HIIT/CrossFit vs. endurance athletes: Can’t we call a truce?

Am I the only one who’s noticed all the bashing going ’round lately? I’m not talking about Obama vs. Romney, either. I’m talking about the negative campaigns from one fitness camp to another. Neither party is guilt free here–both are voicing some strong opinions about the other. Both are espousing their superiority. And really, I think it’s all just stupid.

I've done Cross Fit, and yes, liked it!

What I’m talking about is how the HIIT and CrossFit people are going hard after the endurance folks and vice versa. In the one corner, you’ve got the folks who believe the only way to go is through shorter, high intensity workouts. Staying out there for hours or miles at a time? Gets you no where, according to this camp. Jackie Warner (and her very sculpted self) has spoken out quite loudly on this, recently telling Amanda at Run to the Finish that long-distance runners often have a soft, or “doughy” appearance due to their fitness approach.

On the other side of the aisle, you’ve got endurance athletes taking CrossFit and the lifestyle that goes with it to task. I’ve seen plenty of negativity about HIIT style workouts from this camp–talking about how it isn’t a “sport,”how it’s  likely to lead to injury, and how it breeds a cult mentality.

I’m sure there are a few valid points to both arguments, but let me make a point here. In an increasingly obese and unhealthy society, is there any good reason to bash others for their fitness choices? How about we support each other and show others that there are many, many choices on the road to fitness? What works for one person might not work for the next. And that’s ok.

I’m a firm believer that until someone finds their “thing” in fitness, be it triathlon, running, CrossFit, or Zumba, he or she isn’t going to stick with it. Running is my thing. Do I think I might look a bit better and be a bit stronger if I took up CrossFit? Yep. But I love running, have only so much time for training, and so I spend the most time there. I have a friend who loves CrossFit (and looks amazing for it) and so that’s where she spends her time. Why would I ever judge her for that?

Even crazier, people, is that there are folks who have successfully married both approaches (gasp)! Look no further than Jess at Blonde Ponytail if you want to see this in action.

So bottom line, let’s call a truce. We all represent healthy lifestyles in some way, shape or form. And that should be all that matters.



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  1. says

    Totally agree! Whatever gets people moving and makes them feel good about themselves is all that should matter. I love running and ALL that it has done for me and my life. My Godmother loves to walk, so we do races together! She walks the 5 or 10k while I run that distance or longer. Two different exercises that bring us both joy and we found a way to enjoy them together :)
    And the Jackie Warner thing bugs me because I believe exercise/movement should be about a person’s whole self, not just their appearance.
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..CIM Training Week 3My Profile

  2. Audrey says

    I love running me and my husband do this every morning I feel healthy and free after I run..Its fun and enjoy doing this..
    Audrey recently posted..tinnitusMy Profile

  3. says

    I don’t see a problem with any of the workouts so long as you’re enjoying yourself and staying healthy. What does bother me is when people say that doing crossfit 4 times a week and running 2-3 is enough to prepare them for an endurance event and then are upset when it isn’t.
    Kari @ Running Ricig recently posted..doggy onesieMy Profile

  4. says

    i didn’t even know the two sides were “arguing”, haha. CF has some fast workouts too. i’ve never done HIIT so i’ve just assumed tabata workouts were basically the same. you can get injured doing both (or any other workout regiment).

    personally my ideal workout is a healthy mix of cardio and strength training (be it in CF format or weights or even yoga).

    as for soft, doughy runners — let’s take another look at shalana and kara… so doughy….
    lindsay recently posted..totes amazeballsMy Profile

  5. says

    “In an increasingly obese and unhealthy society, is there any good reason to bash others for their fitness choices?” <— AMEN Great post. I guess I always hear the argument from a weight lifting side too. If you want to build mass, you just can't can't can't do lots of cardio (aka run). Um, I run, and I do have muscles. I love to cross-train by doing my running, HIIT, boxing/kickboxing, spin….you name it. Just to change it up and be moving. And that's what is most important right? Doing something you enjoy. That means you'll be more likely to actually stick with it.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Speed Work for WinesdayMy Profile

  6. says

    The doughy comment seems bizarre. Most LD runners are skin and bone.

