Teaching Running as a Skill

By Brian Mackenzie

In CrossFit Endurance, Running, Videos

May 23, 2009

Video Article

Brian Mackenzie of CrossFit Endurance offers seminars on efficient running techniques. In this video from Again Faster Mackenzie emphasized that foundational work on skills and drills must come first. Getting faster comes second.

Mackenzie told seminar participants, “There is a reason we do a workout with running in it. It's to show you how quickly it can go to shit” if technique is lacking. “If you don't have the skills and the conditioning, you're not going to get the power and speed,” Mackenzie said.

Elite runners run quietly, often on the balls on their feet. But the masses run noisily. They are heel strikers who pound away and waste a great deal of energy.

Coach Carl Borg led the seminar participants in partner drills that reinforced these points. They learned to pull the foot from the ground using gravity. The technique is quite different from what most other coaches use.

7min 55sec

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32 Comments on “Teaching Running as a Skill”


wrote …

I appreciate the instruction and the insight maybe we could just lose the vulgarity.


wrote …

Very good instruction; but a little less F* bombs might not be so bad.


wrote …

Very good information, Brian.

***Language isn't for everyone.


wrote …

that's his style, stop being so sensitive. fcuk!


wrote …

holy shit.. is today national sensitivity day and I wasn't told?


wrote …

lots of great info in a short vid, i like the language myself. thanx brian


wrote …

I love this stuff. I have been practicing the drill seen on this video (since last video where Brian demonstrated with the girl). I work on it a little here and a little there. Often I will go for a walk for a couple of miles and will practice this drill for 5-10 sets along the way. I am really starting to get a feel for the method using this drill.


wrote …

“If you don't have the skills and the conditioning, you're not going to get the power and speed,” - I think you could but you will get injured.

I don't run often (except for running WOD) and I'm getting faster, but IMHO only because I'm able to push more and more.
Last time I run 800 I shaved 17 seconds off my first 800 round but my knee went to hell :(


wrote …

I'm trying to incorporate this stuff. I've found that on a distance like a mile, my slowest jog is roughly as quick and my fastest run previously.

However, I find that my capacity for distance is hosed because my back tightens up really quick. Before, I could run about 10k in an hour. Now, I just can't cover that kind of distance.

It would be great if Brian could talk about the causes of back spasms while running.


wrote …

I thought this was very informative... I've done a lot of running in my life but never really got into the technical detail like this. Good stuff

Also, I don't think it's overly sensetive to be bumped by the language. We're talking about a community where links ought to be labeled as to whether they're WFS. There was nothing to suggest this video wouldn't be good for the kiddies but I imagine a couple of folks could object to Junior watching it.


wrote …

I watched again and counted 3 F-Bombs in an 8 minute video for a .375 F-bomb/min average. I've been remodeling my house using self-employed owner/proprietor trades people (not larger corporate type organizations); salt-of the earth type folks, some of whom are very coarse, so I'm accustomed to a 4 or 5 f-bomb/min average. (There were also 2 S-words in thee vid.)

I remember the ASEP Lecture vid where Coach asked the room to excuse his decorum after cursing. It's possible that this community uses more profanity than the average population, but a), it seems top-down, and b) I certainly remember the points Brian made with those words. Like CrossFit methods in general, curse words are a bit anti-establishment, but also like Crossfit, they are effective.

On to the actual content and a bit of history that is in line with Brian's comments. I think I was a strong pose runner until my one year (Sr. year) of high-school track. I ran the 1600, then the 800 on my toes, like I had always run since child-hood. My coach told me I had to learn to land on my heel to prevent compromising my arch. After not running events for years, I started training for a marathon, and I had returned to my 'toe' running, but more experienced running friends of mine again advised me to land on my heels, which took practice.

After a few heel-striking marathons, now I have to 'un-learn'. I think an endurance cert is in my future, but I will continue to work on what I get from these videos. Thanks, Brian!


replied to comment from Patrick Griffin

I see your point. The WFS or NWFS labeling is enforced in the message board, so maybe it should be enforced here.


wrote …

Not sure I saw the exact same uproar about from the Dave Tate videos.

As for the actual content of the video. I will attest that self teaching the POSE method is very hard to do. I tried, failed, then ponied up for a CFE cert. I will tell you one thing, Carl identified and coached me on methods to correct my issues within the first 10 minutes of doing drills. The rest of the cert is great for endurance athletes and training them using CF and CFE methods as well.

