Half Marathon

Running, Part 3: Workout Programming

track cross country scenery


In the last of this three-part series on "Running," we'll examine workout programming.

Part 1 looked at shoes & footwear, and Part 2 checked out mechanics with a quick checklist for form & efficiency.

This is meant to serve as a starting point in all three facets of running; obviously it doesn't encompass everything in the running world, but provides a little insight and aims to provoke thought for beginners and experienced runners alike.



Part 3: Workout Programming

Running can be fun. If you're good at it.

We looked at this a bit in Part 1 and Part 2-- running as a skill. Improved mechanics can increase speed and endurance. Just get good, right? Then you'll be on your way to the future... over the hills and far away from the land of bad habits where you once ran. Because excelling in something challenging like a sport or physical activity has its rewards. In the case of running, it's also the gain in fitness that people shoot for.

But even as a running and endurance coach, I will be the first to admit that in the 2oth and into the 21st century we have taken this concept a bit too far. The idea that if some is good, more is better. Well the cardio craze is a thing of the past-- the 8 Track tape to today's digital age. The old school mentality of fitness that never progressed. Marathon after marathon, endurance event after endurance event creates that type of high mileage, repetitive cardio that may negatively impact joint health and/or muscle development. Especially if other aspects of fitness are neglected.

That's why CrossFit makes so much sense. At least for the unspecialized athlete. And why cross training is of the essence as an avid runner or endurance athlete.

Oxidative training got a little focus in a previous Words of the Week article entitled MetCons. Quick review: While physical activity can be addictive, specifically metabolic conditioning, it's the type of conditioning you use and the frequency at which you use it that matter. High volume training is not the same as overtraining. If you train smart by providing enough stimulus for progress, but not so much that you overtrain, any oxidative stress from your training will not damage your health but instead will help your gains on the road to fitness.

For running programming, it's important to briefly cite a few schools of thought on speed and endurance development. Then we can examine the best way to incorporate running into a fitness program specific to CrossFit or for an athlete looking for overall fitness. Training an Olympian or collegiate runner is a different story in regards to programming. But in the general fitness pursuit, we can and should still borrow from the leading research and publications for elite level runners in order to keep up in this fast-paced world.

So let's hit the starting blocks...


Leading names and companies in the world of running this century include, but are not limited to:

Competitor Running Competitor Magazine has been a go-to for runners and triathletes everywhere, and has an excellent article on the 8 Basic Types of Runs. Simple and easy to understand, they list the following as a good explanation of styles of running workouts:

  • Base Run - a moderate-length run taken at a runner’s natural pace.
  • Recovery Run - a shorter run performed at an easy pace.
  • Long Run - a base run that lasts long enough to leave a runner moderately to severely fatigued.
  • Progression Run - a run that begins at a runner’s natural pace and ends with a faster segment.
  • Tempo Run - a sustained effort at lactate threshold intensity, which is the fastest pace that can be sustained for one hour in highly fit runners and the fastest pace that can be sustained for 20 minutes in less fit runners.
  • Fartlek - a Swedish word meaning "speed play," where the runner mixes a base run with faster intervals of varying duration or distance.
  • Hill Repeats - repeated short segments of hard uphill running used to increase aerobic power, high-intensity fatigue resistance, pain tolerance, and run-specific strength.
  • Intervals - repeated shorter segments of fast running separated by slow jogging or standing recoveries.


Runner's World Boasting a wide resume of great runners as writers on their staff, Runner's World has been a front runner (pun intended) in helping beginners with training regimens for quite a while. Like Competitor Magazine, Runner's World has even published articles regarding CrossFit, as seen below.


Jack Daniels Not the drink, but the exercise physiologist. (The drink is for after the workout.) Publishing his book, Jack Daniels' Running Formula in 1998 and refining it in 2004, Daniels has provided the quintessential look at Cross Country and Distance Running. He provides data driven explanations and leading training advice aimed at different running abilities.

Daniels is a perfect starting point for any pure distance runner and provides workouts that advance as you do.


Others There are also a slew of 5k/10k/Marathon programs set up by successful distance runners that emulate their personal training. The bad news is their workout programming (including weekly mileage, styles of runs, and strength work) was set up for their bodies, not the public. If there's a sure fire way to get hurt quickly it's by following mileage or intensity you can't handle.



Most of the running programs out there are all aimed at the running specialist, which most readers here are not. If you stumbled upon this write-up, chances are you are interested in running as a supplement to your CrossFit workouts, or vice versa.

Therefore, the best CrossFit/Running hybrid would take on its own look.

