What Are the Benefits of Running for CrossFit Athletes?

Running increases an athlete's lung capacity which, in turn, can be translated to faster time finishing WODs.

You are a CrossFitter and hate running? You are not alone, but you should not run away when you see the next WOD involves… well… running. To inject some courage into your spirit, continue reading to find out what are the benefits of running for CrossFit athletes.

You started CrossFit because you wanted to become healthier, fitter, and a good athlete in functional fitness. Walking, or running for that matter, is right at the top of functional movements. It is okay to be fearful for a second. I mean, even Mathew Fraser is a bit afraid of cardio during workouts now and then.

To put it bluntly, running will turn you into a better CrossFit athlete in every possible way, even if you have just begun your life as a CrossFitter or you are an advanced athlete who is dreaming of becoming the Fittest on Earth. Here are some benefits of running for CrossFit athletes:

  • Improve oxygen usage in the muscles
  • Increase heart’s mass and volume
  • Improve ventilation in the lungs
  • Reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure

The benefits cited above are for athletes that use running as an aerobic activity, meaning a steady mid-level pace run, and not a burst of high-intensity level or sprinting.

What are the benefits of running?Source: Unsplash

Let’s see what these benefits mean for a CrossFitter.

It Builds Up Your Engine

Quick question, who usually dominates a long workout in the CrossFit season? Is it the strongest? Is it the best gymnast? Of course being strong and having elasticity helps a lot, but greater lungs will help you finish nearly every WOD faster.

The people who have trained their cardio capacity are the athletes that need less time to recover between one round and another. As you read before, running will improve your muscles’ oxygen usage, meaning the oxygen you breathe in will be used more efficiently in the mitochondria of your muscles.

What are the benefits of running?Source: BOXROX

By running you will improve your endurance and thus increasing your VO2 max, which is the maximum rate of oxygen measured during the exercise of increasing intensity. In competitions, those who need less time to catch a breath in between rounds are the ones who finish faster, and I am living proof of it.

My personal experience with it came while trying the Open 21.2 workout, the foundation version where you do dumbbell snatches and burpees in a 20-minute cap. The first time I tried, I almost finished within the time cap, missing only the last 15 burpees. The following days I worked on my cardio and two weeks later, I managed to finish the 21.2 workout in a little over 18 minutes. Did I get that strong in just two weeks? No, I managed to take smaller breaks to catch my breath during the workout.

It Will Help With Nearly Any WOD – Benefits of Running for CrossFit Athletes

“Cindy” is a benchmark girl WOD that comprises of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 air squats – this is an AMRAP in 20 minutes. On the surface it seems like a classic body strength workout, but any athlete without good cardio endurance will get a low score.

CrossFit has published a study in which it compared the heart rate (bpm) of athletes performing the Cindy WOD and athletes on a rowing machine for 20 minutes. Those doing Cindy had a higher heart rate than the rowing athlete, which proved that Cindy, a workout seen as a resistance and strength exercise, actually demands a big engine from the athlete.

Source: CrossFit

In simpler terms, running will improve your heart’s mass and volume and, therefore, improve your score in many WODs, such as Cindy. Perhaps also help you achieve your PR in the fearful Murph?

It Helps With Recovery – Benefits of Running for CrossFit Athletes

Yesterday you had a WOD that focused on squats and lower body strength in general, and today you woke up with pain in your muscles. Everything is sore. How do you recover from it? Run.

That’s right, running can help you recover from soreness, even if your legs are what hurts the most.

fraser runningSource: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

This happens because running facilitates better blood flow and brings lactate to your muscle tissues. Lactate, or acid lactic, is a metabolic by-product produced by muscle cells and other tissues when there is insufficient oxygen in that cell. In other words, when you work out excessively.

And running can help as an active recovery. It is what performance consultant Ross Hamilton calls metabolite clearance. “Light intensity exercise helps us promote blood flow and clear metabolites through several mechanisms,” he told BOXROX.

For CrossFitters, that means that running at a low to mid-intensity level during rest days is recommended to recover faster from the previous WOD.

“[Better conditioning] will make me recover faster, run faster and also be able to PR my workouts time,” 2019 CrossFit Games Ruck Run winner Lukas Hogberg told BOXROX.

Read More: 7 CrossFit Running Workouts to Build a Better Engine

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