The Running Sandwich WoD: How-To, Goal Times, Tips, and Safety

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CrossFit is known for its wide variety of training modalities. During any given week at a CrossFit gym, you might complete a 20-minute endurance workout, a seven-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, find your one-rep deadlift max, and run a 5K.

Some workouts will feel easy, while others will push your physical and mental limits. There are workouts designed for beginners and workouts that only the fittest of CrossFit athletes can perform. Some require a great deal of equipment, while others require none. 

The Running Sandwich WoD is one of those versatile CrossFit WoDs that can be made easier or harder, shorter or longer. It’s suitable for beginners as written, but can still challenge more advanced athletes. Perhaps best of all, the Running Sandwich WoD requires no equipment, and it’s a fun way to mix up your usual fitness routine.

As prescribed, the Running Sandwich WoD is as follows: 

  • Run 400 meters (quarter-mile)
  • 40 air squats
  • 30 sit-ups
  • 20 burpees
  • 10 push-ups
  • Run 400 meters

The Running Sandwich WoD

Score: The Running Sandwich WoD is scored “for time,” so you complete it as fast as possible.

Goal Times: Beginner: 15 to 20 minutes. Intermediate: 10 to 15 minutes. Advanced: seven to 10 minutes. Elite: seven minutes or less. 

Equipment Needed: None—but a pair of comfortable, durable running shoes and a mat for sit-ups is a good idea.

Level: Beginner. This WoD is appropriate for all fitness levels. Advanced and elite athletes may wish to add weights or reps to make it more challenging.

Benefits

The Running Sandwich WoD proves how beautifully simple fitness can be. This bodyweight-only workout incorporates the simplest facets of fitness: cardio, pushing, pulling, and squatting. Despite its lack of complexity, the Running Sandwich WoD can help you improve in the arguably most important capacities. If you’re an advanced CrossFit athlete and you think the Running Sandwich WoD looks too easy to offer benefits, well…push harder!

Get Faster

The 400-meter runs in the Running Sandwich WoD are meant to be fast—very fast. Your legs should burn, your lungs should heave, your strides should lengthen. Here are some goal 400-meter times to help you push the pace: 

  • Beginner: two and a half to three minutes
  • Intermediate: two to two and a half minutes
  • Advanced: 90 seconds
  • Elite: less than 90 seconds

Running sprints is one of the best ways to improve your speed, which makes the Running Sandwich WoD a perfect practice workout.

Improve Stamina

Speed isn’t the only cardiovascular component you can improve with the Running Sandwich WoD. While stamina is defined as your ability to sustain work over a long period of time, you will need some level of stamina to push through all of the reps and maintain your pace on the final 400-meter run. 

You should try to move through all the reps with as little rest as possible (this requires stamina) and keep the same pace on your final 400-meter run as you did on the first 400-meter run.

Build Strength

In addition to speed and stamina, the Running Sandwich WoD can help you build strength. For advanced or elite athletes, these bodyweight movements might not present a challenge. If that’s the case for you, try wearing a weighted vest, squatting with a kettlebell or dumbbell, and doing your push-ups at a decline. 

Beginners may find the bodyweight movements challenging as-is, so perform them as written or modify the ones that are too challenging for your current fitness level.

There you have it: the three “S”s. Speed, stamina, and strength—if you’re looking to improve any of those fitness facets, add the Running Sandwich WoD to your workout schedule.

Step-by-Step Instructions

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If you’re looking for a comprehensive step-by-step guide to the Running Sandwich WoD, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how to set up, plus how to do air squats, sit-ups, burpees, and push-ups. 

Setup for the Running Sandwich WoD

You don’t need to do much to prepare for the Running Sandwich WoD. The most important thing is to map out your 400-meter course unless you’re completing the workout on a standard track. Make sure your course is safe before setting out!

Tips for Running 400 Meters

Contrary to popular belief, running the 400-meter dash is a bit more complicated than just running an all-out sprint. With some key tips, you can better sustain your pace and score an overall better time on the Running Sandwich WoD. 

  • Pick a pace and stick to it. Don’t go out the gate too fast. If you push the first 200 meters too hard, you risk petering out quickly and having a slow finish. 
  • Pay attention to your stride. If you watch professional runners perform the 400-meter dash, you’ll notice that their heads stay level the entire time. They don’t bob up and down—neither should you. Try to avoid bouncing up from the ground too much. This wastes energy and can slow you down. 
  • Keep good posture. When sprinting at full effort, you may forget to pay attention to the positioning of your head, neck, and shoulders. Keep your eyes forward (not pointed at the ground), your chin up, and your shoulders back (open up your chest). 
  • Pump your arms. Pumping your arms during a sprint really does help, even if it feels silly.

How To Do Air Squats

Air squats—also called bodyweight squats or just squats—are one of the most foundational human movements. We should all be able to squat, but many people can’t due to poor posture, flexibility, and joint mobility. To properly perform an air squat, follow the steps below. 

