A Beginner’s Guide to CrossFit For Runners (& The 16 WODs You Must Try)

For a complete newbie, starting a CrossFit training program might seem intimidating.

With that said, you don’t need to fret about anything.

I got you covered my buddy.

Today I’m going to share with you all you need to know about starting a CrossFit training program.

Note: This is going to be a long post, but I feel like I have to do it. I just can’t write one of them short and sweet posts about CF. I have to share everything I know about the subject. Or it’s no deal.

So what is CrossFit? And how can it help you become a better runner?

CrossFit: A Simple Definition

CrossFit is a vigorous workout program that combines aerobic conditioning, weight training, and gymnastics.

It began as a form of training used primarily by police academies, the military, martial artists and emergency responders.

But in just over the last decade, CrossFit has grown into one of the hottest fitness trends of the day with thousands of affiliates.

To make it sound more official, here’s the definition from Crossfit official website:

CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.

I consider Crossfit the ‘sport of fitness. Think about any athletic move out there and probably it’s listed in the CF workout program.

CF has quickly gained popularity since the first box (CrossFit gym) opening up in 2000.

With thousands of affiliated gyms worldwide that have been specifically designed for CF and the number of active CrossFit athletes growing with them.

Specialty is non-specialization

CrossFit is not your typical, conventional, specialized training program. It’s something else.

Most CrossFit workout routines are a hybrid blend of speed work, strength training, plyometric moves, Olympic power-style weightlifting, gymnastics, and endurance exercise.

The Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of CrossFit training is to achieve what’s known as functional fitness—the buzzword of the day in the fitness circles.

Your primary goal, as a CrossFitter, is to work on improving all facets your fitness, whether it’s mobility, strength, or endurance.

Why Should you Start CrossFitting

There are as many reasons to jump on the CrossFit bandwagon as there are Crossfitters around the world.

Here are some of the most notable ones. Hopefully, you’ll be convinced by the end of this post.

1. Community

CrossFit gyms are friendly places. And the people you meet there are some of the friendliest—don’t be surprised if you start making friends left and right.

You’ll fall in love with the community because, most likely, you’ll have similar fitness and health goals to the people you meet there, so you connect at that level.

What’s more?

Your CF buddies are also a great support system. They can help keep you accountable and support you on your journey.

2. It’s for Everyone

Many people believe that CrossFit is a cult workout program for the young superfit. But in reality, it provides scalable workouts for any fitness level or age, whether for an elite athlete, out of shape, a retiree, and everyone in between.

Thousands of trainees have embraced the fitness path with CrossFit without any prior training background or exercise experience.

Inside of these boxes, you’ll encounter trainees from all sizes and shapes, from hardcore athletes to stay-at-home moms busting their asses off doing burpees and Turkish get-ups.

3. Make Big Lifestyle Changes

The Crossfit philosophy involves much more than doing pull-ups and burpees until you puke.  Building healthy lifestyle habits is crucial to becoming a well-rounded Crossfitter.

Before you know, you’ll be keeping track of your sleep quality and preparing some delicious paleo meals—because everyone is doing it so why shouldn’t you.

4. You’ll See Results

You want more muscles mass? check

Do you want less body fat? check

Do you want better endurance? Check.

Results are what we’re after, right?

Regardless of your fitness goals, you’re going to achieve them—or come close—with the help of CF.

Since the workouts are intense, change every time, and hit every major muscle in your body, you’ll improve. You’ll build more muscles and increase your metabolism, which means burning more calories even when at rest.

5. Look, Better Naked

This is, literally, the pretty good side effect of CrossFit.

If you commit to regular training, you’ll see results—your endurance will shoot through the roof, your strength will improve, and your overall fitness and health will improve like nothing else.

You’ll start to notice real changes taking place only after a few months into your CF journey. You’ll gain bigger chest, shoulders, biceps, and butt without even focusing on any of these spots as you’d in classic weight lifting.

6. Functional Training

Your typical WOD incorporates elements of a wide range of movements that will prepare you to perform well in real life, from lifting heavy objects, reaching the top shelf, opening doors, to running and playing team sports.

By practicing the CF movement, you’ll be indirectly helping your body perform everyday activities with much ease.