People, if you want to be efficient, go to a CFE cert! I can't recommend them enough! Once you go, do they "homework" they give you. I am pretty close to having the technique down after working on it since November of last year. The time it takes to change is a very personal thing. But, like any other skill, if you work on it, you will learn.

Chuck B


wrote …

I plan on using the CrossFit Journal as a teaching aid, but after the first S word in the first few seconds, I was completely turned off from whatever the video was about. I am glad that I did not waste my time watching the rest of the video after reading the previous commnets about the F bombs. I think as a community we should be professional in the material we put out. You would never find this in any other type of journal....at least not the ones I read. This video was completely unprofessional and should be taken off. If this is how CrossFit is going to portray themselves, I might reconsider being affliated with them. I would hope the rest of the CrossFit community would be outraged as well.


wrote …

Personally, I don't mind strong language at all. We are adult people (are we ?) and we could talk in any way we want, we are used to and we want to.
If you don't want to see/hear lecture with strong and mature language, don't. You have a choice. I want to learn POSE here, I don't want to call MPAA and employ rating...

Coach Burgener has a great quote on his site today - "Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule." – Samuel Butler"
Someones feelings, instincts and personality is full of f-bombs. So what ? You are not forced to watch this (or anything else) if you don't want to.

Brian (and rest of CF crew) decided to share his knowledge with us. Again if you don't accept HIS condition of this deal - just close the video and learn POSE/squats/DL/whatever on different site.


wrote …

Brian provided a lot of good information that I never really thought about before in my running. I've done a lot of running at different times of my life - often it was the only fitness program I was using. I hurt my ACL about 5 years back and have only recently been able to run again without hurting the injury. While running in this program I thought about the some of the coaching I had and they suggested the heel method. I ended up pulling a calf muscle. After watching this video I wonder if I would have avoided the calf muscle injury by not streching out the muscle as much as I did in the sprint?

Good stuff.


wrote …

Brian and Carl---
Good stuff as always great cert this weekend..... Highly recommend attending a run cert to see what you are doing in the beginning, and what you are doing after learning and receiving feedback on the drills. Being able to see what you are doing puts everything in a whole new context, and really helps you to identify where work needs to be done and which drills to use to address different places that need attention.


wrote …

.................and on a more serious note, this stuff really works. Use your ears. As Brian says we can hear less efficient running by the striking of feet on the ground. On a personal note I know when I'm tired on a long run and my form gets sloppy that my foot strike makes way more noise than when I'm 'gliding' over the ground. I know you shouldn't do this.... but a good way to test your style is to try and surprise :) a walker/slower runner as you run past. if you're past them before they even know you're there then you're light on your toes. A more sensible, less scary for walkers/runners, approach which will keep everyone happy is to get within 10 - 15 yards and clap your hands, whistle, shout etc. The walker/runner will still get a fright but at least they'll get a chance to turn and see that it's not Ted Bundy creeping up on them...........


wrote …

I'd like to learn more about how to improve my running as I've always just run in whatever form felt natural, however unlike a lot of CrossFitters (?), I'm self taught. I wasn't an athlete in high school or college so no one's ever shown me the technical aspects of a run. I'll try some of this at the track and see if I can figure it out from this 8 min video but I suspect I'll ultimately require some in-person coaching.

(I like swearing - it shows a kind of loose attitude and passion. But I respect that everyone doesn't share my pov).

I LOVE the Journal!


wrote …

I have been in the fitness industry for over 10 years and weither you like vulgar language or not, cursing is unprofessional and offensive.

That is all....just trying to help advance CrossFit instead of tear it down.

Also there was no warning that there was extreme vulgar lanuage in the video.


wrote …

I really like this version of the POSE drill. I had trouble transferring some of the others to actual running, but I can FEEL this one so it works for me. I also think it will work for the athletes I coach.

However... I also want to weigh in on the language thing. I don't personally have a problem with Brian's delivery, but I think I would be more than a little uncomfortable showing his video to a group of the athletes I coach. It should be a compliment to Brian that his instruction is so darn good that coaches would want to use it in their program.

Consider this from the "What is CrossFit" section on the main site:

"The CrossFit program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.

The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. Our terrorist hunters, skiers, mountain bike riders and housewives have found their best fitness from the same regimen."