Just like any specialist athlete, a running specialist looking to supplement their sport with CrossFit will not dive in as deep into the variance. In turn, a CrossFitter will not put in as many straight running workouts each week.

So, taking a nod from CrossFit Endurance, we can use the mentality of keeping intensity and anaerobic training in the forefront while borrowing from the expertise of leading running gurus. Anerobic training has been documented in claims to have a positive effect on aerobic capacity, but the inverse does not. However, constant aerobic training can have a place, even in a CrossFitter's repertoire, and especially for athletes looking to gain running capacity or those toying with endurance races (5k's, Half Marathons, Mini-Triathlons, etc.).

A few sample weeks from yours truly are found below. This is a very simplified look and not one-size-fits-all; it leaves out progression in fitness or the possibility of races or other competitions. It also assumes the athlete can handle 6 days of exercise, many coming from intense CrossFit WODs. If this is not the case, then the sample weeks would not apply. A newbie would take an easier approach according to ability and fitness level.



CrossFit Workout


CrossFit Workout


Easy Base Run


CrossFit Workout


Tempo Run


CrossFit Workout


Long Run


Recovery Run


Rest Day



CrossFit Workout


Fartlek Run


Hill Workout


Recovery Run


CrossFit Workout


Short Intervals


CrossFit Workout


Long Run


Recovery Run


Rest Day


Specifics of the workouts themselves have been left out for the sake of coaching preference and focus of the athlete.

Also realize the best plan must be set for you, and you alone. This is what one-on-one coaching would provide, from a trusted coach and programmer. The best training plan would be one that is individualized, or at the very least geared towards the wants and needs of the athlete.

If you have just taken the step towards minimalist footwear and better running mechanics, it would be smart to drop down the mileage (if you're currently running) so fatigue doesn't just cause you to revert to old habits. If you consider yourself prepared and an experienced runner, supplement the running work with CrossFit, or your CrossFit workouts with running, in terms of one or two double sessions a week. Yes, even if you're busy.

In general, CrossFit during the week and hit running intervals that are short and sweet with great form. If you are a distance competitor, run your long runs on Saturdays. Let the rest fall into place with the help of a coach and a steady plan for nutrition and recovery.


So away you go. Your running future awaits, with lots to consider for footwear, mechanics, and workouts.

Stay healthy and run fast, my friends.

- Scott, 8.11.2013

Running, Part 2: Form and Efficiency



In this second of a three-part series on "Running," we'll examine form & efficiency.

Part 1 looked at shoes and footwear, and Part 3 will discuss workouts and programming. The goal is to skim the surface of running culture, and especially to provide a starting point for beginners or those who have been facing nagging injuries (or a lack of success).


Part 2: Form & Efficiency

While running, only one thing has contact with the ground at any given time. Your foot. Just one foot, otherwise we've got more to work on than form and efficiency. It's this bipedal movement that sets us apart from four legged animals, so it made sense to focus a bit on footwear in Part 1. The next natural topic to examine would then be the best and most efficient way to move quickly while running.

To correct bad running form, sometimes we put the proverbial cart before the horse.

We worry about little things instead of major items. It's backwards thinking. We can't worry about a leaky sink if the house is on fire.

If anything, people say things to each other like "use your arms" or "keep the knees up." Both coaching cues are generally useless, unfortunately. It's like an inexperienced coach telling people to look up while squatting. Maybe it works... most likely it doesn't. We want the chest and torso up during a squat, not just the cervical neck. To fix the form of movement itself, we need to address the root of the exercise. "Globally" and then "locally," as termed by exercise physiologists like Kelly Starrett.

The same applies for running.

Funny enough, our bodies can actually find the most efficient way to move fast on our feet with extended exposure to the movement. Especially as a developing child. The more a person runs, the more their gait fixes itself, in a way. The body needs to process oxygen and cellular energy in the form of ATP, and also limit the impact of landing with gravity by absorbing that force through the foot into the leg. The two concepts in play here are running economy (oxygen uptake) and running efficiency (movement of the body).

In basic terms, if the body is spending extra energy or feeling the negative impact of running, it usually adapts.

Economy is developed with metabolic conditioning. While running economy requires a specialized development that a person can acquire through running workouts, conditioning can also be achieved in many ways besides just running. This will be discussed in Part 3.

With all this said, let's dive in to the smoke-filled world of running efficiency. Hardhats on. We've got some fires to put out.


Included below is a quick checklist; coaching is never one-size-fits-all in its philosophy. Just like a person's Clean & Jerk might look different in set up and form from their training partner, the same can be said for running. So let's understand that this is a simplified start. PLUS, the flipside and confusing part of this checklist is that there are many elite endurance runners who in fact have tendencies contradictory to these recommendations that wouldn't otherwise be taught or work for most runners out there. This just proves the point that each person is slightly different and in-person coaching is necessary.