    I still think cardio is good for the heart rate and I’m not sure I’m convinced that only 30 minutes of a WOD or run is enough to combat sitting for 10 hours a day. Everyone needs to be moving, the more the better. Just go out there and do something!
    Holly recently posted..I Ate Taco Bell And I’m Still AliveMy Profile

  7. says

    I read the interview on Run to the Finish and was like “What?”. It seems so, so, generalized. I’m a distance runner, but I do yoga and I lift weights, and I’m not doughy. Even more so than the comments about appearance was talking about specific workouts that take too long to see results or what we shouldn’t do- I mean I work out because I enjoy it not only to “see results”. If you don’t like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter if it’s CrossFit, running, Zumba, yoga, kickbox, etc, you won’t stick with it and it won’t help. As long as you’re moving, you’re doing more than most people are and it’s all good!
    Amy Lauren recently posted..Weekend Recap: Bursts of Confidence, Comfort Food, and Charleston CookingMy Profile

  8. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Can’t tell you how much I love this post. Coming from someone who is ADDICTED to Crossfit AND training for my second marathon – I am proof that you can do and love both! I agree completely that we should encourage ALL FORMS OF EXERCISE – if you are out there moving your body, staying active and being healthy, that is worth celebrating. We are all individuals and what I love to do may not be for someone else, but I would never discourage another person for the workout that they love and that works for them.

  9. says

    I love running too and it is my thing but that doesn’t mean that I don’t do a little HIIT once in a while. I think whatever works for someone they should go with it. I think you can do both (or just one) and be healthy and that is what is important! I feel like this always happens – people always thing their type of exercise is better, but honestly as long as people are working out thats what matters!
    J recently posted..Triple DoubleMy Profile

  10. says

    Hmmm. Yes, I’ve seen the bashing and thankfully I’ve just started to block it out. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to bash one sport or the other. Like dietary lifestyles, what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. Personally I’m all about trying to all and making a mash of what works best for me.
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  11. says

    I am one such doughy runner! But I love to run and my goals are all running based. I don’t bust my…….doughy balls every day and put in long runs during a Houston summer so my butt looks good or so my legs are toned. I have time goals that I want to achieve and for that I need lots and lots and lots of miles, some fast some not so fast.
    I would love for the skin that once occupied a spot about my belly button to return to that place and I do a bit of core work (to benefit my running). I guess it depends on your motivation, if it’s for the ‘body beautiful’ then running is not the only thing you need to do for sure! Anyway, who cares as long as we’re all getting our happy on and doing what we love?!

  12. says

    My workouts have always been a combination of resistance, HIIT, and long runs. I can’t just do super high intensity or I’ll burn out. But I don’t have time for 50+ miles a week. So I try to make each work out different to maximize the time I have!
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  13. says

    I so , so agree. I was thinking about this the other day as I was reading a favorite blogger of mine – the fact of the matter is that whether you are a HIIT or an endurance runner or a yogi….we’re all doing something we love and pushing our bodies. That said, can someone pass me the chocolate?
    Sheila recently posted..Listen To Your HeartMy Profile

  14. says

    Here here! i am with you completely on this post! Coming from a non-athletic background myself, the important thing is to find something you LIKE doing in terms of getting fit. Then set goals and run with it! (no pun or prejudice intended, hehe). The important thing is being active and getting healthy, in whichever way you choose to do so!

  15. says

    To each their own, I say. I think it’d be very difficult to incorporate CrossFit into an intense marathon training schedule and likewise marathon training into a very difficult Body Building or CrossFit competition schedule (competition key word here). Pick what makes you tick and that’s that and let everyone else do what works for them.
    Jill recently posted..Tri for the Cure: My first Tri in (gulp) 23 years!My Profile

  16. says

    Couldn’t agree more that people just need to find their thing. I have a lot of people tell me they wish they could run but don’t like it. Well, find something you like! I think it is possible to incorporate aspects of both intensity and endurance. I also think you can train for a marathon and not look doughy. My arms are defined, thighs sculpted. Belly? Take away the effects of weight loss and pregnancy, and I bet I’d have abs under there. I just think people need to leave the generalizations alone.
    Kimberly @ Healthy Strides recently posted..On pride and relationshipsMy Profile

  17. says

    I don’t pay a lot of attention to people who argue about things like this. To me, it seems like anyone who cares that much about this kind of angels on the head of a pin issue needs to go volunteer at a homeless shelter or overseas in a refugee camp to find out what’s REALLY a problem in this world.
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  18. says

