Five Ways How CrossFit Can Make You a Better Runner

I’ve been a runner and triathlete since 1983 (even before if you count junior high and high school track). Over the last year and a half I’ve been training at CrossFit gyms and looking into CrossFit Endurance. In talking with other runners and in recently reading Jeff Gaudette’s article, “Can CrossFit Make You A Better Runner?” I felt like sharing what I feel CrossFit may have to offer runners and triathletes.

1. Hip strength. Consider the 2009 article in Running Times Magazine, “Do Weak Hips Cause Pronation? New research suggests weak hips are behind injuries throughout the body.” What’s important about the new research referred to in this story is that it’s redirecting our attention from what has long been thought of as the culprit behind most running injuries—feet/shoes/lack of orthotics—to weak hips. One of the principles behind the exercises and combinations of exercises used in CrossFit is the development of core strength and accessing the most powerful muscles of the body in an efficient way, with the power originating in the hips or the shoulders and flowing outward to the extremities. In other words, if you’re a runner who is a heel striker and relying way too much on your hip flexors to power locomotion than the glutes and the hamstrings, you’re like going to have trouble. As RT pointed out in their 2009 story, research at the University of Wisconsin demonstrated that strengthening the hips had potent results: “In addition to showing a predictable increase in hip strength at the end of the program, the runners also exhibited significantly less pronation (measured by how far the heel collapsed inwards). Most impressive, the participants experienced 57 percent less pronation at the ankle joint.” The compound-movement exercises that are the bedrock of CrossFit (burpees, dead lifts, squats, overhead squats, etc) don’t mess around when it comes to improving all the muscles surrounding the trunk, including the hips.

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Brian MacKenzie, left, from CrossFit Endurance, teaches a running technique seminar at the CrossFit Games.

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