If your idea of a workout consists, as mine did, of a pleasant run and a few sit-ups, your first CrossFit session isn’t just a shock—it’s like being tased.
My final routine looked like this: CrossFit workouts or short weight-lifting sessions three times per week, with just four runs per week. A typical day would involve 130-yard track sprints until exhaustion—or those god-awful hill sprints—to jack up my VO2 max. On another day, I’d do track intervals of decreasing distances at increasing speeds. Sundays would be reserved for longer runs—but never too far, and almost always faster than my race pace. At my peak, I’d never run farther than 23 miles in a week, which is roughly half the mileage that Hal Higdon, a well-known writer and trainer, recommends in his popular approach for intermediate marathoners.
Feeling wary but excited, I laced up my Brooks, figuring I was in for relatively enjoyable sessions.
Not quite. If your idea of a workout consists, as mine did, of a pleasant run and a few sit-ups, your first CrossFit session isn’t just a shock—it’s like being tased. I worked out at Ross’ gym in Seattle. My first day, I did a wicked series of timed box jumps, pull-ups, and push-ups. Though basically fit, I got so queasy from the pace that the instructor placed a vomit bucket near me. The next day, punished and sore, I stepped onto a track for the first time since high school and started in on an interval workout. By the last full-lap sprint, I couldn’t make it halfway without doubling over, wasted. That weekend the schedule called for my first session of barbell squats. My legs did the Elvis all afternoon.
This humbling routine continued daily for the next few weeks. And yes, it continued to hurt. But something else nagged me besides my hammered muscles: I missed my old, dawdling runs. After eight hours spent staring at a computer screen, my five o’clock run is like Xanax. By the time I walk back in the door after a good six-miler, it’s as though a bracing wind has swept my skull clean of the day’s knotty problems. You don’t get that when you’re busting around the track beyond your lactate threshold, your vision going red at the edges.
But then, about six weeks in, something changed. The CrossFit workouts still destroyed me, but I was getting faster. Always an eight-minute-mile plodder, I did a (painful) hour-long tempo run at about a 7:15 pace. A week later, MacKenzie told me to try a 10-mile time trial—and I cranked out the swiftest run of my life, dropping roughly eight minutes off my personal best.
I felt strong. Maybe this really would work.
Encouraged, I pushed through the misery, getting quicker, getting sinewy. And then, suddenly, race week was upon me. I still hadn’t run farther than a half marathon, though at a swifter pace. Would 13.1 miles with the hammer down equal 26.2 miles throttled back? I was worried.
TRAIN LESS, KICK ASS. Is it possible?