but also getting my mind to the “bring it on” level, which I so admire.

I don’t know if I’ll even get a slot at the Jungfrau (registration opens in February), but my new challenge for myself is that the NEXT marathon I do, I want to finish in the top half of my age group.

[And I’m not going to deliberately seek out a huge one just to improve my odds!]

[Yes, that WAS my first thought…see, I AM challenge-challenged].

If I don’t meet that goal, then who cares? At least I will have given it my best shot, and I can walk away proud, knowing that I went for it without question.

It’s a new mindset for me, and one that requires practice.

Lots and lots and lots of practice, I fear.

I have 10 months to train for Jungfrau. 10 months of pushing myself further and further, aspiring to meet my challenge, yet still smiling, regardless of what the numbers might be at the Ziel.


The Tough Get Going

no smoking

What do you do when life gets tough?

Do you run or pray or meditate?

Do you smoke or fight or drive your car too fast?

There was a time when I could gauge how tough things were in my life (consciously or unconsciously) by the distances I would run. Sometimes I would release the stress into the air along with my sweat and tears, but other times, problems rode piggyback the whole way.

I still love a good 2 to 3 hour run; but Crossfit has been my therapy of choice these past eleven months.

At first I only went twice a week, but a couple of things happened at once: 1) my running trails turned to ankle-deep mud and 2) I realized the box was my safe place.

We all need a safe place to go: a place that is healthy, where people are encouraging, and where you can blow off steam and not think about anything except the next rep.

The only time someone yells is to say, ‘Tighten up!’ or ‘Stolz Sein!’ [Be Proud]; and it’s never derogatory, but it always makes you try harder.

As I was talking with another Crossfitter after class, I realized that many of us come to Crossfit not knowing it will become our safe place–a place we need to keep ourselves sane.

For many of us, our box, with its dripping ceiling and random divots in the floor, feels like home to us–and I wouldn’t change it for anything. A shiny place wouldn’t feel the same.

This is not to say that I’ve forfeited home life for the box. My kids will tell you that I’m a much better, less stressed-out Mama because of Crossfit. They encourage me to go [sometimes vehemently] because with Crossfit, I can be the Mama I’m supposed to be. The one with energy, vitality and an optimistic view of life.

Funny how tangible, iron weights can lift the intangible weight from our minds.

I am thankful for every day I get to go to Crossfit. It’s making me stronger, in many different senses of the word.