read CrossFit for Runners: How It Can Improve Running Performance

CrossFit for Runners: How It Can Improve Running Performance

CrossFit for Runners: How It Can Improve Running Performance

Dig this. If you simply lace up and run every day, you will not become a stronger or faster runner. You need to supplement it with other diverse fitness activities for the best results. Here’s where CrossFit training, a strength and conditioning program, can work wonders for runners.

CrossFit involves varied functional movements executed at high intensity with little or no rest to target a broad range of muscles and joints. Unlike strength training in a gym, CrossFit workouts undergo a wide variation from day to day and week to week.

CrossFit exercises

Functional exercises in CrossFit training closely mimic everyday movements. It is a well-rounded fitness program designed to provide strength, power, agility, balance, coordination, and flexibility. Check out some of the exercises that fall in this category. 

  1. Plyometric movements such as box jumps, drop jumps, clap push-ups
  2. Powerlifting such as squat cleans, snatch, hang clean
  3. Kettlebell exercises like snatch, swings, goblet squats
  4. Explosive bodyweight movements such as burpees, split jumps 
  5. Strength exercises such as barbell squats, deadlift, push-press
  6. Bodyweight strength such as pull-ups, muscle-ups, toes-to-bar, L-sit 
  7. Sprints and high-speed drills over 30s to 90s

Also read: Why Is Cross Training Important for Distance Runners?

Should CrossFit be part of your running routine?

As a runner, you may include CrossFit in your workout routine for overall improved fitness. Some of the ways it helps are:

1. It is well established that runners need to do strength training for the whole body, and more specifically the core, to reduce the risk of injury. CrossFit exercises help runners build a strong, stable core.   

2. Strength training improves explosive strength (the ability to exert maximal force in minimal time), running economy, and speed at VO2max. Since CrossFit puts emphasis on strength training, it is beneficial. 

3. It takes time to build muscles. If you want to pack in a fast-paced, intense workout in a short period of time, CrossFit is the way to go. At the gym, you would be training your upper body one day and your lower body on another. CrossFit training includes a multitude of functional movements in your Workout of the Day (WOD).   

CrossFit endurance

Author TJ Murphy and powerlifter-ultra endurance athlete Brian MacKenzie have developed a hybrid program called CrossFit Endurance for runners. They explain the structure of this training in their book Unbreakable Runner. The benefits touted in their program include:

  • Improved performance on lower running mileage
  • Increased explosive power and speed 
  • Improved running form
  • Improved body composition through fat-burning workouts

How does CrossFit benefit runners?

Most runners find CrossFit training beneficial through short, manageable workouts. Here’s how:  

  • Coping with movements despite fatigue build-up in the legs at the end of a race
  • Getting through workouts, which also builds mental strength
  • Improving functional movements that translate into better gait
  • Building holistic strength, which helps develop better running posture and form
  • Boosting endurance through high-intensity training  

How to align CrossFit training with running goals

1. Join a CrossFit gym to learn the proper form for the exercises under a trained supervisor.

2. If you want to be in competitive running, focus on running-specific workouts and building mileage plus speed.

3. CrossFit improves overall athletic performance and fitness and can help for running strong races  

4. You may include 1–2 CrossFit training days in your weekly schedule. One of the CrossFit sessions should be done the same day as your anaerobic speed workout so that the physiological and metabolic effect is the same.

Monday Rest
Tuesday    Morning: Speed intervalsEvening: CrossFit
WednesdayEasy run
Thursday   Tempo run
Friday   CrossFit
Saturday     Easy run
Sunday       Long run
A typical CrossFit schedule

Sample CrossFit workouts

4 rounds for time (RFT)

  • 6 deadlifts
  • 12 knees to elbow or toes to bar

7 minutes as many rounds as possible (AMRAP)

  • 1 push-up 
  • 15 kettlebell swings

20 minutes AMRAP with a run bias

  • 400m run
  • 15 sit-ups
  • 25 air squats

CrossFit training is a great way to build overall strength and fitness. That said, runners need to align their CrossFit training regimen with their running goals. However, be careful about the intensity and duration of the exercises. If you do not plan well, you could risk an injury. CrossFit also includes healthy eating as part of its lifestyle and helps boost your general health. 

1. Carnes AJ, Mahoney SE. Polarized Versus High-Intensity Multimodal Training in Recreational Runners. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 2019; 14: 105–12.