Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole

Training for a Race by Not Running: A Study in Counter-Intuitiveness


So, I’ve been hearing a lot of the following things lately:

  • If you do nothing but running, you’ll suffer from muscle imbalances.
  • Train better for running by weight training.
  • Running makes you better at running, but Crossfit makes you better at everything (eye roll).
  • Do Burpees.
  • Do squats and lunges.
  • Do deadlifts.
  • You want to run better? Faster? Then you gotta stop running!

And on and on with the ridiculousness. If you know me at all, you probably know how annoying I think Crossfit is. Nothing against you people who love it, I just…don’t. I really just dislike all that chest-beating, grunting, beastly, anti-runner dogma that seems to emanate from so many of Crossfit’s devotees. In some ways it seems pretentious and showy to me. And not to mention I just hate the idea of having to be inside a gym to work out.

For awhile most of that strength-training noise was coming from the Crossfitters exclusively, which makes sense because most Crossfitters think they’re better than runners. But lately I’ve been hearing more and more support of these crazy ideas emanating from the ultra runner crowd.

I know, it sounds totally counter-intuitive, right? Train for a run by not running? But it really seems to have worked for some of my ultra runner friends, especially the more injury-prone ones. For instance, my friend Krista trained for her first 100k without ever really doing long runs. And my friend Christian does Crossfit workouts almost every day (at least he does them at home) and hasn’t run more than ten miles since probably last spring (nor has he written a single blog post, I might add). But they both do quite well when they get to the starting line, despite spending over 90% of their workout time in the weight room.

Let me say this right now: I will never do that non-running crap. I run. I do it because I love it. And I mean I really love it. I don’t even see distance running as exercise, it’s simply something I want to do. It’s part of my lifestyle. Giving it up altogether in lieu of squat thrusts and 100-Burpee-a-Day challenges would be totally idiotic and counterproductive.


I think there is something to be said for all-around strength and muscle competency. I mean, right now I can’t even do a pull-up. Not even one. Not even with 50 pounds of assistance. And I mean, if you think about it practically, such a lack of upper body strength could potentially translate into a major disadvantage for me in the event of a zombie attack. Sure, I could run pretty consistently until most of them lose interest or manage to die, but what if I have to climb a rope up to a third story building to avoid them? Right now I’d be totally screwed.

Yes that’s right, I measure fitness by one’s relative chances of living through a zombie attack. Don’t judge.

I’d totally live longer than this chick in a zombie attack.

So, here’s what I’m getting at: I have signed up for the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon on October 14th. That’s three weeks away. And because of all the uproar of this move, I really haven’t been training the way I should. I haven’t even run longer than seven miles in over six weeks. But that doesn’t even worry me. Thirteen miles is not much of a feat for me anymore. The problem is that a vast majority of the race involves climbing one giant hill, going back down, and then turning around and coming right back up. And since I have spent the last 9 years running on almost completely flat roads and rail trails, hills and I really aren’t friends yet. In order to complete that half without DNF’ing or dying (which would also result in a DNF), I’m going to need a major strength and endurance overhaul.

Which is why I signed up for a butt-crack ‘o dawn, weekday morning Boot Camp.

This isn’t my class, but yeah. It’s dark at 5:30am. Prime time for a zombie barrage. Just sayin’.

So for four days per week, from 5:30-6:30am, I have been paying someone to force me to run up over picnic tables, sprint and grape-vine across baseball fields, run obstacle courses, lunge, squat, do pushups, situps, burpees, tricep presses, and so on, until I’m slightly nauseous. I’m curious to see how it will affect my speed and endurance, and I am even more curious to see whether it’s going to matter if I ever do any real-deal long runs before Raptor Ridge.

In addition to Boot Camp, I plan to spend as much time as I can doing hill repeats up God-Forsaken Hill (my nickname for the crazy steep hill that sits directly in the center of Buena Vista park, right across from my neighborhood), running up and down Raptor Ridge and the hills at Lake Hodges with my buddy Kate, and cross-training by riding around on my bike. Which I haven’t done yet, but I will…I swear.

So I guess, in my lack of recent mileage, I’m about to learn how much I really need to actually run in order to be able to run better. Will I become a cross-training believer, or will I regret not running more? I’ll let you know in about three weeks.

So, what’s your take on the whole “cross-training as race training” theory?

8 thoughts on “Training for a Race by Not Running: A Study in Counter-Intuitiveness

  1. I have never been a runner, and although I do Crossfit, I’m not one of those idiots that think Crossfit is the be-all and end-all of fitness. I wish I could run and I respect the fact that people run for fun and not just fitness. That being said, I’m super interested to see how this cross training helps your running! You’ve got another follower.

  2. Before I started the 30 day challenge you suggested (day 113, btw), I was running about 3 days a week and no less than 2 miles on those days. Then I joined a CF class and my running took a major dive (as in even more non-existent). That class got me tore up from the floor up!

    It took about 2 weeks to get “fit” enough to attempt running again and about a month for me to see any improvement in my running quality. Which, I must say, did improve greatly. Running was easier and more fun and I could run longer.

    But my problem was like your problem: I enjoyed running more! In CF, you run if it’s part of the WOD and that’s it. I wasn’t healthy enough to do CF AND go for a run later. And if you CF, you’re CF’ing every day. I only notice the improvement after I had stopped going to the CF class and I began running again.

    I did my own version of CF at home with the weights and all, but only a few times a week. And in between those those days that I didn’t CF, I ran. Then I got a bad case of PF and I stopped everything, but that’s another story.

    But I have been wanting to get started on my modified CF program again because I did see the benefits of it. Doing stuff was easier!

    AT least that’s what I took away from it.

    • GD – thanks for your comment. I find it interesting that your running improved only after you scaled back on CF. I have always believed in balance, which is why I am totally with you on the idea of using a modified CF program to assist your running improvement. You probably learned a lot at your CF classes that you can now apply to your cross training. After all, CF is really just cross training, anyway. Best of luck, and I’d love to hear of your improvements as your training progresses.

  3. I’m curious to see how you do as well. I can’t imagine you won’t do great and I’m sure the butt crack of dawn workouts can only make you do better. Three weeks is not very much time to tackle that hill, but we’ll get it done!

  4. I’m for total fitness and overall well being. But I keep remembering how Vanessa cruised right on past all those cross fitters at a warrior dash or some race similar to that. I wonder what she’d say?

    • Vanessa is a genetic freak. :p

      Actually her post on cruising past all of the crossfitters was one of my favorites. I was reminded of her when I lapped a really strong-looking crossfitter at my last 10K. This is precisely why I’ll never totally jump on that bandwagon (besides the occasional experiment) – crossfit does NOT make you better at everything. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Ready for the Raptor « Barefoot Monologues

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