  1. Start by standing with your feet hip- or shoulder-width apart. Point your toes out just slightly. 
  2. Take a breath and brace your core, and extend your arms in front of your body for balance. 
  3. Start the descent by hinging at the hips. Descend until your thighs are parallel with the ground. You should feel your quads, glutes, and hamstrings working. Make sure to push your knees out so they don’t cave in, keep your torso upright, and keep your heels in contact with the floor. 
  4. Once you reach the bottom position, drive through your heels to return to standing. The rep is complete when your hips and knees fully extend. 
  5. Take a breath, brace your core, and go in for another rep. For the Running Sandwich WoD, repeat these steps until you finish all 40 squats, resting when needed.

Read more: Different Types of Squats in the Gym

How To Do Sit-Ups

Sit-ups, a foundational core exercise that can help you improve strength in your abdominal muscles (although they aren’t enough for total core strength). To do them correctly, follow these steps.

  1. Start by lying face-up on the floor (use a mat to protect your spine and tailbone) with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place an object on top of your feet if you have trouble keeping them on the floor. 
  2. With your arms behind your head, by your sides, or at your chest, use your abdominal muscles to lift your torso off of the ground. 
  3. Lift your torso as high as you can go. The goal is to get nearly vertical. 
  4. With control, lower your torso back to the ground. 
  5. Repeat until you complete all 30 reps for the Running Sandwich WoD.

How To Do Burpees

Most people have a love-hate relationship with burpees. They’re a total-body exercise that presents both a strength and cardiovascular stimulus. Here’s how to do them: 

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend at your hips and knees until your hands are flat on the ground. 
  3. Kick your feet back so that you wind up in the plank position.
  4. Lower your body completely to the ground. 
  5. Push back up into the plank position. 
  6. Use your abs to jump your feet forward. They should land outside of your hands, and should land flat on the floor (heel and toes, not just toes).
  7. Stand up. Repeat for 20 reps in the Running Sandwich WoD.

How To Do Push-ups

Push-ups are seemingly simple but surprisingly difficult, especially for beginners. That’s OK! This step-by-step details how to do a standard push-up.

  1. Start in the plank position. Your wrists should be stacked directly underneath your shoulders (arms completely vertical), and your spine should be in a neutral position.
  2. Bend at the elbows to lower your body to the floor. Your chest should touch the floor or almost touch it. Keep your elbows close to your sides—they should point behind you, rather than to the sides of you. 
  3. Once you reach the bottom position, press back up to the starting position. Repeat nine more times to complete your 10 reps for the Running Sandwich WoD. 

Common Mistakes

Though the Running Sandwich WoD is simple at face-value, there is still room for error—try to avoid these common mistakes when completing the workout. 

Pace Yourself During the First 400-Meter Run

As mentioned earlier, running 400 meters takes more thought than “I’ll just blast through this at full speed.” Typically, you won’t make it the full 400 meters at your actual full speed. Instead, choose a fast, challenging pace that's sustainable for all 400 meters. 

Focus on Form Over Speed

Though these exercises may seem simple and foundational, you shouldn’t rush through them just to get a good score. Pay close attention to your form and avoid common technique mistakes, such as: 

  • Heels come off the ground during squats
  • Torso falls forward during squats
  • Knees caving in during squats
  • Elbows flare out while doing push-ups
  • Arching your back during push-ups 
  • Landing on your toes during burpees
  • Failing to fully stand up after a burpee

Scale the Workout to Your Fitness Level

Yes, the Running Sandwich WoD is beginner-friendly, but some beginners may still need to modify movements. Pregnant women, as well as athletes with injuries or other limitations, may also need to modify. If you’re doing this CrossFit workout in the presence of a coach, ask your coach for scaling options. 

Modifications and Variations

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Whether you’re pregnant, injured, or have any other limitation that prevents you from doing some of the exercises in the Running Sandwich WoD, these modifications can help you adapt the WoD to an appropriate workout for you. There are also some variations for advanced and elite athletes who wish to make the Running Sandwich WoD more challenging. 

The best way to scale a CrossFit workout is to modify the movement before changing the rep scheme or structure of a workout. That way, you still get the intended stimulus, but with a movement that is appropriate for your fitness level or limitation. 

How to Modify Air Squats

Half Squats: If you have mobility limitations, squatting to full depth may prove difficult. If you can’t squat to full depth with good form, opt for half squats instead. 

Suspension Squats: This is a good option for people who can’t squat to full depth, but want to try. Using a TRX or other suspension mechanism (this can be as simple as holding onto a tree in your yard), squat to full depth. The suspension will offset your body weight, making it easier to squat with proper form. 

Box Squats: If you have a box or bench at your disposal, practice good squat form by squatting to the box. Having a target that you can feel might make squats easier to accomplish. 