Top 5 checklist that will set any runner off right:

1. Posture

  • Stay tall. Focus your gaze straight ahead as much as possible.
  • Keep your head at a steady height. This will help lessen the impact of landing. If we look at a runner's head and draw a line following the top of the head over a certain distance, is shouldn't travel up and down much at all. The term for this is oscillation.
  • Keep the arms high and tight, but relaxed. Unless you are all-out sprinting, close the angle of the bent arm to less than 90 degrees.
  • Watch so that the arms don't cross your midline, causing unnecessary action in front of the body. You don't have to move your arms as much as most people think... especially during longer runs.

2. Fall

  • Bend at the ankle, not the hips. Keep the midline as intact as a Deadlift... pubic bone to sternum distance really shouldn't close too much while running.
  • Use gravity. Let the biggest force in effect here work for your benefit.

3. Pull

  • Pull the knee in front by using the hamstring. But only pull the foot under the butt high enough to make the next landing under the hips. (See #4.)
  • Relax feet at the ankle joint. They should not point, and definitely should not pull up toward shin.

4. Land

  • Run light. Avoid pounding or loud feet.
  • Instead of reaching out in front of you, which ends in a pretty gruesome heel strike that travels through the knee to the hip, keep a steady running cadence with feet under the hips.

5. Cadence

  • Aim for a running cadence somewhere around 180. To find your cadence, count the number of one foot strikes in 20 seconds and multiply by 6.
  • Avoid taking strides that are too big. This is a misconception for more speed.



Other resources for good running form include Chi Running, Pose Running, and CrossFit Endurance.

While we're at it, we might as well break down the door to a few common running injuries. Axe in hand, let's very quickly address the burning issues some runners experience.

Crash course on running injuries, as they relate to mistakes in form:

• Get shin splits? Might be because you flex your foot up at your knee for miles at a time. That can fry out your muscles/connective tissue at the front of your lower leg.

• Get knee pain? Might be because you heel plant or your IT bands are tight. Get a foam roller on your IT's as much as you can. Check here for ideas.

• Get achilles pain? Few things: Might be you're scared to heel plant and have now started tiptoe running or you forefoot land too much. Or else your tight calves have transferred pain to the tendon. Or you just started into minimal footwear and went too drastic, causing a stretching of the achilles your body wasn't quite prepared for.

And so we have it. Running. All in all a much more enjoyable experience once you gain speed and endurance and can run injury free. We called the fire department to put out those blazing problems and can now get to fixing the little things. Next steps: learn more about yourself and what works and doesn't work, find an experienced coach to help, or contact us for a running analysis if you'd like.

Be sure to check out the "Running" finale in Part 3, where we'll focus on workout basics and programming quality runs into your week.

Then you'll be off and running like your hair is on fire.

- Scott, 8.4.2013

Running, Part 1: Footwear

Running Wrong


Running is a skill.

Something inherent to our nature, it oftentimes gets neglected in terms of form and efficiency. Just run, right? Put one foot in front of the other and go. But like any physical movement, there is an efficient way to run.

Funny thing is, we have enabled ourselves to become bad runners.

With the development of flashy running shoes and fancy adjustable treadmills, ironically we're going no where fast. Sure, we have the toys, but they've made us soft. We've become virtual thumb-sucking, spoiled little kids, crying for more dessert. In the last 100 years especially, we have put more cushion to our running than anything we'd truly come across in nature. A nice silky blanket for our feet. Which means as 21st century adults we run slower than diaper-butt toddlers.

No wonder people hate to run.

It comes out at times with a whiny tone and a pouty face. When pushed to run fast or in finding out that running is part of the daily workout: "Ohh... I hate running."

I generally shoot back, sarcastically, "That's probably because you're not good at it."

Nine times out of ten, this is true. Yeah, sure... there are people who are naturally talented runners and still don't like it very much. But in general, if you hate a physical movement it's because you don't excel at it.

Despite all the hatred, somewhere around 36 million people run every year. 40-50% experience at least one injury. So what's to blame?

In this three part series on "Running," we'll examine footwear, form & efficiency, and programming.


Part 1: Footwear

If we first look at evolution, running was highly necessary to stay away from predators or in the hunt for food. Centuries after that it became a means of transmitting valuable information when animals weren't available. And now, centuries after that, it is merely part of sport and competition, or a means to stay fit.

Most recently in that evolution, we decided to pad our precious feet for protection.

