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Crossfit and Running, a Symbiotic Relationship?

If you call yourself a fitness enthusiast, you have by now heard of Crossfit, the latest form of exercise to take the country by storm. Crossfit gyms are increasing exponentially throughout the country as individuals of every variety flock to participate in the latest and greatest in exercise.  Chances are at this point in time either yourself, or someone you know is currently involved in a Crossfit program.

What Is Crossfit?

Pull any Crossfit devotee aside and ask them, “What is Crossfit?”  More than likely you will hear some form of, “Crossfit is constantly varied, functional movements, executed with high intensity.” Great, what does that even mean? Maybe more importantly what could it mean for you? Think about Crossfit like an Easter egg.  The contents of every Easter egg is a complete surprise until you open it. You have no idea what kind of candy might be inside. How much there is. If it’s hard or soft, sweet, sour.  Crossfit is kind of like this. Each day you can expect a one of a kind surprise workout of varying exercises, for a varying amount of time or rounds. The only constant thing about Crossfit is that each day will provide a completely new way to leave you on the floor in a puddle of your own sweat.

As runners, Crossfit’s idea of “constant variation” may seem at first glance to deeply contradict our cultural beliefs in a clear precise training schedule that carefully plans and progresses every minute detail of our runs. However, some of the latest findings suggest that careful planning and progression along with a little chaotic inconsistency may actually produce some of the best runners, and overall athletes.

As a Runner How Can Crossfit Help Me?

The average runner practices little variation in the type or intensity of run. In fact, runners may be the kings of consistency as we consistently follow a carefully planned consistent plan, in order to enable us to run consistently longer. All of this consistency often leaves us training only our long term, or oxidative energy pathway.  Crossfit’s method of constantly varying type and intensity of exercise enables runners to decrease dependence on only oxidative training. The constant fluctuation instead facilitates training in all energy pathways, not just the long term oxidative pathway. This variation in workouts also works to develop what Crossfit deems the 10 physical skills needed to develop fitness:

1-      Cardiovascular and Respiratory Endurance

2-      Stamina

3-      Strength

4-      Flexibility

5-      Power

6-      Speed

7-      Coordination

8-      Agility

9-      Balance

10-   Accuracy

Therefore participating in Crossfit workouts will improve our ability to complete any physical task for any amount of time.  For those of us seeking to stay active and healthy while simultaneously juggling a job, family, and friends; Crossfit is the perfect solution for better fitness in less time.

So How Should I Incorporate Crossfit Into My Running Schedule?

For athletes with an emphasis on running the general Crossfit prescription includes 4-6x a week of Crossfit training, and 2-3x a week of running (remember Crossfit workouts occasionally involve some running, and will definitely involve some cardiovascular training). Runs should be composed of 2 days of intervals, and 1 stamina based day.

Interval runs may be something along the lines of 8 reps of 200m sprints holding each effort within 2-3 seconds and resting for 2 minutes between repetitions.  Because these are high intensity runs it is recommended to perform the intervals 3 hours prior to or after your Crossfit workout.

Stamina based runs denote either a tempo run (85 -90% effort), or a time trial run (100% all out effort for a given time or distance). Distances for the stamina based run will vary according to athlete’s abilities and goals, but should range between a 5k and Half Marathon distance. Because the stamina based workouts require an all out effort they should not be performed on a Crossfit workout day.


Example of a Weekly Running/Crossfit Training Schedule



















INT:  Interval based workout                  STA: Stamina based workout                      CF: Crossfit


Putting Crossfit in Action for You

Often as runners we get so caught up in our training that we forget recovery is when we see improvements in our performance. That said; keep in mind to include flexibility in your training plan. The intensity, duration, and timing or your Crossfit and running workouts should take into factor your overall energy levels. When in doubt listen to your body. This becomes especially important when “in season”. In order to keep yourself from burning out, prioritize your goals and training. You may not have the energy or physical capacity to do it all. That’s ok! Be smart about your Crossfit workouts. Use short, simple workouts that practice skills or movements specific to running. Also, if you do decide to make some cut backs be sure to keep priority on flexibility and running technique (these will carry over into your running). Lastly, include some time spent on strength training (4-6 reps of heavily weighted exercises), as this takes minimal time but delivers favorable results.

When utilized with purpose and with attention to progression and recovery, a combination of Crossfit and running can be used to not only further your performance as a runner, but as an overall athlete in general.

For more information regarding Crossfit you may find useful information and resources, as well as daily posted workouts on crossfit.com and crossfitendurance.com. You may also stop in to visit me at Lifelong Fitness Personal Training Gym in KaysvilleUtah.

Rachel Shippee, BS, CPT, CSCS, Level 1 Crossfit Trainer

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 9:01 pm and is filed under Strength Training, Training, Utah Running. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

One response to “Crossfit and Running, a Symbiotic Relationship?”

  1. Damon - Wasatch says:

    I love CrossFit (I opened the first CF facility in the state over 5 years ago and have been personally CF’ing since 2004) and love running. However, this article seems like a regurgitation of CrossFit Endurance’s site which I haven’t seen be successful with athletes running races longer than half marathons. In my experience there is a specific adaptation required for running longer distances and if you want to excel in longer races you have to run longer.

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