You’ll be practicing exercises like deadlifts, kettlebell swings, push presses, Turkish-getups in a style that helps you counteract the many negative effects our desk-based lifestyle has.

7. You’ll Test Your Limits

When you get on the CF path, you’ll do exercises you have never tried before, and you’ll push your body so hard.

In some cases, you’ll surprise yourself during a movement or exercise you didn’t think you’d do well in.

Breaking through your limits and pushing yourself will grant you a sense of power and accomplishment like nothing else.

You’ll be so proud of yourself for pushing through and busting your ass off.

8. Have More Fun

One thing for sure—CrossFit will make your workouts fun (again).  Thanks to the constant variety of exercises that makes up CF, you’ll never get bored again.

Every time you hit the box, you’ll get a different workout, and this helps keep you going strong and motivation running high.

In a typical WOD, you may be springing, swinging kettlebells, pressing barbless, rowing, or working on calisthenic moves like handstand and ring dips. Talk about variety.

By mixing different WODs, CF will leave you drenched in sweat, feeling accomplished, and craving more.

After all, variety is the spice of life.

What to expect  – The first day

Joining a CrossFit Class (under the supervision of a certified trainer) is the way to go if you serious about CF.

Other than that, here are a few things to expect on your first day in the “box.”

Learn the Jargon

Here is the guide you need to decode the CrossFit lexicon:

The Box: This is where most your CrossFit workout will take place. AKA a CrossFit training gym. Why the name? Well, most CrossFit workout spaces look like a box made of cement walls that include weights, bars, and ropes. No TV screens, no mirrors, and no distractions.

This is not your typical gym, for sure.

WOD: Short for Workout Of the Day, and they tend to vary by from one day to the next.

The WODs test a different part of your functional strength or conditioning in nearly nonstop mixtures.

The exercises are performed in a circuit format: one move follows right after the other, with minimum rest in between

A classic WOD maybe an 800-meter run followed by 25 reps of push-ups, deadlifts, box jumps, and burpees, then wrapping it up with another 800-meter run.

AMRAP: Short for As Many Rounds As Possible and means completing a circuit of exercises as many times as possible within a given time frame. For example, 30 minutes AMRAP of: 30 squats, 5 pullups, 20 burpees and 25 push-ups.

Also, it can mean “as many reps as possible.”

RX: When you can pull off a given WOD exactly as how they were prescribed, it means that you have RX’s the workout.

In other words, it’s when you are capable of performing all of the exercises and modalities using the given reps and weights.

The Basic Movements

CrossFit has a set of standard exercises and movements you’d need to practice first before you move into any advanced modalities.

Like any other training program, CrossFit has some basic movements you would need to master first.

There are nine fundamental movements to master to become a fluent CrossFitter.

The moves are:

  • Deadlift,
  • Sumo deadlift,
  • High pull,
  • Shoulder press,
  • Push press,
  • Push jerk,
  • Air squat (or bodyweight squat),
  • Front squat,
  • Overhead squat, and
  • Medicine ball clean.

As you get stronger, you’ll be performing other exercises as well. The list is long and includes moves like:

  • Sprints,
  • Pull-ups,
  • Burpees,
  • Sit-ups,
  • Box jumps,
  • Rowing,
  • gymnastics ring work

How I began

I started CF on my own, tinkering and playing around with the prescribed WODs using whatever I had available on hand.

Of course, now I see that as a mistake. I should have enrolled in a class from day one.

Nonetheless, I was already in a good shape and was doing most of the exercises prescribed in the WODS, except for a few Olympic lifts and everything that had to do with gymnastics. These were a completely new experience for me, and I needed serious form help with them.

That’s what got me to seek professional advice. So please, I think you should do the same if you are serious about learning proper form and staying injury free from the get go.

Join a CF box

So please go find a reputable CrossFit gym and sing for the on-ramp program so you can learn and master the basic exercises from the get-go.

That’s how you stay injury-free for the long haul.

There is no way around it, buddy.

Good news is that I can almost guarantee that there is at least one box in your living area. These are nowadays everywhere.

