A few weeks ago, Aerobic Capacity founder Chris Hinshaw was doing a track workout with multiple-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning. The workout called for 12 rounds and every single time Froning would pass Hinshaw he would greet him with a little inspirational message.
“He would say, ‘I hate you, this is awful, this is the worst thing I’ve ever done,” Hinshaw said with a laugh as he recollected some of the phrases Froning breathlessly uttered as he ran by. “Running is hard for everybody, but the key is Rich runs three times a week because it’s the best use of his time.
For me, the key is writing the workouts in a way that will motivate and also writing a way where they can look at the results and recognize the value in what they are doing.”
Gone are the days when high-level athletes, particularly in CrossFit, can rely on natural running ability and sheer will.
Ever since fellow CrossFit Games competition Jason Khalipa asked Hinshaw for running help a few years back, the former IronMan competitor has gained an impressive following of Games and Regionals competitors, teaching them how to improve in a sport that left him physically broken until he found CrossFit.
“CrossFit rehabbed my neglected muscle groups and started building my structure the way it should have been built,” said Hinshaw, who was so physically depleted when he started at Khalipa’s gym he had trained for his last IronMan solely on the Stair Master.
“Thats why I did it all for free. I do it because I genuinely love the community and I will forever be in debt to them for giving me my health. I consistently and regularly give back on that scale because of what they’ve given me.”
Hinshaw also uses the elite athletes he coaches as guinea pigs. Because he’s not making any money coaching them, he’s constantly experimenting, collecting data and taking measurements he can use and apply to his seminars. When Froning called in 2014 looking to improve his running, Hinshaw had a brief moment of doubt.
“I really wanted to know his fatigue factor, but I was like what if I make him a worse CrossFit athlete?,” Hinshaw said. “But, still, I wasn’t making money. I had nothing to lose. My expectations? Well, I didn’t have any.”
But Froning’s work capacity and strength improved adding in running and so did Mat Fraser. It seems that Hinshaw was on to something.
So, how do you work running into your training regimen and improve?
FIND YOUR FATIGUE FACTOR
Do you need more volume or speed in your training diet?
“Athlete assessment is really important,” Hinshaw said. “I look at anaerobic [events], such as 400, and I look at the mile which is more aerobic. I look at the time of those athletes in those particular distances.
Rich Froning- had a sixty-second 400 and six-minute mile. It’s fast but if you look at the rate at which he fatigues from 400 to 800 to a mile, he slows 28.7 percent. You compare it to mine at 15 [percent], it shows his ability to handle distance.”
One of the first things Hinshaw did when he started CrossFit was identify a reasonable fatigue factor for a non-specialist athlete. It’s no surprise that his fatigue rate is lower, with his endurance background, and —in his case— the best use of his time is to work on speed instead.
For Froning, the fatigue factor was alarming as Hinshaw estimates the normal fatigue zone is between 20-21 percent. The choice was simple: make Froning slower all-around to balance out his fatigue factor, or drop his mile time to 5:25.
They chose the latter and, within 15 months, the three-times-a-week workouts have paid off enough. Froning’s mile time is now 5:24.
“You have to define your area of adaptation,” Hinshaw said. “My twice a week program has a speed focus, whereas Rich and most CrossFit athletes need to focus on their aerobic system. The key is you must identify the area which is the highest and best use of your time.”
RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE IN ENDURANCE
“The No. 1 thing is CrossFitters think running is about running. No, running is about developing and improving overall work capacity,” Hinshaw said. “You are supporting your bodyweight, the amount of precision you are controlling and your body’s ability to buffer or clear your lactate.”
So, why is that important?
“When that lactate hits your bloodstream it has no idea where it came from, its just trying to get rid of it,” Hinshaw said. “As a a system your body becomes much more efficient at removing that lactate the same as when you’re doing pull-ups in a workout or when you’re running.”
Your body also becomes better at lifting. Everyone needs a to work endurance, whether you’re a CrossFitter, Powerlifter or Olympic lifter.
When Fraser —who has an Olympic lifting background— joined Hinshaw, it would have been pretty apparent if his strength numbers went down. But they didn’t. Because having stamina preserves form, whether its on the track, during a WOD or when going for a one-rep max. You need to train your body to prepare to withstand those things.
“If you talk to Camille [Leblanc-Bazinet] about why she runs she will say her engine,” Hinshaw said, “but, in reality, it also improves her overall capacity because of her body’s ability to buffer and clear that lactate.”
FORM MATTERS, TO AN EXTENT
All those cool running drills and poses? You probably don’t need them. Hinshaw only prioritizes working on form when there’s a potential injury risk.
‘These athletes are only running maybe seven miles a week maybe five. So I don’t have the luxury of time to do all kinds of form corrections, he said. “If I have them and they were a runner, it would make more sense to do more emphasis on form. If you are running 40 miles a week, form matters.”
While he’s quick to point out form does matter, Hinshaw said for non-specialists like CrossFit athletes, it’s tough to recommend putting all you energy on being bio-mechanically perfect.
“If they have a heel strike, but not an overstrike does it move to the top of the list? Or is it their weakness is in the engine?,” he said. “Rich has a heel strike, but is it a priority to change in the next six months because that might lead to a whole variety of other problems?
Are you going to take the next year experimenting on form and hoping at the end of the day it actually improves their overall performance? It’s tough to ask.”
Instead, Hinshaw recommends every athlete take into consideration their goals and how to maximize results running.
“I just want to be functional,” he said. “I run twice a week and I’m constantly asking myself, ’Is this workout I’m about to do in the highest and best interest of my goal?’
“I don’t enjoy running. I think it’s very challenging. You are able to control the intensity in running with incredible precision and there’s no change in movement. Expectations because of that precision are very high. You need to create workouts that inspire you, that motivate you. Running is hard for everybody. It doesn’t get any easier, you just run faster.”
For more information or to attend one of Chris’s seminars, visit http://www.aerobiccapacity.com.