Building Your Aerobic Capacity – Interview with Chris Hinshaw

Written by Joey Daoud

On October 23, 2018
Chris Hinshaw and Mat Fraser running on a track

You need to recognize that every movement is unique and every speed within that movement is unique. You must develop a range of gears.

Coach Chris Hinshaw is the creator of the Aerobic Capacity methodology and CrossFit specialty course. Aerobic Capacity goes way beyond just running and focuses on building a robust energy system, so that we can perform longer and fatigue less.

I had chance to take the course and it was excellent, both for its blend of exercise science and actionable tools and techniques that you can put to use right away.

After the course, I had a chance to chat with Coach Hinshaw. Check out the full interview and transcript below.

Transcript – Aerobic Capacity

Starting at 0:53 after the intro

Joey Daoud: So, end of the course, I totally enjoyed it, super awesome. I feel like when running comes up with CrossFit, anything more than 400 meters, it’s always just like this death look from people. So, why do you feel like it’s gotten such a bad rap, and why would you say aerobic capacity is important for CrossFit athletes to work on?

Chris Hinshaw: Yeah, man, I think it has gotten a bad rap, but I think, because it’s tough. I always am honest with people when I’m asked, “Do you like running?” and it’s like I really don’t, it’s hard, it’s really hard.

In this course I put a couple examples up like 10 by 400 meters, and would I show up to that kind of a track workout? And I wouldn’t. I think it lacks creativity. I think that we as coaches, we have so many things that are available to us, why would we just say, oh, we want you to run 5,000 meters at maximum intensity. We know that people don’t want to do workouts like that, so why don’t we just get a little more creative.

And for me, it’s interesting. I was in Melbourne, Australia, and I was at a gym, Rob Forte’s gym, and we did a workout that started with a heavy snatch, and then what we did as the main workout was seven rounds of seven reps at a percentage of that heavy snatch. So, they did seven rounds of seven snatches, but then what I had them do, was I had them run to the end of the building complex and back. And, it was roughly 150 meters down and 150 meters back. Seven rounds. So, it was 2,100 meters of running, but what I told them was is that, your job is to do those seven reps unbroken every time, if you fail you must restart that entire round. So, your job is to run that run as slowly as you can, so that you can recover. I don’t care how slow you run that run.

I took that pressure off them, and so someone even said, they said, ‘hey, what if I do that run and it takes me four minutes?’ I’m like you can take five just as long you don’t walk. But, if you’re missing the snatch, you’re restarting.

And so, all of the attention was on the snatch, right? Well so, at the end of the workout Rob and I ask, we said, ‘ya know, there’s 28 people in the class’, we said, ‘who knows how far we ran.’ And, no one knew. We got them to run 2,100 meters, right. And, they never even knew, because their focus was on something else. That’s what I’m talking about.

Joey Daoud: So, you kind a snuck it in there.

Chris Hinshaw: Right, but what we did as coaches, is we were creative. We were creative, and we wanted them to run, but we didn’t want them to feel like it was a chore. It’s the same thing we did today in the workout, right. We did a running workout that was not focused on making your eyes bleed, we focused on a skill. Ya know, a pacing. And, I think that’s why I think we can do a better job in that way. I think that we can really do a smarter job in finding a way to get people out there to run.

Joey Daoud: Now, there’s not just benefits to running, it bleeds over into bettering everything.

Chris Hinshaw: Absolutely, that’s the thing about running, you have to look at movements. So, we’ve all had cases in CrossFit where we hadn’t practiced a particular thing, and all of a sudden we go and do it, and we PR, right. It’s like, “Wow, how can that be, cause I haven’t practiced it.” Well, the thing is we do so many similar movements that, that theory of specificity doesn’t always hold true. We have a lot of crossover.

The thing about running is that, we do a lot of movements where must support our structure in a similar way. So, we do jumping rope, we do singles and double lunges, we do wall balls, we do air squats, we do squatting exercises, and they’re very similar in movement.

The thing about running, what it does, is it actually allows us to build up capacity in a similar movement. So, when we end up doing these other high volumes of thrusters, the running does have some crossover benefit. And so, that’s why I look at that movement, and it’s like we have to prioritize, it’s like where is the highest value of time, in terms of creating fitness, and running is one of them. Running is up there in terms of its value.

Joey Daoud: If you’re just a regular CrossFit athlete, what are three things you could do to help improve your aerobic capacity?

Chris Hinshaw: So, I think that the number one is you need to recognize that every movement’s unique, and every speed within that movement is unique, you must develop a range of gears, that’s really important.

Number two is that you have to focus on your maximum sustainable pace. Every movement is unique, and so what you have to do is develop an ability to know what capacity you have in that movement, what speed can I sustain.

And number three is you’ve gotta do workouts where you build fatigue, and focus on the recovery side. We focus a lot on in this sport about high intensity, developing our speed, our strength and our power, important.

We also work on longer time domains, we build work capacity. What we don’t look at enough and measure is our recovery. Do we just stand around, do we walk around, or do we do something else that’s a little more active?

Five by five back squat, can we do something other than sitting around for three minutes between reps to improve our rate of recovery? One of things that we really can do, is do high intensity efforts, building the fatigue, and then do a low intensity effort to clear that fatigue. Doing more lactate clearance workouts to help us create more intensity.

Look, if I can clear fatigue faster, then I can put more intensity in, because I clear it at the rate that increase occurs. And, so those three things are really important. The ability to recognize that movements are unique and speeds are unique. Looking at my maximum sustainable pace, and then looking at the ability of clearing that fatigue at a faster rate.

Joey Daoud: Last question is, I was totally curious about it. What’s the secret to cooking three pounds of bacon?

Chris Hinshaw: So, there is a trick. So we got together in Cookeville, and there was like 14 people, right, and we had one tiny little pan, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m not cooking bacon,” I’m like step aside, right, and I end up throwing three pounds all in the little tiny pan, and everybody was like you’re gonna ruin the whole thing, and, in reality what happens is you throw it all into a pan, and essentially the bacon grease goes to the bottom, and you essentially deep fry all the bacon.

Joey Daoud: Does it just end up filling up with a good amount of grease?

Chris Hinshaw: Yes, and basically you’re deep frying the bacon

Joey Daoud: You just kind gotta rotate and make sure everything gets in that grease and heats it up.

Chris Hinshaw:  Yep, yeah, it’s really actually a cool tip.

Joey Daoud: Thank you some much Chris, it’s been an amazing course.

Chris Hinshaw: Thank you very much.

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