4 Keys to Using Running Intervals to Improve Your Metcons

What if we told you becoming a better runner could translate to your Fran time?

Improve your running and you’ll get better at kipping pull-ups.

Sounds like a pretty crazy assertion, right?

It’s true: If your aerobic capacity—meaning your ability to deliver oxygen to your cells and remove oxygen from your muscles—is your limiting factor, then running can be a great tool to improve this capacity, which can then translate to movements like kipping pull-ups, burpees and even dips.

Here’s how: You know that feeling you feel when you’re doing a big set of fast burpees, or double-unders, or kipping pull-ups? You start to feel that burn as your muscles become fatigued and start becoming lactic. Sometimes, the fatigue from the lactic acid is what causes you to put the skipping rope down, or hop off the bar, before you’re anywhere near muscle failure.

Lactic acid is your body’s way of protecting you. And the more fit you are aerobically, the more you’ll be able to flush that lactic acid from your body.

Here’s the science: When you’re working out at a high intensity, you begin to use your anaerobic energy systems, which rely on glycolysis to release energy and convert glucose into pyruvate. As long as you’re getting enough oxygen, you can continue to fuel your body this way. However, once oxygen starts getting low—as you fatigue—then pyruvate gets converted into lactate.

After one minute to 90 seconds of working at a high intensity, this lactic acid begins to build-up in your body, which again signals to your body to stop. Eventually, your muscles tighten and it starts to feel like you can barely use them.

Bottom line: The more aerobically conditioned you are, the better you become at stopping this acidic build-up in your muscles.

One especially useful way to improve your ability to flush out lactic acid is by running. That being said, you can’t just go out there and run and hope for the best. You need to be running with a purpose.

4 Keys to Using Running Intervals to Improve Your Kipping Pull-ups (and Other Metcon Movements)

Kipping pull ups
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1. Intention

Each workout needs to have a specific intention based on the athletes abilities. This ultimately means each workout should have a prescribed distance and intensity.

It’s the same concept as a CrossFit workout: For example, Grace: 30 clean and jerks for time.

Grace isn’t meant to be a strength workout. It’s meant to be a short, hard, intense workout that lasts approximately 70 seconds (for the crazy fit and efficient athletes) to three minutes. If Grace takes you eight minutes, then you probably should decrease the weight to a load where you can finish all 30 reps within three minutes.

The same is true of running: For best results, each training session should have an intended stimulus in terms of what it’s trying to achieve.

2. Prescribed Intensity

Being able to adhere to the intention means becoming familiar with various max efforts runs. Specifically, you should know your 400-meter time, your one mile run time, and your 5 km run time.

From there, just like a strength program, intervals can be prescribed, for example, at 80 percent of your 400 meter run time.

Another great drill, which world-renowned running coach Chris Hinshaw often uses is a 10-round workout of 60 seconds of running with 10 seconds rest between each interval.

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The idea is to be able to complete the same distance for all 10 intervals. However, when he puts inexperienced athletes through it, almost everyone goes out too hard, he explained.

The above test helps people become more familiar with their pace, which will then help create training targets that are challenging, but do-able.

3. Progressive

Like any strength program, it’s best to follow an interval running program that progresses over time. Practically speaking, this means the first couple weeks should feel almost easy, but volume and pace increases over time, and recovery time decreases.

Let’s say you’re wanting to improve your 1 mile run time: A good place to start is with manageable 200-meter intervals at a pace that doesn’t feel daunting, with a full rest between intervals. Over the weeks, these will become 300-meter, 400-meter and 600-meter intervals with less and less rest between intervals.

4. Considers the Individual

While some people’s weakness is their speed, others is their endurance, and others still is their ability to recover.

A running program aimed at improving aerobic capacity should take this into consideration. If, for example, recovery is your weakness, then you’ll probably be playing around with your rest time quite a bit. Once you start to feel an improvement, then recovery might mean a fast walk or a slow jog between intervals.

According to Hinshaw, most CrossFit athletes generally need more endurance training than speed work. Elite level runners tend to decrease their pace by four to six percent when a distance doubles, meaning their one mile pace is 4 to 6 percent slower than their 800 meter run. However, after working with dozens of elite level CrossFit athletes, Hinshaw’s data shows even high level CrossFit athletes’ pace decreases by 20 percent when a distance doubles, hence their need for more endurance work.

Like anything else, improving aerobic capacity takes time. And if you dislike running, it can be daunting to begin a running program. However, an effective program should feel manageable, as it’s designed with your specific needs in mind.

Featured image: @aeorbiccapacity on Instagram