Get a Coach

Taking up CrossFit solo can be risky as you run a high risk of injury or burnout when you do the exercises wrong or do too much too soon because you felt excited.

For these reasons, I’d urge you to start under the guidance of a coach. All CrossFit beginners should spend time with a coach and get proper instructions to learn proper techniques as well as how to best ease into the workouts.

Your typical WOD may consist of a lot of complicated exercises, and you’ll want to do them with proper form. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself for injury and failure. And you don’t want that.

Don’t waste your time and money doing CrossFit wrong and getting hurt. Instead, ask for advice and exercise instructions. If you still feeling unsure or fuzzy on how to do a specific lift or WOD, ask again. Don’t let your ego stand in the way of your success.

Test the Waters

Most Boxes offer the first session free of charge.

Doing this will help you try out CrossFit for runners without taking the full plunge, especially if you are still not sure about the whole thing.

How to Balance Running and CrossFit

I believe you can CrossFit and run.

Nonetheless, starting a CF routine and the type of workouts you do depends, entirely, on your goals and fitness level.

If you are 5K or 10K running fanatic, then your typical CF WOD can help you build power and speed to dominate the race and achieve your next personal best.

It’s all up to you. It’s all about what works the best for you and what you enjoy doing the most.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer here.

Still unsure on how to proceed? Then these two tips might be of help.

Supplement

To make the most out of CF as a runner, you have to treat it as a form of cross training.

In other words, keep in mind that the primary goal of performing the WOD is to back up your running lifestyle.

Not the other way around.

Make it Relevant to Running

Also, your CF workouts have to be metabolically related to running.

For instance, a typical runner-friendly WOD might involve performing three to five different moves at moderate weight and intensity.

Intensity is Key

Well, not from the get-go.

Don’t expect to be thrown into the abyss of CrossFit intensity from day one. Doing so actually defeats the purpose of training? A lot of injuries can be blamed on doing too much too soon. Classic beginner’s mistake. Don’t fall into that trap.

However, as time passes and you get your grasps around the basic moves, expect things to get tough.

“CrossFit is going to be hard” is something probably that goes without saying. The WODS are no picnic. They are there to push you, and hard work is what gets results.

How Much is Enough?

If you are beginner runner and have never done any cross training before (weight lifting, intense yoga, biking and the sort), then start with only ONE CrossFit workout per week for at least the first 4 to 8 weeks of training.

Of course,  as you get stronger and fitter, and the more your body adapts to the new stress, up the ante by adding an extra workout every 2 weeks. That’s the safe way of doing it.

If you are already in a pretty good shape and do regular strength training, then feel free to start with two WODs a week, then build it up to three or four workouts a week in a month or two.

Heck, you can even run in the morning then do a WOD later in the evening. Or the other way around.

Dodge Injury

The risk of injury ranks high on CrossFit critics list.

Nonetheless, you can ward off most the trouble by building the right foundation—mainly developing good form from the get go, and steering clear of overtraining, and of course, working with a certified instructor and choosing the right CrossFit gym.

And, in my experience, the best way to avoid injury is to never ignore your body’s signal of pain and discomfort.

Therefore,  listen to your body the entire time and scale down whenever you feel pain and/or are about to reach the overtraining threshold.

25 CrossFit For Runners Workouts – From Beginner to Elite

Here is a long list of some my favorite CrossFit workouts. By the way, feel free to share yours in the comment section below.

1. The Cindy WOD

If you’re a beginner, start with the Cindy WOD. For a time limit of 20 minutes do as many rounds as possible of: 5-pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats. If that’s too much, do it instead for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. The 15-Rep Bodyweight WOD Workout

This is a simple WOD you can do in the comfort of your own home.

Perform five rounds of the following exercises as fast as you can with good form:

  • 15 Air Squats
  • 15 Push-ups
  • 15 Sit-ups
  • 15 Lunge steps.

3. The Fran WOD

The Fran is often the first WOD that beginner CrossFitters get exposed to. But don’t let that fool you. The Fran is very challenging and can put you on your knees if you don’t properly pace yourself.

This WOD involves performing three rounds of: 21, 15 and 9 reps of 95-pound barbell thrusters and pull-ups. You could change the resistance and intensity according to your fitness skill, but keep pushing yourself for a better timing.

