How to Balance CrossFit and Running

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

 Are you intrigued by the idea of mixing up CrossFit with your running routine? Well, you’ve just hit the jackpot because that’s exactly what we’re diving into today!

In this exciting post, we’re not just going to scratch the surface; we’ll be delving deep into some super effective training guidelines.

These nuggets of wisdom are designed to seamlessly blend CrossFit into your running world, keeping you clear of injuries and dreaded burnouts. But hey, let’s not put the cart before the horse. First, let’s unravel the mystery of what CrossFit really is and, more importantly, how it can turbocharge your running game.

Think of CrossFit as the Swiss Army knife of fitness – it’s dynamic, diverse, and downright effective. And if you’re serious about the miles, it’s about to become your secret weapon for better performance.

But first things first, let’s first explain what CrossFit is as well as how it can benefit runners.

Sounds like a good idea?

Let’s get started.

CrossFit Demystified?

According to the definition found on the official website:

“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more..”

Sounds like a mouthful, but it’s not that complicated.

Here is in English what CrossFit training is all about:

CrossFit is an intense exercise program that consists of a mix of bodyweight training, aerobic exercise, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and endurance training.

This type of training focuses on general fitness—this means building strength, endurance, stamina, speed, power, flexibility, accuracy, and coordination.

Why Bother With CrossFit?

Ever wondered why a runner should bother with CrossFit? I used to think the same until I dove into it two years ago, and let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer.

CrossFit isn’t just another workout; it’s a powerhouse that boosts your power, speed, balance, coordination, and overall fitness level. These are not just perks; they’re essential tools in a runner’s arsenal.

Juggling CrossFit with running and a busy life can be quite the challenge, but the results are worth every drop of sweat. Over the past two years, I’ve found a sweet spot in balancing these two sports, and the transformation in my running has been nothing short of amazing.

The Perfect Blend of Strength and Endurance

Here’s where it gets interesting. Combining the muscle-building benefits of CrossFit with the stamina-boosting magic of running creates a dynamic duo that enhances your overall athletic performance.

Here’s a peek into the science behind this synergy:

  • Muscle Power Meets Efficiency: CrossFit’s strength training amps up muscle power and resilience. For a runner, this means more powerful strides and better efficiency on the track.
  • Boosting Cardiovascular Stamina: Running, known for its cardio benefits, builds endurance that’s invaluable during high-octane CrossFit workouts.
  • A Tale of Two Systems: Running taps into your aerobic energy system, improving oxygen utilization. CrossFit, with its high-intensity spurts, hits the anaerobic system, boosting your short-term power. Training both systems? You’re giving your body a full-scale energy workout.

How CrossFit Enhances Running Performance

When you think about CrossFit’s role in enhancing running, it’s like adding turbo boosters to an already powerful engine. Here’s how CrossFit can elevate your running game:

  1. Muscle Strength and Power: The strength you build in CrossFit, especially in your core and lower body, translates directly to your running. Imagine turning every stride into a more powerful leap, effortlessly conquering hills that once seemed daunting.
  2. Joint Stability and Injury Reduction: CrossFit hones in on functional movements, which fortify the muscles around your key joints. This can be your shield against common running foes like IT band syndrome or runner’s knee.
  3. Mental Grit: Let’s not forget the mental aspect. CrossFit pushes you to your limits, nurturing a mental toughness that’s gold on long or challenging runs. It’s like training your mind to be as resilient as your body.

How Running Benefits CrossFit Workouts

Flip the coin, and you’ll see that running is equally generous to CrossFitters:

  • Cardiovascular Prowess: Regular running amps up your heart’s endurance. This means when you’re in a CrossFit session, your stamina is top-notch, especially for those grueling workouts that demand everything you’ve got.
  • Swift Recovery and Greater Work Capacity: Thanks to the endurance from running, you might find yourself bouncing back quicker during and after CrossFit workouts. You’re ready to take on more, push harder, and go longer.
  • Enhanced Fat Burning: Running has this neat trick of improving your body’s fat oxidation. For CrossFitters, this means you’ve got an extra edge in those longer, intense sessions.

Note: In a previous article, I outlined the many ways in which an intelligent CrossFit program can benefit runners, as well as some of the best running oriented CF workouts.

How to Balance Running And CrossFit

Are you ready to embark on a fitness journey that combines the endurance of running with the strength of CrossFit? Let’s dive into how you can create a harmonious balance between these two powerful disciplines.

1. Determine Your Priority Sport

First off, ask yourself a fundamental question: What’s your ultimate fitness goal? It sounds straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many folks struggle to answer this.

You see, trying to excel simultaneously in both running and CrossFit can be a slippery slope. It’s like trying to be a master chef and a gourmet baker at the same time – each requires its own focus and dedication.

For instance, if you’re eyeing a marathon in the horizon, throwing your all into CrossFit might spread you too thin, increasing the risk of injury or burnout. It’s all about prioritizing.

So, take a moment and really think about it. What’s your current fitness aspiration? Is it shedding a few pounds, tackling a marathon, bulking up, or maybe aiming for Olympic lifting glory? Nail down this goal – it’s your guiding star.

2. Schedule Your CrossFit/running Workouts

Now that you’ve set your fitness compass, it’s time to map out your weekly training schedule, ensuring a seamless fusion of running and CrossFit. The key is to tailor your plan to match your primary fitness focus. Here are two scenarios to guide you:

Scenario 1: Running Takes the Spotlight

If your heart is set on conquering a marathon or a specific running goal, your training plan should reflect this commitment. In this scenario, CrossFit becomes the trusty sidekick, enhancing your running prowess. Here’s a glimpse of a well-balanced weekly schedule:

  • Monday: CrossFit Workout
  • Tuesday: Easy Effort Run
  • Wednesday: CrossFit Workout
  • Thursday: Speed or Tempo Run
  • Friday: CrossFit Workout or Light-Intensity Cross-Training
  • Saturday: Long Slow Run
  • Sunday: Rest or Light Recovery Activities (Yoga, Foam Rolling, etc.)

