There are many different types of cross-training available to runners.
Some of the most common options for runners are cycling, rowing, and swimming. These are workouts that improve the cardiovascular system. This helps improve endurance and running performance in the long run.
But strength is also important for anyone looking to improve their running. If you want to do some strength training as well as running, CrossFit is an excellent choice for those days when you’re in the gym rather than on the road. It’s a high-intensity form of training that helps you lose weight, build muscle, and gain strength quickly.
In this article, we will give you advice on how to train with CrossFit and running, explain why they benefit each other, and give you some workout ideas.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a method of functional training that combines exercises from gymnastics, plyometrics, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and calisthenics. CrossFit workouts are designed to be done in intervals and at high intensities.
The movements in these exercises mimic everyday motions, like opening and closing doors, carrying grocery bags, gardening, or packing away dishes or laundry. That may make CrossFit sound a bit prosaic; in reality, it’s anything but that.
All of these daily movements have multi-joint movement patterns, which is exactly what makes CrossFit movements different from your muscle-isolating regular gym exercises.
The point of these functional exercises is to improve your range of movement, build strength, and make everyday tasks easier to do. When mixed with high-intensity interval training, it improves strength and endurance.
One of the biggest attractions of CrossFit is that the workouts can be adapted to suit anyone, of any age or fitness level.
What is Long-Distance Running?
Any form of continuous running longer than 5 miles counts as long-distance running. The exact distance could be debated, but the critical definition is that it is done at an aerobic intensity level. That is, at a pace that can be sustained over time. This differentiates long-distance running from sprinting, which is, by definition, anaerobic and short-duration.
Distance running’s aerobic nature requires physical and mental strength and a strong cardiovascular system.
Can I Combine CrossFit with Running?
If you want to combine CrossFit with running, you absolutely can.
But whether or not you should is a different question. It depends on what your goals are for both your running and your cross-training.
If you want to try CrossFit as a cross-training exercise, it’s a good choice. It will help to build up your fitness and strength to improve your running.
It’s a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise, which means that it serves two different purposes. Both of those purposes can help your running.
Improving your strength can give you more power when you’re running, and help you to run for longer before your muscles fatigue.
A better cardiovascular system means your endurance will be improved and you can run for longer before your lungs start to burn.
CrossFit also diversifies how you move. Running is notorious for very specific movements in a certain set of muscles. Over time, even though your running improves, muscles not involved in moving you forward can get weaker or tighter, causing imbalances that lead to larger issues in the body.
Good crosstraining uses your body in more diverse ways. You get the cardio benefit, but also the benefit of using those muscles running doesn’t tap into. CrossFit is ideal for this.
If you have big running goals, you may find that CrossFit interrupts your running training or prevents you from reaching your goals. Really serious runners might be logging 70, 80, even 100 miles or more per week, sometimes running twice per day. That doesn’t leave much time for other workouts.
Although it can be helpful for running, if you would rather be spending that time on the road instead of in the gym, then it’s probably not the right thing for you.
Are you admiring an elite marathoner’s mileage totals, and assuming that it’s the miles that put them at the front of the pack? Keep in mind that they almost certainly are also spending time in the gym working on strength – especially in their core.
Although CrossFit can be helpful as a cross-training exercise, it’s not for everyone.
Runners who are serious about their sport may prefer to focus on their running and working towards their goals instead of getting into CrossFit. CrossFit is a form of full-body exercise, and if you are the type of serious runner who is concerned about gaining upper body mass, and how that might slow you down, then it might not be the right crosstraining for you.
Most of us, as runners, shouldn’t be concerned with something like that. If you run for the general health benefits, Crossfit will be able to round that out, and help your body become stronger overall. That will help your running.
Those who need some extra stimulation might enjoy the challenge Crossfit brings.
But at the end of the day, if your goal is to excel at running, you should be focusing on your running training. Instead of Crossfit, it would be more worthwhile to do a running challenge or add some kind of specific running training.
If you want to become good at CrossFit, lose weight quickly, build muscle, and be part of a new community of fitness people, then you should focus on CrossFit and less on running.
But if you aren’t a competitive runner and you want a different kind of supplemental exercise that’s different than running and has some good benefits that will help your running, then you can easily do both CrossFit and running.
Benefits of Doing CrossFit for Runners
Learn to run on tired legs
CrossFit is a very intense form of exercise. When your drill sergeant says “one more”, you do two more!
AMRAP is a CrossFit term that stands for “as many reps as possible”. This is how CrossFit usually works. You do as many repetitions as you possibly can of a particular exercise or circuit.
That means training for muscle fatigue. When you do CrossFit on a regular basis, you become used to pushing through the pain and instability of aching, shaky legs.
This increases your stamina and you may find that you can run for longer when your legs are tired.
Increase mental toughness
Pushing yourself to workout to your maximum capacity is not easy. At some point, it becomes more of a mental game than a physical one.
If you can keep pushing and keep challenging yourself in CrossFit, then it will carry over into your running.
