How to Balance CrossFit and Running

If you’re looking to add CrossFit to your running plan, then you came to the right place.

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing with you a few useful training guidelines that will put you on the CrossFit path as a runner without risking injury or burnouts.

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

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?

While the benefits of running for CrossFitters are pretty obvious (well, at least for me), CrossFit is equally an incredible complement to running.

Regular CrossFit training can improve your power, speed, balance, coordination, resiliency, and overall fitness level.

In other words, all things that benefit runners.

But it’s no walk in the park!

Finding a balance between running and CrossFit—not to mention a hectic life—is not something you can master overnight.

Nonetheless, now that I have been doing it for the past two years, I feel like I have started to get a lot better at combining the two sports.

So, my lovely runners, here is how to find a happy balance with both running and CrossFit.

How to Balance Running And Crossfit

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.

1. Determine Your Priority Sport

The first question to answer before designing your running/CrossFit plan is quite simple:

What is your ultimate fitness goal?

Yes, that seems simple, but many (unsure) runners struggle to come up with a congruent answer.

You can not—not should strive to—make the most out of the two sports at the same time. In fact, you’ll only end up hurting yourself.

This is especially the case if you’re training for a serious long-distance event.

For instance, if you think you could devote the same amount of attention to CrossFit while training for a marathon, you might be risking injury and/or burnouts.

So, before you jump on the CrossFit wagon, figure out your personal fitness goal(s) right now.

Is it:

  • Losing weight?
  • Running a marathon?
  • Improving muscle mass?
  • Compete in Olympic lifting?
  • Fill Your Reason Here [ ]?

Note: You don’t need to pick one over the other for the rest of your days, but, for the time being,  just make one sport your main focus while you’re working toward attaining this ultimate fitness goal of yours.

2. Schedule Your Workouts

Once you’ve chosen a training priority, it’s time to schedule both your runs and CF workouts.

There are several ways to modify your training program to include both running and CrossFit workouts, depending on your training focus and goals, of course.

What if Running is THE priority?

If you decide that you want to follow a fully fleshed out running plan—like a marathon program—then I’d suggest you follow this workout schedule.

In this program, you’ll use CF as a complement and do it as often as it fits into your exercise plan—this may amount to two to three times a week.

Here is a glance at what a typical weekly plan might look like:

  • 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 (yoga, foam rolling, etc.).

What if CrossFit is THE priority?

If CrossFit is your primary sport, then immediately make the physical and mental commitment to limit your run frequency to two to three times per week.

This is especially the case if you’re already an established runner.

Here is an example of weekly schedule:

  • 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 (yoga, foam rolling, etc.).

3.  Be Aware of Overtraining

I suffered from Achilles tendinitis and severe shoulder issues for a few months because I tried to push my body too far. It shows you how stupid I can get at times.

So, please don’t be bullheaded into thinking that you’re unbeatable. You are not.

Instead, pay close attention to your body, and train accordingly.

When overtraining creeps up, back off a bit. Skip the next CrossFit workout or hard run, and switch to light training to ensure that your body is both healthy and happy.

For more on proper recovery, check these two posts:

Post 1

Post 2

4  Proper Form is King

Handstand push-ups, burpees, and pistols are some of the most intense exercises you can ever do.

They’re also technically challenging.

Therefore, as you get started, it’s crucial to develop proper form before progressing to more challenging exercises and weights.

Leave your ego aside and scale your CrossFit exercises to focus continually on improving and honing your technique. Do not sacrifice rep for technique—not worth it in the long run.

When you fail to use proper technique, you’ll, sooner than later, seriously injure yourself. And you don’t want that.

This is, by the way, one of the main reasons for joining a reputable CrossFit gym with experienced instructors).

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

  • 10-pull-ups
  • 15 Russian kettlebell swings
  • 400-meter run

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.