I work with athletes ranging from middle school kids up through some of the above "housewives" and "elderly". Brian has good stuff, and I would really like to make it work for all of the above. Thanks for listening, Brian.


replied to comment from Darrel Mitchell

I agree with the concept and i have tried it for a few weeks now. I will say that my hips and lower back feel better with this method. The only bad part is that my calf muscles felt like they were going to explode. Is this normal? Any suggestions?


wrote …

I just started using some of these strategies, and my 400m runs are so much faster and easier now, it's amazing.


wrote …

#23 - John
I ran a 10 K on Memorial day with only 2-3 days per week of CrossFit training as preparation. I've been cherry-picking WOD's I can do with little to no gear like the 4x 400m +50 squats WOD and Michael.

After watching this vid I tried my best self-taught POSE (read as untrained 'toe-running') and did the 4x400m+50 squats on Saturday, then Michael on Sunday, then a 10K on Monday.

I couldn't tell you what my time was because I was sort-of blacking across the finish line, followed by meeting Pukie. (my 4-mile time was 29:58 - almost exactly my target of 7:30/mi.) Every part of me felt awesome, except for a huge blister between the pad of my big toe and the ball of my foot. Then my calves started to burn, and they still ache 2 days later. (Note, Ice and deep air-squats have helped considerably.)

The 10K course was hilly, including a .75 mile decline to mile 4 followed by a 2 mile incline to the finish. By falling down that hill and stabbing my toes at the ground as fast as I could, I FLEW past people on the way down and felt GREAT at the bottom. Unfortunately, due to my lack of conditioning and very new change to 'toe-running', my calves gave out, and I proceeded to heel-strike up the hill, getting passes by 4 people along the way.

I think I can condition my calves to take the pounding and feel ok after. However, you can aim high and try to teach yourself but like all good movement, nothing can replace time spent with a good coach.


replied to comment from Steven Price

Thanks for the reply. I will keep up the good fight.
Should have the POSE method figured out soon.


wrote …

I am trying to incorporate POSE methods into my running, and have found Brian's work on this to be extremely valuable. My one criticism is the lack of substance in some of the CFE videos. I don't care about the language (it's actually cleaner than most track coaches I have been around) but this video only had about a minute of actual drills and the rest of the time was devoted to argumentation about why forefoot striking is better than heel striking. That is a good point to make, and I understand the need to hammer home the basics, but I could really use and would appreciate more specifics about how to get a good POSE stride going. Please keep up the good work, but give us more content. And thank you for making this resource available, in spite of my criticism it has been a great help.


wrote …

Hey that's me jumping the line!! This was an excellent seminar. I have been a runner for 15 years and was disgusted at myself over my lack of efficiency and understanding of proper running technique. Brian and Carl are world class coaches who love what they do...and it shows. I recommend it to anyone wanting to improve running efficiency as well as learn basic metabolic processes of the body. Thanks Brian and Carl!!


Bret Glas wrote …

Just did this, this morning and it KILLS the calves if your not used to running this way. I ran the Chicago and killed my hip flexors, just like Brian said. I was spent afterwords. With a little practice and strengthing my calves I can see distances increasing effeceintly and effectively. I think doing a lot of jump rope and DU's will build the calves to run this way. Definitely great information on the skill. I am looking forward to running this way forever.

Being "Elite" should 'run' over into communicaiton as well. Elite language counts.

Thanks Brian & Carl for the instruction.


replied to comment from Kieran Barry

Hi There Kieran,

You might want to consider adding specific exercises to stregthen and stretch a weak/tight low back and lower abdominals which can cause this type of problem. Given the distance as being a problem, building endurance in these muscles which support the spine would be helpful. Not sure if you want to try Pilates but it is great to improve function and build strength and endurance. Just a thought.


Jesse Gray wrote …

Before everyone here starts going POSE crazy it should be known that a recent study indicates the POSE technique actually decreases running economy and have no net effect on injury reduction as "the eccentric work on the knee was reduced, but the eccentric work on the ankle was increased". The study found that among elite triathletes who trained with the POSE technique for 12 weeks, their running economy as measured by LO2/min was reduced from 3.28 to 3.53 (as in they had to consume more oxygen in a minute span to run at the same pace with POSE than they had before). Now, it should be noted that the test group were all good runners before which is very different from many Crossfitters and they most likely had good mechanics before hand so a switch to POSE and focus on running technique probably would not have been as striking a difference as with a non trained runner. I would say that for the average Crossfitter just making a concious effort to better your running is a good thing and if POSE is the best way to do it you should pursue it.

Please check out this link if you are interested in seeing all the data.



wrote …

This was a very good instruction. A definite eye opener for me! I am now realizing that I have been beating myself up for years. No more! Thanks!


wrote …

Be your own kind of vulgar! Thanx for the info.

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