Learning to run.
If I ran a 5k 3 months ago, we could estimate that my time would be roughly that of the time it takes an above average marathoner to run the New York City marathon. Running is something that I could never really do or enjoy at all. For one, I have some of the worst ADD ever. Any kind of monotonous activity is torture for me. (Part of why I love CrossFit so much – constantly varied!) What’s more than that, though, is the fact that at about the 800 meter mark, my lower back completely seizes up and makes it hard to move my legs at all, let alone do anything resembling running. Unfortunately, this affliction was not exclusive to running, but happened with any lower body movements. (I can’t tell you how awesome the deadlift/box jump combo or wall balls are for me.)
In WOD’s, it’s a little bit more manageable though; there’s usually different movements or rests in there to give it a break, as opposed to running which is just constant. The part I found interesting is that it only happens in the workout; 5 minutes after I finish, it’s completely fine. Needless to say, even after deciding that I wanted to make my life 100% about health and athleticism and trying to take that as far as I can, I haven’t excitedly jumped on any opportunities involving extracurricular running.
It got to the point, though, where it was affecting my workouts that I had to go see someone. So I went to a physical therapist that everyone who has ever been to calls a miracle worker. I was informed that my back trouble actually stems from my feet and the fact that my toes point out and my feet fall in when I walk which then in turn leads to all kinds of flexibility issues in my legs and thighs. I was given stretches to do and instruction to be conscious of how I walk. Despite my stretching and consciously pointing my toes straight while walking as much as I could (which is a REALLY weird feeling), it felt as though it was getting worse rather than better and the frustration was growing with it.
In February of this year, we started the 2nd Whole Life Challenge at Undisputed. Much to my delight, the baseline workout included an 800m run. Awesome. Well 800 just so happens to be the breaking point for me so the run itself was fine but all the body weight exercises after it, not so much. Feeling disappointed, frustrated, and a little embarrassed, I decided that this WLC was going to center around LOTS of lower body mobility and getting rid of this damn problem. 90% of the time, my 10 minutes of mobility were dedicated to that. I was making fantastic gains in my hamstring flexibility thanks to lots of inch worms. The only thing that was missing was the actual running itself. I didn’t want to admit that the key to getting better at running might…. actually…. be… to run. That would just be crazy talk.
2 weeks left into the Whole Life Challenge and unexpected opportunity presents itself. About a year ago, the master of our jiu jitsu system, Eddie Bravo, along with the fresh MMA promotion U of MMA, came up with a new sport- Combat Jiu Jitsu. It’s essentially MMA without kickboxing. A grappling match with striking on the ground, but not on the feet. Eddie posts on the forums of the 10th Planet site that they have a card coming up and he needs 10th Planet guys for some combat jiu jitsu matches. Tait sees it and asks if I want to do it. I think about it over night and decide that it would a hell of an experience and would really regret passing it up. So in the first couple days of going over how we’re going to train for it, Tait tells me, “You’re going to run 800m every single day. It will help you cut the weight and get you better at running.” I did not love the sound of that. But it’s fight training; I’m down for anything that will be make me better on fight day.
So I run (“run”) every day. As a warm up. As a cool down. Whenever it dawned at me that I hadn’t run that day, I go run. The finals of the WLC get here and I get to redo the baseline workout. I strategize beforehand that I’m going to take it nice and slow on the run to safe myself for everything after. I get through the whole wod with zero back pain and increase my total score for the workout by 34 reps. I was stoked. I continue to cut weight and run every day. When I can, I grab someone to go with me to make me go faster. Depending on the day, it gets quite a bit easier. I’m able to do the whole 800 without any back pain. Progress, it would seem.
Last week gets here and it’s closer to fight day. I still have some pounds to go. Weigh ins for this are the same day as opposed to the usual day before so I really want to get to weight naturally and not have to sauna very much (if any) out to make weight. I want to push it harder. Go a mile? 2 miles? Nah. I want to run a 5k. I’ve ran one 5K in my life. It was about 3 years ago and my time was 45 minutes and some change due to my constantly having to stop. What better gauge of my progress? I still remember the path we took the last time I take it upon myself to put in my earbuds and go off on my own to conquer this monster over the noon hour. In a perfect scenario in my head, I imagine not stopping the whole time and finishing with a decent time. That’s a perfect scenario, not my actual expectations.
I take off and the first mile is rough, to say the least. There was a good amount of pain, but not where it normally is. My calves and arches start to ache. I fight through it but still have to slow it down to a walk a few times. I welcomed red lights. Mile 2 feels a bit better. Calves and arches are getting pretty warmed up now. Much to my surprise, I realize how far in to the run I am and still don’t have any back pain. This brings a smile to my face and a bigger drive to fight through the leg pain. It’s annoying, but crippling, I tell myself. It’s nothing compared to the back. Push. Keep moving. Pick up the pace now. I get to about a mile left and slow down to a walk one more time and shake my legs out. A mile left and I start to run again. I feel better now than I have the whole run so far. I get excited. I start to think that this thing that has held me back and made me feel like less of an athlete might actually be gone. I might no longer silently curse the people I see running down the sidewalks like they have no idea how to actually move their bodies yet are able to run for miles without ever feeling a fraction of the pain I feel while consciously focusing on proper form. I might actually get excited about running. Whoa. Did I really just think that?
I get to Alameda and St Francis. Home stretch. It looks like the light is going to be red when I get to the intersection so I say to myself, “Ok. One last break and then it’s non stop to the gym.” I get to the intersection and and the light turns green. Alright, no stopping. Faster. Finish it right now and finish better than you started. I make it the gym and look at the time. 34:14. Holy shit. By no means a good time; if I were in a race, I would have probably gotten last place. But ten minutes faster than my last time and, most importantly, 3 MILES AND ZERO BACK PAIN. Wow.
I honestly can’t put into words how huge and exciting this was for me. I was completely resigned to always dreading lower body workouts and running. Something I hated to hear (running every day) turned out to be the thing that completely opened up so many possibilities in the world of my athleticism.
Much like a lot of the lessons we learn in CrossFit; in order to be comfortable in something, we have to embrace going through a lot of discomfort.
Dead lift 3 slow reps (2121)
Max effort strict pull up
Max effort strict dip
Hollow, swimmer kick
Dead lift review and dip review
Deads: 5-7 slowwww reps (2 sec up, pause 1 sec/2 sec down, pause 1 sec = 2121)