Celebs like Jessica Alba and Cameron Diaz love it, and if you're a runner, you may love CrossFit, too. This workout is all about basic exercises involving body resistance, gymnastics, aerobics, weight lifting, and other high-intensity moves. Read on to learn why you might want to skip today's run and head to the nearest CrossFit gym.
The Problem With Running
"The challenge is that runners think that their legs are strong, and they are strong at that one movement pattern. But life is more than just that one movement pattern," says Reebok CrossFit ambassador Yumi Lee, who trains Jessica Alba. Since running is a linear, repetitive movement that involves mostly your legs, it can cause an imbalance in the rest of the body, which can lead to injury now or down the road. Solely running also leads to workout plateaus, so when the muscles become used to the demands placed on it, a runner needs to run further or faster in order to keep up her level of fitness.
Why CrossFit Is a Good Complement to Running
"CrossFit exercises involve your whole body rather than isolated muscle groups," which strengthens your overall body and makes you a better runner, explains marathoner and CrossFit instructor Shirley Brown of CrossFit LA. Yumi explains that specifically, CrossFit combines power lifting, strength training, and gymnastic training, all of which benefit your fast twitch muscles used for sprinting and your slow twitch muscles used for long distance. Working your entire body in CrossFit will also help you lose overall body fat, which will increase both endurance and speed, and also helps you maintain proper form during your runs, which is one way to avoid a running injury.
Another benefit? CrossFit helps prevent those dreaded workout plateaus so you'll actually be excited to work out. "CrossFit forces you to do things you would have never done before. It forces you to push yourself in a way that you thought you had pushed yourself . . . and it makes you better at overall life," Yumi says.
Tips For Getting Started
Shirley and Yumi recommend finding a reputable facility and signing up for the on-ramp (sometimes called foundations or fundamentals) program so you can learn the basic exercises. "It's a comfortable and safe way to learn the movement patterns so you can stay injury-free," Yumi says. You'll also learn beginner versions of certain moves — if you've never done a pull-up, they'll show you how you can do one using a box and a band. Then you can jump right into regular classes, modifying exercises as you need to. Some gyms offer endurance programs or private instruction, so if you have a specific running goal, they can help you achieve it.
Don't just jump into a new CrossFit program, however. Meghan and Tyler Barnes, owners of CrossFit TT, warn that "you'll be super, super sore when you start," so it's probably not a great idea to sign up when you're training for a race. Definitely listen to your body, but stick with it — don't miss a class on account of being too sore. Good programs will go easy on the muscle groups that were worked hard the day before, and getting your heart rate up can ease soreness.
Keep reading to learn how to prevent a CrossFit injury and whether runners should eat strictly Paleo.