The Low Running Standards Among CrossFitter

runningI have yet to succeed in getting CrossFitters to love running. Maybe I’m a little over-caffeinated and burpeed out, but I’ve adjusted my goals. Yeah, you’ll still hate running. But if I play my cards right, you just might hate it a little bit less.

Lately, the low running standards among CrossFitters have been bothering me. I mean, have I just settled on the subject and lowered my standards down to the shuffling, run-hating CrossFit masses? Or am I just getting that much older and wiser, with a more “realistic” view of the running/CrossFit world?

Maybe I’ve been watching too many cooking shows of late, but in Seattle on August 15, I wanted to do something different. After all, just talking to you about my totally awesome, grass-fed, bourbon-glazed bacon burger might not make you a convert. But if I let you sink your teeth into that beefy, tangy, sweet umami goodness, then I know I’ll not only have you coming back for more, but chances are you’ll be singing its praises to the rest of your buddies. I wanted to give these unsuspecting CrossFitters a running meal they would not forget.

Together with my fellow conspirator, Carl Paoli of Freestyle Connection, we launched a new version of our Freestyle Running seminar, designed to get people thinking and moving, and thinking about moving in an entirely new way.

Rather than go down the movement theory rabbit hole, we hit them hard with five 1 kilometer running experiences over a four-hour seminar. It was paired with very specific, very tangible running ideas they could feel, not just think about. Not only did we record their times on a whiteboard so they could see their progress through the seminar, but we had them rank their runs on a scale of one to five, one being “suckfest” and five being that fabled runner’s high.

In the four hours, something pretty amazing happened. I’m not sure if Seattle coffee is just that much better than the regular stuff, but I’d like to think we tapped into something different. I’d like to think we tapped into some hidden well of running enthusiasm these unsuspecting kettlebell swingers didn’t know they had for the sport.

I realize we gave CrossFitters a choice. By asking them to run a lot and to think about their experience, many of them had the epiphany that running didn’t have to be the terrible cheap wine hangover thing it’s always been to them. They could grab for something a little higher on the shelf. It could be, dare I say, nice. Sure you’re suffering, and your heartbeat’s radiating through your earlobes, but in an enjoyable kind of way.

People suddenly realized they could choose to like running and also see how running connected with the rest of the crazy things they do in their local Box.

And there we had it: a whole room of CrossFitters tucking into 5-kilometers worth of running goodness, all while smiling. No one seemed to ask for more when we were done, and yet no one wished they had done any less either. It was the perfect meal.

But the real test comes the following week. And the week after that. Are these guys still choosing to enjoy running? Or has the Seattle/caffeine-fueled runner’s high sunk back down to the I-hate-every-time-we-run-400m?

For now, I know I’m not crazy. I can succeed in getting you to love running, and I no longer have to lower my standards to hating running 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,