Goblet or Dumbbell Squats: Want more of a challenge? Hold a kettlebell or a pair of dumbbells while squatting or wear a weighted vest, if you have one, to add resistance. 

How to Modify Sit-Ups

Crunches: Not to worry if you can’t sit all the way up yet. Do crunches, a version of the sit-up with a smaller range of motion, instead. 

V-Ups: To make this part of the Running Sandwich WoD harder, do v-ups instead of sit-ups. This advanced form of the sit-up involves raising your legs and torso simultaneously.

How to Modify Burpees

Up-Down: The up-down is a version of the burpee that doesn’t require you to lower your body all the way to the ground. Instead, you stand back up after you reach the plank position. 

Walk Your Feet Out and Back: If jumping your feet out and back hurts, or you don’t feel stable or strong enough to do so, just step your feet back instead. This technique reduces the impact, so it’s a good option for those with ankle or calf injuries. 

How to Modify Push-Ups

Push-Ups on Your Knees: If you can’t quite do a standard push-up, try starting on all fours instead. Start in a pushup position, then lower your knees to the ground so your body is in a straight line from your head to your glutes. Tighten your core, then lower your chest to the ground by bending at the elbows. Push back up until your arms are straight, then repeat.

Bench or Box Push-Ups: If knee push-ups still feel too difficult, use a box or bench to support you. The general rule is that the taller the box or bench, the easier the push-up will be. So experiment with different heights to find a position that allows you to complete all 10 push-ups with good form. 

Wall Push-Ups: The easiest modification for the standard push-up is the wall push-up. For this version, simply stand arm’s length away from a wall, place your hands flat on the wall, and bend your elbows to bring your chest close to the wall. 

Extended Running Sandwich

If you’re an endurance athlete, you can easily make the Running Sandwich WoD longer to suit your training needs. One example of an extended Running Sandwich WoD is to simply double the original workout. 

  • Run 800 meters
  • 80 air squats
  • 60 sit-ups
  • 40 burpees
  • 20 push-ups
  • Run 800 meters

Elite Running Sandwich

For those at a very advanced level of fitness, the Running Sandwich WoD might be too easy. You can make it harder by increasing the distance and rep ranges, as well as adding weight. Try this elite version of the Running Sandwich WoD if you need a bigger challenge. 

  • Run one mile
  • 80 dumbbell squats (50 pounds for men, 35 pounds for women)
  • 60 sit-ups with a weighted vest (30 pounds for men, 20 pounds for women) 
  • 40 burpees
  • 20 push-ups with a weighted vest
  • Run one mile 

Safety and Precautions

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To successfully complete the Running Sandwich WoD without any injury or other unfortunate scenarios, take care to ensure safety.

Make Sure Your 400-meter Run Route Is Safe

First and foremost, ensure running safety. When you map out your route, make sure you won’t be running on a super busy road. If running in the early morning or late evening, wear a vest or other reflective gear so cars can see you. 

Warm Up and Cool Down

As always, prepare your body for exercise and then give it time to recover. Your warmup for the Running Sandwich WoD may look something like: 

  • Two to five minutes of easy cardio (rowing, jogging, cycling)
  • Dynamic stretches to open up the hips and shoulders
  • Practice reps of squats, sit-ups, burpees, and push-ups. 

Your cool down can incorporate the following: 

  • 400 to 800-meter walk or slow cycling
  • Foam rolling of your legs, shoulders, and back
  • Static stretches for your whole body

Talk to a Coach About Modifications

Don’t be shy about asking for modifications to movements. The best way to prevent injury during CrossFit workouts is to perform exercises suitable for your fitness level. Trying to do too much too soon—or doing something that aggravates an existing injury—is usually a bad idea. 

Fuel, Refuel, and Hydrate

The Running Sandwich WoD isn’t necessarily a long workout (unless you’re doing an extended or elite version), but you still shouldn’t attempt it on an empty stomach. Make sure to fuel your body with a small snack or meal before your workout. If you’re eating a meal, eat two to three hours before starting; if you’re eating a snack, eat 30 minutes to an hour before starting. Your pre-workout fuel should contain complex carbs, healthy fats, and a little bit of protein. 

Also, make sure to drink plenty of water before and after the Running Sandwich WoD. You may not have time to guzzle water during the workout if you have a goal time in mind, which makes pre-workout and post-workout hydration even more important. Everyone’s hydration needs are different, but you can follow these general guidelines

After the Running Sandwich WoD, refuel with something high in protein and, optionally, carbohydrates. 

Stretch and Recover

Don’t forget to stretch after your workout! This goes for all workouts. Although research doesn’t clearly state whether a post-workout active recovery can prevent muscle soreness, stretching is known to help keep muscles flexible and joints mobile —something you’ll need if you want to keep exercising. 

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