Lessons from a year of CrossFit

My first day at CrossFit. I couldn’t do a “regular” push-up on the ground.

A few short years ago, I was a runner who only ran, and very recreationally at that. My miles weren’t high, just enough to get me over one half marathon finish line each fall.

Fast forward a few years and my miles crept higher, ending at 60 per week. Like a typical runner who doesn’t cross or strength train, I battled niggles and one small injury after another, ending in a full-on stress fracture in my foot.

Injury was devastating. I was in a boot for four weeks – two non-weight-bearing, one partial, and the last week, bearing as much weight as I could stand. Once the boot was off, my leg had atrophied terribly, forcing me to start over, including learning how to properly walk. It was a heartbreaking journey from running 60 miles a week to  learning to let my foot roll properly to walk.

Determined to run again, I worked with my PT for four months. That fall, I trained for a spring 2014 marathon and was blessed to pull it off, finishing in 4:07.

I ran another marathon in May 2015, finishing in 3:49, where my Boston dream began. To qualify, I had to shave more than 14 minutes off, but I was determined. An important step was learning how to lift weights. I had no clue. Enter CrossFit.

The idea of CrossFit scared me – the lingo, the people, the bars and the heavy weight. I mean, I’m vegan. Do they even let vegans enter the “box?” Why do they call the gym a box anyways?

Is this English?

I was nervous but dove in, attending Big Muddy CrossFit. I quickly learned it wasn’t so scary. The people were nice and welcoming. The language started to grow on me. I learned how to squat! I went through the motions, even when I felt inadequate in comparison to the other athletes.

A few months in, I started to like this crazy CrossFit thing. I knew how to back and front squat, deadlift, press, snatch, clean and row. The weight started getting heavier. Confidence and baby muscles were sprouting.

First time deadlifting 135 pounds. I was so excited.

A few things CrossFit taught me:

  1. You must lift. Seriously, I am staring at all runners, and everyone else for that matter. To protect yourself from injury and run stronger, you need a muscle base. Help yourself out and build one.
  2. Lifting is fun. It’s a different kind of fun than running. It builds confidence. There’s something badass about putting more than you weigh on your back then squatting it.
  3. More muscle = more food. This is another fun part. The more muscle you carry, the higher your resting metabolism is. Who doesn’t want to eat more?
  4. Mobility is important for recovery. Smashing and rolling your tight spots is vital to performing without pain at high volume and intensity. It kept me injury-free through the toughest marathon training cycle to date. Also, voodoo floss. Google it.
  5. CrossFit is an amazing community. Just like running, it’s filled with encouraging and motivating people. They become like family as you all drag yourself to the box at 5:30 a.m. for a regular ass kicking.
  6. Anyone can do it. No matter what level you are at, from little old ladies to big, beefy dudes, you can CrossFit. There are modifications for every movement.

If you need to learn how to lift or are looking for a fitness routine, I’d suggest CrossFit. It helped my running, body, and attitude. Also, while you’re at it, read Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett.

Happy Running (and lifting)!

If I could do this, anyone can.

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