4. The Barbara WOD

The Barbara is another standard CrossFit timed-goal WOD. This WOD is also very simple and straightforward. All you need is your body and off you go.

Do 5 circuits of: 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40-sit-ups, and 50 air squats (body-weight squats). Rest for two to three minutes between each round, and record your timing accordingly.

5. The 800m Sandwich WOD

This one will test both your aerobic and anaerobic power in a mix of running and challenging bodyweight moves.

Here is how to proceed.

After a thorough warm-up, perform the following

  • Run an 800-meter run at a moderate pace
  • 50 Air squats
  • 50 Sit-ups
  • 25 burpees
  • Run an 800-meter as fast as you can

This is one round. Aim to complete at least three to five rounds.

6. The Jump, Dip and Swing WOD

In a span of 30 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of the following exercises:

7. The Burpee Box Jumps Challenge WOD

In 20 minutes, perform as many rounds as possible of the following two exercises:

  • 10 burpees
  • 10 box jumps.

Make sure to move as fast as possible while keeping good form the entire time.

8. The Murph WOD

The Murphy brings nothing new to the table. But the steep number of the reps is what sets it apart from other routines.

Here is how to do it:

Start off with a 1-mile run, then do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body-weight squats, then finish up the workout with another 1-mile run.

9. The Front Squats Run WOD

This is one of my favorite CF workouts of all times. But it’s quite challenging. So you gotta be careful.

Perform seven rounds of the following exercises as fast as you can with good form

  • 15 Front Squats
  • 400-meter sprints

10. The Escalating /Descalating WOD

After a thorough warm-up, perform the following moves in the order shown:

  • 30 Push-ups
  • 30 Air-squats
  • 800-meter run
  • 20 Push-ups
  • 20 Air-squats
  • 400-meter run
  • 10 Push-ups
  • 10 Air-squats
  • 200-meter sprint
  • 20 Push-ups
  • 20 Air-squats
  • 400-meter run
  • 30 Push-ups
  • 30 Air-squats
  • 800-meter run.

11. The Filthy-50

The filthy-50 is a nasty sequence of taxing moves that’s likely to seem to last forever if you’ve never done it before.

The traditional Filthy-50 WOD involve doing:

  • 50 Box Jumps (24in box),
  • 50 Jumping Pull-ups,
  • 50 Kettle Bell swings,
  • 50 Walking Lunges,
  • 50 Knees to Elbows,
  • 50 Push Press,
  • 50 Back Extensions,
  • 50 Wall Ball shots (20lb ball),
  • 50 Burpees,
  • 50 Double Unders.

Elite CrossFitters can pull off this mighty beast under 20-minute. If you are a newcomer to the sport and/or not in a great shape, then aim to complete the whole circuit under 45-minute keep challenging yourself and improving your timing.

12. The Total Body Power Challenge WOD

After a thorough warm-up, perform the following moves as fast as you can. Make sure to record your time, and try to beat it next time.

  • 100 Squats
  • 120 Jumping Jacks
  • 75 Pushups
  • 40 burpees
  • 75 Lunge steps

13. The One-Mile Squat WOD

Run 1 mile with 50 squats at each 400-meter mark. Record your time and try to beat it next time.

14. The Angie WOD

While recording your time, try to perform the following exercises as fast as you can:

  • 100 pull-ups
  • 100 push-ups
  • 100 sit-ups
  • 100 squats

15. The Arnie WOD

This might be one of the most challenging WODs out there. So, please make sure be careful, and perform the exercises with good form the entire time.

Here is how to proceed:

  • 21 Turkish get-ups, Right arm
  • 50 Swings
  • 21 Overhead squats, Left arm50 Swings
  • 21 Overhead squats, Right arm
  • 50 Swings
  • 21 Turkish get-ups, Left arm

16. The Jag 28 WOD

While recording your time, perform the following moves:

  • Run 800 meters
  • 28 Kettlebell swings,
  • 28 Strict Pull-ups
  • 28 Kettlebell clean and jerk
  • 28 Strict Pull-ups
  • Run 800 meters.