Improve lactate threshold
Lactate threshold is how intensely you have to exercise before lactate begins to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be removed by the body.
It can be dangerous when lactate builds up in the blood, and it can lead to you feeling nauseous and wanting to throw up.
But working out regularly at high intensity can help to increase this threshold. That means you can work out more and more intensely before your body reacts negatively and you become at risk for a lactate build-up in the blood.
Increase in relative strength
Strengthening muscles is always a good thing for running. When your muscles are stronger, they can exert themselves for longer before becoming fatigued.
Training the full body and avoiding muscular imbalances
When you get right down to it, running is not a great for of full-body exercise. It uses a relatively small and specific number of muscles. If it’s the only exercising you are doing, you are prone to developing muscular imbalances that can cause problems.
When you do CrossFit, you are training your whole body, which can highlight and help to balance out or even prevent muscular imbalances.
Muscular imbalances can lead to injury, and if running is the only training you’re doing, it can be difficult to tell if you have muscular imbalances.
Improve range of motion/flexibility
CrossFit will have you doing functional exercises that are designed to improve your range of motion for everyday tasks.
Running (or walking) can be considered an everyday movement, and CrossFit moves like lunges will help to improve your range of motion for running specifically.
Great for colder or rainy days
CrossFit is also a good choice of cross-training to do on a cold or rainy day. It’s indoors, but you can still get a highly effective and intense workout while staying out of the cold, wind and rain.
Benefits of Running for CrossFitters
Improved Cardiovascular Performance
CrossFit workouts are high-intensity, which means the cardiovascular system plays a large role in the workout, not just the muscles, unlike traditional weightlifting.
Running improves the cardiovascular system, which can help you push through those tough WODs without running out of breath.
Whatever kind of running you do, it improves endurance, both of the cardiovascular system and of the muscles.
Having an improved cardiovascular system and muscles that are used to running can be an advantage for stamina when you do CrossFit.
What Do I Need to be Aware Of?
When you’re cross-training, it can be easy to overwork yourself without realizing it. Doing two different types of intense workouts, like running training and CrossFit, can take a toll on your body and leave you feeling exhausted and unable to give your best in either one.
If you’re doing both, it’s a good idea to do a heavy CrossFit session on the day before a rest day, or on a day with a shorter or more relaxed run instead of your regular running training days.
Leg workouts during CrossFit
If you’re doing heavy leg workouts in your CrossFit sessions, it can cause your legs to be too fatigued on running days. This can stall your progress if you’re working towards a goal.
If you are doing intense leg workouts at CrossFit, try to keep them lighter so you don’t end up ruining your run.
Injuries and recovery
When doing CrossFit and running, it’s highly important that you use proper form with both.
Make sure to warm-up properly, and stretch before and after exercises. Also, don’t forget to have regular rest days so your body can recover well. Some runners confuse rest days and cross-training days. They are different things, especially if your crosstraining is something strenuous like Crossfit.
CrossFit Workout Ideas For Runners
Within a 30-minute period of time, do as many of these circuits as you can, with as little rest in between as possible.
- 10 pullups or 20 ring rows
Hang from the pullup bar with an overhand grip and lift yourself until your chin is just over the bar. Make sure you’re keeping your body straight and tight, and using the muscles in your back and shoulders to pull you up. Do 10 reps.
If pullups are too hard for you, then grab a set of rings and lean backward at 45%, with your arms fully extended. Pull yourself up by bringing the rings into your lower abdomen area. Do 20 reps.
- 10 burpees
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, firmly on the ground. Lower yourself into a squat, and at the bottom, place your hands on the floor and kick your legs out behind you to do an extended-arm plank.
At this point, you can do a pushup or simply return to the starting position by reversing the moves. Move your feet back up to the squatting position, and stand up.
- 10 kettlebell swings
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. The kettlebell should be on the ground, about a foot in front of you.
Bend at the waist and grab the kettlebell. Your legs should only be slightly bent, and your torso should be almost parallel to the ground. Brace your core before lifting the kettlebell and swinging it back between your legs, keeping your back straight.
Then, push your hips forward forcefully to push the kettlebell into the air in front of you. Don’t pull it up, just allow it to move as it’s been pushed by your hips. When it comes back down, bend your legs again and do the whole move again.
If you’re new to the kettlebell swing, you can start off with around 12kg—26.4 pounds.
- 400-meter run
Within a 20-minute period of time, do as many of these circuits as you can, with as little rest in between as possible.
- 20 double-unders or 40 single-unders
Jumping rope is a big part of CrossFit. If you’re new to it, just 40 normal jumps will do the trick. If you can do double-unders, then do 20.
A double under is when you bring the rope under your feet twice on one jump. You’ll need to spend some time practicing before you get it right.
- 20 wall balls
Stand about a foot away from a wall. Hold a medicine ball in front of your chest with both hands underneath it like you’re preparing to throw it through a basketball hoop.
Lower yourself into a squat. When you come back up explosively, throw the medicine ball against the wall, as high as you can, and catch it again as it comes down.
- 200-meter run