Sticks and stones may hurt my feet, but shoes will always haunt me.

Because, with the push for fitness, jogging became a craze. At least in America. Interestingly, many civilizations of the world haven't actually experienced the issues with running like some of the developed countries. They've been endurance running as part of life for generations with very little injury or overtraining. Think about it... "Jogging" as a term even denotes slow, methodical running. More on this in Part 3.

For Americans, it wasn't just Track or Cross Country competitions like we saw for years in the Olympics or in high school and college sports. This was now for prolonged exercise. Aerobic training for the masses. And the footwear prompted by this movement allowed people to do things while running that no person could ever do barefoot.

Heel plant. Land heavily. Shock the joints with shitty form. This making sense?

Shoes allowed many things to remain less than ideal: muscle imbalance, poor landing, inefficient stride... all to never improve.

No pain, no gain, right? Wrong. Just as bad as work shoes, running shoes were now changing our natural mechanics too.


In essence, the absorption of force sounds scientific and useful, but has ruined our innate development as human runners. Well, that and the fact that after not running for years, many adults pick it up without that inherent development at a weekly mileage that causes overuse injuries. And then people either look for more padded footwear or stop running altogether.

Since realizing this, the running society has moved back towards a shoe structure that mimics barefoot running and natural physical movement. In fact, Google search barefoot running, minimal footwear, or even CrossFit, and you'll get a slew of brand names that will put you closer to the ground. "Zero Drop" is a hot term right now, which you may already know. But going barefoot or wearing a zero drop shoe probably isn't the best for a runner putting in even just a few miles each week if they haven't been truly running like that since childhood.

This is why footwear begs to be discussed, at least briefly, in looking at the topic of running-- because of its impact on efficiency.


The bad news: going into minimal footwear after years of cushioned running shoes can be equally problematic. It will be shocking to the system, so a gradual move is smarter. If you switch from a supportive shoe to a minimalist shoe and keep running like nothing has changed, you'll probably just get hurt. This is where Part 2 and Part 3 will come into play.

The good news: it really isn't that complicated to find a shoe that works. If one doesn't feel good, move to another. Read up, take advice from people who are runners (not just salesmen pitching the most expensive shoe on the market), and test them out.

While there is not one perfect shoe or brand name that I can suggest to everyone in internetland, here are a few places to start. From a more cushioned shoe to a very minimal one, at least at this point in time. These are just links for pictures and quick write-ups, not necessarily the cheapest deal out there. And who knows how long the links will be active.

Minimalist Running Shoe Options:

Nike: Believe it or not, the Nike Free is actually one of the more cushioned "minimalist" shoes out there. They're just great at marketing. Men's. Women's.

Newton: A more expensive product, Newton boasts less overuse injuries with their patented technology. However, these are still very cushioned. Men's. Women's.

Reebok: Typically more of CrossFit shoe, the Nanos offer a little more cushion than the shoes below but do have a small heel drop in comparison to their "normal" running shoes. Men's 2.0. Women's 2.0. Men's 3.0. Women's 3.0.

Inov8: Marketed as more of a cross trainer, these came out with critical support especially in the CrossFit community and are an option when running too. Unisex sizing. F-Lite 232. F-Lite 195. Bare-XF.

New Balance: A great go-to for minimalist shoes, they developed their Minimus and improved it over the years. Generally a place I send people who are looking for a natural shoe, there are quite a few choices in terms of style and heel drop. Road Men's. Road Women's. Trail Men's. Trail Women's. Zero Drop Men's. Zero Drop Women's.

Merrell: Similar to the New Balance, Merrell offers a minimalist series they call "Barefoot." Road Men's. Road Women's. Trail Men's. Trail Women's.

Vibram: Those ugly toe-shoes that make people stop and stare, Vibram hit it big and then went through lawsuits for unsubstantiated claims. These are extremely minimal; basically rubber socks, and prove the answer isn't to go completely "barefoot" because that can be injurious itself.


Of course this is not an exhaustive list. Check hundreds of reviews at the NaturalRunningCenter.com and BarefootRunningShoes.org for more extensive listings, including other brands not mentioned above. Plus, many experts and running organizations provide info that may be worthwhile in articles such as "Should I Run Barefoot?" and "How to Prepare for Barefooting."



So there you have it. An initial look into the footwear of the old yet ever-evolving sport of running.

Looking ahead to "Running, Parts 2 & 3," we'll examine common mistakes and technique fixes in form & efficiency and then implementing running workouts in programming.

In other words, we drop the pacifier, learn how to run, and have some fitness for dessert.

-Scott, 7.29.2013