We live in Central Florida, which means we either know someone or are someone who chooses running as their main sport. If you have ever trained for long races you probably had the feeling of “I need to do more”. It turns into countless miles and a large amount of time spent in your running shoes. But can you improve running without running as much? Can CrossFit benefit runners? And if so, how? Because their idea of what an ‘efficient body’ looks like tends the be different than the other’s.

Endurance sports are a big part of CrossFit. At the same time, CrossFit is almost a dirty word in the endurance community. The stigma is that CrossFit is not specialized, and to be a runnner… “you must run”. Logging in the miles is almost as important as how fast you run.

Therefore, it almost becomes a choice of where to spend your time: running or CrossFit.

CrossFit is a training regimen. That means it can work paired up with other sports. There is general conditioning and there is specific conditioning. Most modalities are heavy on specific conditioning, with some carry over to general conditioning. For example, basketball conditions hand-eye coordination, accuracy in shooting balls and body awareness in 3 dimensions (specific conditioning). It also conditions legs in short, explosive bursts of energy in forward and sideways motions (general conditioning). But it lacks on other basic general conditioning characteristics. CrossFit is big in general conditioning, while keeping its specific conditioning umbrella as big as possible. Hence all the movements that come from different modalities.

When runners, who do CrossFit, were asked how it has helped their running performance, they said:

  • Learned to run on tired legs
  • Increased mental toughness
  • Improved lactate threshold
  • Increase in relative strength
  • Short workouts that can fit with running schedule

I am going to take the liberty of adding a couple of reasons.

  • Energy systems training

In CrossFit you learn about the different “gears” you have and how to use them, and how to switch between them, and to be efficient in all of them. One thing I see with many runners is that they tend to have a single pace for every workout. They conform the movements to fit that pace, instead of the other way around.¬†Having different “gears” will allow you to dial back when you need to, but most importantly, have that fast pace you can tap into even toward the end of a race.

  • Functional fitness musculature

When we train for a specific sport it is easy to over train certain muscle groups and under train others. Let’s take basketball again as an example. We over trained quads and triceps, and under trained hamstrings and biceps. It makes sense, because it’s what the sport requires. But to be fitter and healthier, we need to be balanced as well. Anything from injuries, to how your body uses energy, to how you function can be traced down to musculature imbalances. It will improve posture and help with running form.

Here‘s an account of how CrossFit helped a runner who wanted to improve on her 5K.

Now, the question is how to balance those two modalities. We know that there is no linear correlation between amount of miles ran and efficiency as a runner. But, logging in miles is a necessary feat. Specially when training for a marathon or triathlons. That specific muscle contraction endurance can only comes by repeating it over and over again. But in a sport where specific conditioning is pretty much general conditioning, general conditioning training should be front stage.

As CrossFit Endurance puts it, 3-5 CrossFit workouts a week paired with 2-3 specific sport workouts a week is the best combination if you are using CrossFit to improve your abilities in a specific sport. Another man who used CrossFit to improve his running is Chris Hinshaw. Chris is “A former All American swimmer and an experienced professional triathlete with top international finishes including a 2nd place overall finish at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships, 2-time member of Team USA at the Hawaiian Ironman, 2nd place overall finish at the Ironman World Championships in Canada, and a 1st place overall finish at Ironman Brazil”. He talks about the relationship between CrossFit and running here.

It’s not a lie that to be a runner you must run. The question is, though, how much do you need to run? And what else do you need to do? Like any other fitness question, the answer is it depends. We must evaluate your fitness level, your goals and much more. But most guidelines apply to everyone!

If you have questions on how to pair these two modalities come chat with your Celebration CrossFit coaches! If you have experience doing these two sports comment below!


by Coach Matt