    I don’t know about you guys, but I am ready to take on those old ladies and the water aerobics classes! Always taking up lanes and using all the noodles! I think I can handle one or two of them on my own, but they are always in groups and might need some back-up!
    JFiord recently posted..Sir, Do You Know Why I Stopped you?My Profile

  19. says

    You know, I’ve been secretly wondering about this!!! I just wrote a post today about how I am working on upper body strength training, but really am still trying to keep my main focus on running since I have 2 more Half Marathons approaching. And I too only have x amount of time in the day to train. Plus, I do want to read a book now and then. ha ha (But secretly loving my ‘guns’ right now.) I think the best way to go is with what you wrote – you will find the most success when you find what you enjoy. The enjoyment needs to be there.
    Christina recently posted..Upper body strength training updateMy Profile

  20. says

    I think it’s whatever works! Just like diet…whatever works. To say something “doesn’t work” without really knowing if it’s worked for some people is just not a statement someone should make. I don’t think there’s any one right approach to anything in life really
    Robin recently posted..Amelia’s 2nd TriathlonMy Profile

  21. says

    amen!! I have actually learned from the Cross Fit people how I needed to incorporate more strength training in to my running. But I’m not going all out with that approach because my heart is in running, so amen sister let’s all do what makes us happy and keeps us moving and healthy.
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..Blogger BulliesMy Profile

  22. says

    I think that when we tear each others fitness choices down we are really missing the point.
    That being that in fitness it is a journey and each of us has a different road to take. No two journeys are exactly the same.
    We need to be encouraging to each other so we can all arrive at our fitness goals.
    Also I think that crossfit/hitt type workouts can compliment running in a major way. I have been doing those type of workouts once or twice a week for years to compliment all my training. I had to stop for Ironman training because I jut don’t have enough time. I miss it and can see where my body looks different and don’t feel as strong as it did.
    I plan to get back to it after Ironman for sure.
    Missy recently posted..I need to pace myselfMy Profile

  23. says

    I personally didn’t like the comment about runners being doughy by Jackie on Amanda’s blog, but I didn’t take offense to it. Seriously, if you enjoy being active in any way, good for you. It’s about being healthy and active, not who’s activity is better. Plus, I am a runner and I am always open to trying new things, including Crossfit:)
    hikermom recently posted..7 Diseases of AttitudeMy Profile

  24. says

    Blah, this post is totally true! I love running and will never give it up, but I’m also intrigued by Crossfit. I actually just purchased a one-month trial in hopes that I can marry the two. Call me crazy, but I thought the whole point was to get out there, stay fit and healthy, and enjoy whatever activity/ies you happen to enjoy. No need to have one “best” method of fitness. That’s just nuts.
    Heather@Just A Colorado Gal recently posted..I’m In Thesis HellMy Profile

  25. says

    Well said! I think when either side criticizes the other, they are doing so based on the assumption that we all have the same fitness goals. If your goal is to PR a marathon, CrossFit probably isn’t the best approach. Likewise, if your goal is improve your overall level of fitness, strength, and efficiency, running likely won’t get you there. Or, if your goal is just to stay healthy and have fun while doing it, maybe Zumba is the best choice for you. There is no overall “best” fitness routine, only the “best” one to meet an individual’s personal goals and personal situation. I just think it’s wonderful that there are so many people out there who are passionate enough about fitness to be engaging in such a silly debate!
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  26. says

    GREAT post. I couldn’t agree more! I’m a spin instructor, and more of a cardio junkie, but recently took up CrossFit. I love it just as much as I love spin, and totally agree that we shouldn’t judge others on their fitness routines!! The important thing is to find something you love and get out there and DO it

  27. says

    I began running this past winter and got pretty addicted (no one can tell me there isn’t a cult of runners out there), but have always enjoyed weight training. So I added Crossfit to my training a month ago, and loved it. I get the arguments about how it can lead to injuries and how you can easily overtrain (which is what I did), but if you are smart about it, you really can find a happy marriage between the two.