Scenario 2: CrossFit Reigns Supreme

If CrossFit is your fitness kingdom, and you want to maintain your running prowess without compromising your primary focus, here’s a schedule that strikes the perfect balance:

  • Monday: CrossFit Workout + Easy Recovery Run
  • Tuesday: CrossFit Workout
  • Wednesday: Tempo or Speed Run
  • Thursday: CrossFit Workout + Easy Recovery Run
  • Friday: CrossFit Workout
  • Saturday: Long Slow Run
  • Sunday: Rest or Light Recovery Activities (Yoga, Foam Rolling, etc.)

Be Aware of Overtraining

I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, including Achilles tendinitis and nagging shoulder issues. It’s a reminder that even the most determined individuals can push themselves too far.

So, let’s get one thing straight: you’re not invincible. Pay close attention to your body and adjust your training accordingly.

When overtraining starts to rear its head, don’t be stubborn. Take a step back. Consider skipping that intense CrossFit session or demanding run. Opt for lighter training to ensure your body stays healthy and happy.

Proper Form is King

Exercises like handstand push-ups, burpees, and pistols are intense and technically challenging.

As you embark on your fitness journey, make it a priority to perfect your form before tackling more advanced exercises and heavier weights. Put your ego aside and focus on consistently refining your technique. Sacrificing form for a few extra reps is simply not worth it in the long run.

Keep in mind that neglecting proper technique can lead to serious injuries down the road. That’s why joining a reputable CrossFit gym with experienced instructors can be a game-changer. By following these principles, you’ll pave the way for a safer and more effective fitness journey.

5. Embrace Running Friendly WODs

The best way to make the most out of CrossFit as a runner is to combine both running and CrossFit basic exercises—at least that’s what my experience has taught me.

Not only that, there are plenty of CrossFit workouts that involve running in a variety of ways.

For example, one particular WOD I do a couple of times a month consists of six rounds of 400-meter runs with 30 burpees.

Here are some of my favorites:

WOD for time

  • 12 power cleans
  • 400-meter run
  • Ten power cleans
  • 400-meter run
  • 8 power cleans
  • 400-meter run
  • 6 power cleans
  • 400-meter run

30-minute AMRAP—As Many Reps As Possible

Five rounds for time

  • 10 burpees
  • 200-meter sprint
  • 20 squat jumps
  • 200-meter sprint
  • 10 deadlifts
  • 200-meter sprint

Four rounds for time

  • 800-meter run
  • 10 overhead squats
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 hand release push-ups
  • Two-minute plank holds.

CrossFit Exercises That Benefit Runners

Incorporating specific CrossFit exercises into a runner’s training regimen can significantly enhance their running performance. These exercises are designed to improve strength, stability, and power, which are crucial for efficient running.

Here are some CrossFit exercises that can help take your running to the next level, along with step-by-step instructions.

Box Jumps

Box Jumps develop leg strength and power, essential for improving running speed and hill climbing abilities. They also enhance cardiovascular endurance.

How to Perform:

Stand in front of a sturdy box or platform.

Start in a partial squat position and explosively jump onto the box, landing with both feet.

Stand up straight at the top, then step back down and reset for the next jump.


Deadlifts strengthen the posterior chain muscles (glutes, hamstrings, lower back), crucial for running efficiency and injury prevention

How to Perform:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with a barbell in front of your feet.

Bend at the hips and knees, grabbing the barbell with an overhand grip.

Keeping your back straight, lift the barbell by straightening your hips and knees.

Lower the barbell back to the ground in a controlled manner.

Kettlebell Swings

This exercise improves hip strength and power, enhancing running stride and stamina.

How to Perform:

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell between your legs.

Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the hips to swing the kettlebell backward.

Drive your hips forward, swinging the kettlebell up to chest height, then let it swing back between your legs.

Wall Balls

Wall Balls are excellent for building lower body strength, cardiovascular endurance, and coordination.

How to Perform:

Stand facing a wall, holding a medicine ball at chest level, a few feet away from the wall.

Perform a squat, then explosively stand up and throw the ball to hit a spot on the wall.

Catch the ball on its return, and immediately go into the next squat.


Burpees are a full-body exercise that boosts endurance, agility, and strength, all beneficial for runners.

How to Perform:

Start in a standing position.

Drop into a squat with your hands on the ground, then kick your feet back into a push-up position.

Perform a push-up, then jump your feet back to the squat position.

Explosively jump up from the squat, reaching your arms overhead.

How Much is Enough?

Balancing CrossFit with your running routine is an exciting journey, but it’s crucial to strike the right equilibrium to prevent overexertion. Here’s a guideline to help you determine the right balance:

For Beginners:

If you’re new to cross-training and primarily a runner, start with just one CrossFit workout per week for the first 4 to 8 weeks. This gradual approach allows your body to adapt to the new stress.

Gradual Progression:

As you become stronger and fitter, and your body adjusts to the added stress, consider increasing your CrossFit workouts. Add an extra session every two weeks to ensure safe progression.

Listen to Your Body:

Pay attention to how your body responds. If you feel comfortable and energized, gradually increase the frequency of your CrossFit workouts.

For the Already Fit and Strong:

If you’re in good shape and regularly engage in strength training, you can start with two CrossFit workouts per week. Over the course of a month or two, build up to three or four sessions weekly.

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