Maximize Your Potential: Thinking Outside the Box
3 Things USA Track and Field Can Teach a CrossFitter

What is CrossFit? If you’ve been through Iron Forged Athletic’s Foundations Program you have heard it described as “constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains.” While that sounds buzzy, simple, and intelligent, isn’t there more to it than that? In broad strokes this is a great method of defining a training program, but as a coach my ultimate goal is to help form you into a stronger, healthier, better informed and more independent athlete.

What’s Running Got To Do With It?

When was the last time you lifted a barbell? How much time did coach spend going over the fundamentals of the movement and how long did you spend training the basics? Now think about the last time you ran. Did you spend the same amount of time focused on perfecting your mechanics? Or, did you just kind of go? Our body is a machine and understanding how to fire on all cylinders can make, or break your workout and longterm health. Running is one of the most functional movements in the box and in life. Whether it’s specifically written out in a workout, or something as simple as running to the pull-up bar and chasing the kids around the house, running plays an integral role in our day to day lives. It also results in a high rate of injury due to improper form. Here I’ve highlighted a few simple tips to use the next time you strap into your running shoes:

  • Invest In Your Warmup: An Expert is someone who has mastered the fundamentals. Take the time to work basic movement patterns during your warmup, building from a crawl, to walk, to run. Chris Hinshaw, founder of and one of the top endurance coaches in the world has a great warmup to use anytime you plan on running
  • Body Alignment: crucial to efficient and injury free running, keep your head neutral to your spine and eyes on the horizon; don’t lean back: stack shoulders over hips, keep the ribs down
  • Ground Contact: this should always occur with a mid- to forefoot strike. The ankle should be stable in a dorsiflexed position, and the feet hit underneath your center of mass to allow for proper recovery and to avoid breaking force

Rubberband Man

The mark of true athleticism falls into an athlete’s ability to displace their center of gravity with dynamic explosiveness. This means jumping further/higher, running faster, and moving with power. Speed and Power are necessary for nearly all movements inside the box. Anything from snatching a heavy barbell, to burpees over a box, to pull-ups for time all require moving your body explosively through space. The body uses the stretch-shortening cycle of muscle action(rubber band effect) to influence these movements. We train that through plyometrics and speed running. Consider these drills for increasing your explosive power and speed:

  • Skips: A skips and B skips have long been utilized in Track and Field to improve explosive reaction from the ground. Try variations that focus on reactive power against the ground and others that focus on vertical quickness from the ground. Keep in mind the importance of good dorsiflexion and landing on your mid-foot and exploding through the full foot.
  • Bounds, Hops and Jumps: practice forward, lateral, and vertical jumping to get maximal levels of explosion and power from core to extremity. Try box jumps, broad jumps, and double leg bounds!
  • Rollover Starts and Acceleration Sprints: these are great drills to isolate acceleration. In rollover starts lean forward until your center of gravity pulls you forward; lean into the sprint and aim your knees to the finish line while clawing at the ground with your feet under your hips. Vary distance from the first 5-8 steps up to 40 meters.
  • Speed Development Runs: sprints of distances between 40-60 meters are used to develop top end speed. Consider 3-5 intervals with 3 minutes of rest between splits.

Accumulation and Context

USA Track and Field sponsors a training program based on Progression. Similar to more specific demands of CrossFit this includes programs that train simple to complex and emphasize variation, understanding that continual growth comes from imposing new demands on the body. Where we tend to see blurred lines inside of the gym is where USATF has provided more specifics: the Principles of Accumulation and Context. Because of the nature of many CrossFit classes it’s easy to see each day as the beginning and end. Little thought is given to how that workout will help make athletes stronger, or healthier. “As long as the intensity is high it must be good for me, right?” If health is defined as good fitness over time then we should always think of the long run. Adaptation doesn’t happen immediately, but over time with consistency. Strength isn’t earned without context; it’s the cumulative effect of a program that fits today’s workout with yesterday’s and tomorrow’s. Using these principles will allow you to track your fitness and health with quantifiable and meaningful data. That data allows you to see the results of your hard work and keep you motivated to keep coming back to the gym!