    Thanks for your post and the perspective that finding your thing and getting off your butt is the important thing.
    Jacki (@JackiRHayes) recently posted..If I Only Had 37 Days Left – A Lesson In GratitudeMy Profile

  28. says

    I was thinking the same thing lately! And diet trends go with each as well (lots of Paleo and low-carb eaters in the Cross fit camp). You’re exactly right- the point is that you find what you love. I definitely think my body would change and look more toned if I was a Cross Fitter, but it’s not what I love. It’s a chore for me to get in the little bit of strength training that I do, but I love to run! So I’m not changing anytime soon. I love that Jess can embrace both. I have a lot of respect for the “other” side- there’s no need to make jabs that one is better than the other!

  29. says

    I love this. I first realized this existed when a college acquaintance (and FB friend) commented to tell me CrossFit is where it’s at and that training for marathons is pointless (and when would I realize that.) I was so frustrated, and I started to believe that ALL people who did CrossFit felt that way. I no longer believe that’s true, and I’m glad for examples like Jess at BlondePonytail who do both. I completely agree that as long as you like what you do, it’s worth doing and then you’ll stick with it.
    Paulette recently posted..Weekly Recap – August Week TwoMy Profile

  30. says

    I guess I have been missing a lot of blogger fights since my little break from the online world. I think the best exercise is the one you actually do. I like endurance and yes, I am doughy…but I think I would be doughy if I did crossfit too! I think my heart probably looks fabulous though!
    Katie@Will Race for Carbs recently posted..A bunch of firstsMy Profile

  31. says

    I guess I’ve been too busy reading non-fitness related stuff because I had no idea there was a controversy. I totally agree with you though. The most important thing is doing something instead of nothing. And the best way to keep doing something is to do stuff you like. I know I could benefit from some weight training or strength building exercises. But, quite frankly, I don’t want to do it. So I don’t. Running and yoga are plenty for me. If someone else does the opposite – great.

    Also great – this post!
    Laura recently posted..Between the sheetsMy Profile

  32. says

    If you are implying I can no longer toss verbal jabs at CrossFitters then I am not on board (-:

    Okay, here is the deal.

    Most of us triathletes/runners have no problem with CF and actually think it is a great way to stay fit and healthy. The problem arises when the CFers try and tell us that we would be better at swimming/running/cycling/triathlon/ballooning if we did CF instead of our sport we are doing. They base this notion on zero actual results and/or studies. Oh, they may have a friend whose brother did CF and ran a really fast 10 mile Marathon – so they might have some results!

    I personally take issue with the koolaid drinking crossfitter who tells me that I spend entirely too much time running to get better at running. This has happened many, many, many times. You know what will make you a faster runner Mr Rope Climber? Nope, not power cleans, try More Running.

    Specificity is king and to prove this theory I hereby decry all CFers are better than triathletes at smashing sledgehammers against truck tires. They win. And some of them (a very few) look better than me with the shirt off. See I can be civil.
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Ironman Mont-Tremblant Nutrition and Predicted TimesMy Profile

  33. says

    So true. My husband just started a CrossFit program, I wish I could do it too just to check it out, but I have a limited amount of time to work out each week (between working full-time, raising 2 kids, and blogging!). My passion right now is running marathons, so I choose to do that with my time. Do I think CrossFit could benefit my running? Sure, but until I’m retired and have hours and hours each day to work out, I won’t have the luxury of this.
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..Knowing What Your Body Can HandleMy Profile

  34. says

    Amanda you are absolutely correct!

    Does it matter how you exercise as long as you exercise and you are enjoying yourself. The best way is probably a combination of both, but I am like you, I enjoy running too much. it is my preferred method. If other enjoy HIT that is cool, but the evangelists from either extreme, who espouse the “my way or the highway” attitude just turn me off, there is enough room for everyone to do there thing or any combination that works for them.
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  35. says

    I actually thought fitness was for health and not for appearances. I’m not too worried if I have a ‘doughy’ appearance – I just love to run and I’m not going to stop because others have conflicting opinions. And I wouldn’t take anyone else to task over their fitness choice. We each have to find what feels right for ourselves.
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  36. says

    I agree. Both have their perks. Long endurance workouts are best for race preparation because HIIT would get you far when you need to rack up miles. I prefer HIIT because I feel like it brings you quicker results, but for some who prefer less intensity endurance workouts are the way to go. The problem arises when you use endurance workouts as a way to cheat, but not even really breaking a sweat or staying in your comfort zone. You know your body and what your capable of as long as you are challenging yourself and reaching new goals each week you are in a good place!
    Noelle McKenzie recently posted..The heck with exercise machinesMy Profile

  37. says

    Amen, sister! I think this all the time! Why does anyone care what someone else does for a workout? Shouldn’t we all support one another on our journeys to health and fitness? Who cares if the paths we take are different? I don’t! It really bothered me when I read that Jackie Warner comment on Run to the Finish. I think fitness trainers should be encouraging of any and all physical activity. I have always hated the one-size-fits-all approach to ANYTHING, but especially health and fitness. We should all do what works for us and what we enjoy, and leave one another alone for cryin’ out loud!

