Running isn’t free

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One of my talking points about CrossFit is that it is a skill-intensive training paradigm. I like to trot out “Nancy” as an example. Nancy is one of our benchmark workouts consisting of five rounds of a 400 meter run and fifteen 95 pound overhead squats. Nancy compels you to perform a technical skill under duress which is how you know that you really own your technique. Any knuckle head can overhead squat 95 pounds fresh. But if you can do it fifteen times after sprinting 400 meters and then repeat that couplet four more times…well then maybe you really know how to overhead squat.

But there is a hidden presumption inside of this. Namely, we often fall into the trap of thinking of a load-bearing element (OH squat) as the high skill element in a couplet. That means that running or other forms of locomotion are seen as low skill elements whose sole purpose is to create duress. After all, everybody knows how to run right?

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Pop quiz. Given two athletes who finish Nancy with identical scores; Athlete #1 has very high parity across her 400 meter pieces with no more than 5 seconds divergence; Athlete #2 has low parity across his runs; he finishes his third 400 meter piece 30 seconds slower than his first. Which athlete is more technically proficient as a runner?

Duh. Obviously Athlete #1 is a more technical runner because she is able to perform consistently under duress.

Now here’s a more interesting thought experiment: which of these athletes do you think is more likely to finish the Twin Cities Marathon without injury?

The answer to this question is obvious, but non-trivial because it goes against the long-slow-distance paradigm that drives mainstream endurance training.

By progressively uploading training volume without ever actually developing running technique, most endurance athletes are “repeating wrong” in higher and higher doses. This is why there are so many running-related injuries every year.

Running isn’t free. It is a skill and skills are sharpened with focused training and directive coaching. Skill is blunted by repeating wrong.