How to Make Running Not Suck


I’m often asked how CrossFitters can actually (ahem) enjoy running.

“It sucks…” is the sentiment if not the direct words I pick up from many a Coach or member.

“Do you have any secrets for me?” is the next thing.

This used to stump me. But I finally figured something out that works, so today’s your lucky day.

But before I get to my favorite go-to exercise that will actually help you and your crew enjoy running let’s remember why running continues to be kicked to the CrossFit curb for many of us:

  • It’s outside and away from the music, warmth or cold, depending on the season.
  • You’re alone. No training partner to cheer you on, or Coach to give you direct feedback.
  • You’re (really, really, really) tired. Running doesn’t feel good when you’ve just done 30 thrusters or power Cleans or anything really.

So if the vast majority of your running is done on rubbery quads and super stiff shoulders, you’re not going to associate this activity with feeling good.

But news flash! Running doesn’t have to be one suffering gasping breath after another trying to improve your 400 meter time.

You can run slow. For real. In fact it’ll make you a better, faster runner. And that’s where my favorite go-to run workout comes in.

It’s called the Nose Breathing Challenge.

Here’s the way it works. For one mile, your job is to run as slow or as fast as you want, but you’re only allowed to breathe through your nose.

Here’s what’s happening:

  • It’s eye opening. You’ll realize how often and quickly we breathe up in our chest and shoulders – not just in fitness but all day – and how shallow chest breathing contributes to being in a more stressed state, making you hate running even more. Not to mention give you side stitches. Those are the worst.
  • Nose breathing forces you to belly breathe and engage your diaphragm. This deeper belly breathing is crucial for improved posture, hip stability and even a better arm swing. Not to mention better chi.
  • Nose breathing forces you to moderate your effort and actually slow down. Believe it or not, this easier effort and not intensity is what most CrossFitters are missing. Easier effort will help you focus on technique and consistent volume while mitigating the burnout and higher impact of faster running.

Watch this video for even more detail on solid breathing mechanics and how to nose breathe specifically.

We’ve all seen those training masks out there. It’s easy to forget that we have our own training mask right on our face.

And if running is still not your jam, you can use nose breathing to improve your breathing mechanics for just about everything: jump rope, rowing, cycling, even burpees – which circling back will actually help your running. So still a win.

So go forth and snot rocket. Just don’t do that inside. You may find a more mellow enjoyable side to fitness exists. And the wonders of running? It’ll suck just a little bit less.

Nate Helming coaches strength and mobility for national and international-level road cyclists, mountain bikers, triathletes and ultrarunners at San Francisco CrossFit, as well as elite-level amateur runners and triathletes outside the gym. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and check out more of his videos and articles on his website,