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-   -   Running: how long is "long distance"? (http://board.crossfit.com/showthread.php?t=3376)

Rachel Bennett 05-30-2006 07:18 PM

Hi! I'm new here. I've been lurking around the boards the last couple of weeks, and I have learned such a lot already - thanks to you all for providing such a great resource.

One thing that really surprised me was learning that while short distance running can be good for a person's overall fitness and is compatible with strength training, long distance running will actually break down a persons muscle mass and eventually weaken them.

Could someone please explain to me what distances are considered to be "long distance"? How far must a person regularly run before the running starts breaking down their muscle mass - are we talking about running couple of miles a few times a week, or more like half-marathons?

I'm sorry if this has been explained before, but I did a search of the boards and didn't find it mentioned.

Peter Queen 05-30-2006 08:09 PM

Rachel: first of all welcome to Cross Fit.
With multiple marathons and long distance running in my background I have always come to the understanding that in the marathon world anything over 5 miles is considered long distance. Anything after that is all relative. If you run 2 miles 2 to 3 days week, I would not consider this harmful at all. I am basing this on the fact that I have over 20 years of long distance running experience as well as being able to maintain a muscular frame for many many years. I was both a runner and a body builder (a very rare combination). Granted, I was also carrying a lot of excess body fat even with all of my running but that was before the days of CF. Since CF I have shredded a lot of body fat because now I am training not just harder but smarter. I was able to shred more body fat through proper dieting and better and more efficient fat burning exercises. I have not done any actual BB exercises in over 6 months and I do not miss it at all. If you want to lose weight and maintain a good strength level and well defined muscularity then CF will definately do it. But if you are like me and like to run anyway, then 2 miles twice a week is more than enough without compromising your overall strength gaining through CF. Again these are just my opinions based on my own first hand experiences. On another post similar to this one recently, I stated that it all depends on what you are looking for. And if you want to run more than what I suggested then be prepared to re-evaluate your objective. I hope this 2c of info helps you a little. Good luck.

John Seaburg 05-30-2006 08:55 PM

If you love running but don't want to lose muscle or bone mass you might want to try running stairs or steep hills. I know that's not what you have in mind but I know a former distance runner who made the switch and put on a lot of mass.


Blair Robert Lowe 05-31-2006 12:01 AM

During Track and Field when I mainly competed PoleVaulting ( badly ), I would run sprint sets as conditioning. As well, just to keep more active during the meets, I would run short distances ( in the mid to end coming in ) and long distances for the hell of it.

My set would go something like this:

Run 100, walk 100 or for a brief period or to the next mark. Run 200, ditto, 300 sometimes skip to 400 ( Now is when it gets hard ). 600, sometimes skip to 800.
Go back down. Go back up. Go back down. Go back up. Go back down.

I considered 1mi a distance event since I wasn't sprinting. 2mi definitely was besides being 8 laps around the track ( boring! ). 400 and 800 were just somebody's interesting ideas of mixing and matching sprint and distance to horrendous results.
Doing this, every day; I never had problems running 5-20mi on weekends.
By no means was I placing in the distance events ( or any for that matter ) but my times were as follows:
40, 4.8 or 4.9
100- right under 12 at best.
200- mid 24s to 27.
400- I broke 52sec once. Usually I was more in the mid 55s when I was on with some really crappy 400s at over a min. SLOW.

800- I mighta broke 2:20. This race usually caused much collapsing and dry heaving about 50 feet from the end for about 15 min. It got messy though sometimes. And always it seemed it took about 15 min to be functional and go into a semi-comatose state. Heat didn't help.

1 mi- above 5min ( which meant getting lapped by the placers ) to 6 and a half. erratic
2 mi- best around 1130 to 13 on a crappy run. Setting pace and not getting bored is a big issue.

5 miles, Just above half an hour.
10 miles, 1:15 to 1:30
15-25 miles. Never really timed these.

Don Stevenson 05-31-2006 01:51 AM

It's all relative.

For me anything over 400m is a long run and treated with serious loathing.

Karl Geissler 05-31-2006 04:21 AM

Rachel-

I think you might need to look at this from a perspective of time spent doing a particular activity. The measure you need to think about is time spent doing a particular activity. The traditional approach to cardiovascular improvement is to perform an aerobic bout of exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes (For sake of argument, a 4 mile run at a 7:00 per mile pace). Because there is limited variance in the activity, you could experience muscle breakdown if this becomes your sole activity for training. When you begin to embrace the lactate threshold training that crossfit endorses, you will still improve your aerobic, but by doing so through intense and varied anaerobic activity.

Just a quick side note, I ran a marathon back in 2000. Afterwards, I became extremely fatiqued and literally could not run a step for months. That is when I really began playing with anaerobic training and power lifting. I later discovered crossfit. This past week at the invitation of a neighbor, I ran my first true long run. We went six miles in 48 minutes, and I felt fine. You can still run some distance, but I would suggest that you keep it to once week.

Larry Lindenman 05-31-2006 04:31 AM

Rachel, you've got some great advise. I like what everyone has said. I'm going to add. Really examine why you want to run. If it's to improve fitness, you don't need to do it if you doing CF. If it's to train for an event...I would question why I'm doing this event which may be at cross purposes to my training goals and health. If it's because you enjoy running long distances, you need to weigh your enjoyment with your goals and, frankly, your health! All this being said, there are CFers who enjoy distance work, Eugene, being one prominent one. If your not a distance athlete, drop the long distance running for a while (a month or two) and see what happens...believe me you will not lose any aerobic conditioning and the rest will help you. At the end of your exile, look back and examine if you want to start distance running again, my bet...your going to say NO! By the way: Welcome.

Rachel Bennett 05-31-2006 02:58 PM

Thanks everybody. To answer your questions, I've been running for a couple of reasons.

Firstly is that I'm involved in our local landSAR squad, and I need to keep at least relatively fit for that. They need us to stay fit enough to be able to trudge up and down hills with our packs on for around 10 hours a time: they're after endurance, not strength or speed.

Secondly is that my dog needs to be exercised regularly, and running him is more fun than walking him (and it tires him out faster!) :happy:

So my needs are twofold - I either need to walk or run a few miles regularly with the dog. And I need to have relatively good endurance for the SAR callouts.

From your responses, I'm guessing that it would be to my advantage to decrease the distance I'm doing, but to try to run it quicker (or uphill - or possibly with a pack)?

Thanks again everyone for your time and patience. I'm learning heaps from this site.

Don Stevenson 05-31-2006 03:18 PM

Hi Rachel, as you may have guessed from my previous post I hate running and if i never ran again i'd hardly shed a tear.

Having said that though running can be important for certain applications and it sounds like you fit into that category.

Although your SAR team THINKS that endurance is king they are ignoring the fact that at the pointy end of a rescue you may need strength, speed and strength endurance to pull of the important bits.

If a bunch of marathon runners tried to rescue me and some of my friends they'd be up the creek because none of us are feather light. Me, I can carry a marathon runner under each arm! (ok slight exaggeration)

If you have the fitness to run 5km in 25-30 min then you can probably walk for long distances just fine however i'd be inclined to do some tougher runs with 10-15kg of gear on.

Guest 05-31-2006 03:38 PM

long distance = anything farther than how long you'd ever have to run to evade the police.


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