One of the misconceptions the outside world has about CrossFit is that it’s all about barbells and burpees – and we know that’s not the case. We’ve all had those WODs full of 400 meter sprints, the mile test, and even a 5K day at the box. But what about adding in CrossFit when you’re a runner – or vice versa? There are definite benefits to both: the runner who increases her speed and PRs in her next race, or the weightlifter who finds endurance WODs like 16.1 less of a punishment.
CrossFitters who take up running have better conditioning, hands down.
“Those that come in with a running background…smoke through workouts because their anaerobic threshold is greater than a weightlifter,” said Holly Lynn, owner of Clear Lake CrossFit.
Lynn is a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer, CrossFit Olympic Lifting Trainer, CrossFit Mobility and Movement Trainer, and RRCA certified running coach, among other certifications. On the other hand, phenomenal weight lifters can come in to the box, do the same movements, and be winded because they don’t have that kind of conditioning.
However, by adding in running – and not even sprints, but just jogging at an easy pace two to three days a week, aiming for two to three miles at a time, can improve performance in the box, she said. “Running is one of the things [CrossFitters] can do on rest days…to help flush out lactic acid. If you have a heavy squat day, go out for a jog the next day,” she added.
Meanwhile, recreational runners that log a moderate amount of miles can find an excellent outlet for cross training in a CrossFit box, since CrossFit works multi-point muscle groups, according to Lynn.
“One of the things runners miss out on is upper body and core training,” she said. “CrossFit helps to bridge that gap for runners and also build lower body muscles: the quads and hamstrings. Strengthening those muscles helps prolong your running career because stronger muscles are capable of doing more work.”
CrossFit is full of great movements for runners: jump rope and box jumps use the same movement patterns as running, but in a different way. The strength training also works a lot of the core muscles, contrary to popular belief: every time you do an overhead squat, you’re keeping your midline engaged, according to Lynn.
When it comes to training for a marathon or half marathon, adding in CrossFit can mean runners don’t need to hit as many long miles – and can relieve some of the pressure on their joints, according to Lynn. “When I was a marathon training coach, I would follow the standard progression of increasing mileage 10 percent every week and work up to two 18-20 mile runs,” she said. However, by adding in CrossFit, those long runs can be shorter because CrossFit endurance workouts provide the same cardio base conditioning for the same time, but without the repetitive movement on the joints, she added.
Half marathoners, when they add in CrossFit to their training, don’t need to run more than 20 miles per week, and novice marathoners can do 30 miles a week and still train effectively, Lynn said. During WODs, particularly at Clear Lake CrossFit, which is known as a “running box,” the average week for an athlete adds an extra two to three miles of running, including warmups and WODs.
However, everything that is a positive can be a negative: runners will gain lean muscle mass, and if they gain too much, they might lose speed. If CrossFitters are logging too many miles, it may eat away at their muscle gains. Both can be remedied with nutrition.
It’s also easy to overtrain, especially for marathoners, according to Lynn. Some box workouts can substitute for speed work during marathon training – and it’s important to know that before you head out to do more speed work to reduce the chance of an overuse injury, she said.
Ultimately, being a hybrid runner and CrossFitter provides advantages in both sports. As long as there is balance and proper nutrition, neither pursuit should be affected negatively.
This is a guest post from Christine Parizo, a half marathoner and new CrossFitter based in Houston. She recently qualified for guaranteed entry for the Houston Marathon and plans to run it in 2017. Christine blogs about running, CrossFit, and fitness at RunOutoftheBox.com. You can follow Christine on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
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