    :) Great post! And much needed!

  38. says

    I love this post!! I could not agree more. To me it is about being healthy. I do not care if you stay active by running, cycling, weight lifting, or chasing after your kids for hours on end. Every one has a routine that works for them. I get very tired of overly competitive attitudes. I was never huge into sports because of this and my kids are the same as me, well my daughter is. She, like me, prefers to enjoy something without trying to beat others down. I like to support everyone who is out there doing something to stay active and healthy. For me that is running, but now I also integrate weight lifting and Crossfit WOD’s into my routine too. After my hammy injury in March I learned that as I get older I need to take better care of my body to be able to keep my running going. So I utilize the strength training to help me be a safer runner. You can definitely enjoy the best of many worlds.:) Thanks for this post!!!
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  39. Erin says

    I do both HIIT workouts and run marathons and I love them both! HIIT is a quick way to get the burn and get me out the door to go for a run or a swim, or to work on time. I get different benifits from both types of workouts. I think that life is best with a mixture and with every other type of work out in-between. Have fun, mix it up, and keep on pushing to the next finish line, it keeps life interesting. I am new to your blog, and I gotta say, I like it! Thank you!

  40. says

    The bashing by both camps is pretty entertaining to read! lol

    Does seem like whatever side you prefer (Crossfit, HIIT, running) seems to be a bit cultish, so they enjoy bashing whatever the other side is doing haha
    Nelly recently posted..Olympic marathon picsMy Profile

  41. says

    I also agree that there really should be no argument. We need to find what works for ourselves and support whatever everyone else is doing to stay fit. Do what ever floats your boat, but the point is to get off your butt and do something. :)
    Irene recently posted..What Doesn’t Kill YouMy Profile

  42. says

    I do a lot of HIIT & running. I think they complement each other well, except for when I’m so sore from HIIT, that I can’t move through a run or curse my instructor the whole run.

    I agree with you, as long as people are working out, then good for them! I think it’s great to mix/match or pick whatever you want!
    Stephanie Anne recently posted..Only 3 weeks left?!My Profile

  43. Toni @runninglovingliving says

    Great post! We are all out the achieve a common goal of staying healthy while doing an activity we love. I love running, I have tried cross fit and loved that too but given the choice I run. If I had ,ore ours in the day I could do both but right now running is my choice. We should all just respect each other and our fitness choices!
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  44. says

    Very good points but the issue as always is with the extremists. Once that first shot was fired (and who knows who fired it) the people on either extreme were going to come out of the woodwork and then there would be those that want to defend themselves.

    I am in the camp that while CrossFit will help tons and tons of people get into shape and people should do it if it works for them, they (CF’ers) should not tell us endurance athletes that doing CrossFit is going to make me a better triathlete. I am of the belief that the easiest way for me to get faster is to swim, bike run more and not pull an anvil. Just my two cents.
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  45. says

    I know like a zillion other people have already said it, but AMEN! Excellent post. It is so true that with the obesity epidemic in our country, the last thing we need to do is judge each other for the KIND of workout the other is doing. That is completely the wrong focus! Actually, I feel like this relates to so much more than just the tension between the CrossFit and endurance communities. I used to workout at a gym that was super nice and had state of the art equipment, but had a very judgmental / pretentious vibe to it. You know, the kind of gym where people are constantly pulling up their shirts to gaze at their 6-packs in the mirror. The problem was that the only other gym close to my place was a much older, smaller gym with outdated equipment and horrible ventilation. But, the older gym had a supportive, accepting vibe where I could tell it was each to his own. So, what did I do? I opted for the older gym and haven’t regretted it since!
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  1. […] if you seek balanced training, one approach isn’t necessarily better than the other. Amanda’s recent post about the way different athletes judge others of differing training methods really got me riled […]