A crossfit/running marriage?

If you’re into healthy living, then you undoubtedly know that there’s a bit of a war going on between endurance athletes and CrossFit/HIIT athletes. And as I’ve mentioned before, this drives me crazy. Mostly my annoyance stems from the fact that anyone feels the need to judge others for the method of staying fit they choose. As long as people are getting of the couch, that’s great in my book.

My second complaint with this anti-CrossFit/anti-endurance sport attitude is that I really don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive of one another, if you don’t want them to be. I’ve followed Jess at Blonde Ponytail, Kovas at Midwest Multisport, and Tasha at Healthy Diva, among others, who are all great examples of people who are combining the two schools of thought into one fit athlete.

I was originally introduced to CrossFit at the shore and loved it

Lately I’ve done my own experimenting with CrossFit and marathon training. I bought a Living Social deal a few months back for a local CrossFit box, along with a couple of friends. By the time our schedules all meshed and we could get started, it was the beginning of January, which also happened to be when I started ramping up the miles and speedwork for my March marathon. Perhaps as silly a time as I could find to embark on a new strength training regimen, but I didn’t want to wait any longer.

My findings? I think you can do both marathon training and CrossFit, as long as you let one take the bigger priority. In my case, of course, marathon training is number one on the list. CrossFit, for me, is a way to gain some muscle, work on weaknesses, and thus enhance my running.

With this being the case, I am going to CrossFit just two times per week. I aim to do it on the same days I do speedwork so that my easier run days are truly easy days. It helps that I know I am one limited chick when it comes to CrossFit style training, and I check my ego right at the door when I walk in. I don’t have a competitive bone in my body with CrossFit, so I am focusing on technique and not pushing myself to any point where I might invite injury. So far, I am really liking it.

My 30-day Living Social deal will come to an end before long, and as much as I have enjoyed CrossFit, I won’t be joining on at regular prices. I’d love to, honestly, but we already belong to an amazing gym system that we’ll never leave (I need a pool and Mr. Z. needs his basketball courts), so I can’t justify the extra expense. I am, however, considering investing in a few key pieces of equipment and setting up a CrossFit shop at home, then grabbing the WODs online each week.

So that’s how it’s gone down for me. We are all an experiment of one–what works for me isn’t going to work for you. But let’s get over ourselves and not judge each other for our approaches–what do you say? 

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  1. says

    Interesting to read, and good to know – I’m actually coaching a relatively new runner (~1-2 years experience) who just started Cross Fit. He wants to keep both things in his workout regimen, and we’ve been experimenting with how best to do that. This is good insight to hear from someone with lots of running and coaching experience.

    Holly KN recently posted..Green Corridor Run 2013: Race ReportMy Profile

  2. says

    I don’t run to keep fit / loss weight or anything else, I run / train because I love running and I want to be fast. Yes I swim a bit and even climb on the bike a couple of times a year but that is also for fun. you aren’t going to find me at the gym doing a classof anything, because if I have the time for that I would rather go for another run… But I understand that there are a couple of people would enjoy these things, So the best exercise is the one you enjoy!!!
    Coach Dion recently posted..JUST A TRAINING RUNMy Profile

  3. Christy says

    I looked into joining Crossfit here, I know it is something I would love to do, but the cost was almost $100a month, no way I could justify that. So I will stick to my home HIIT workouts for free. I hate that us vs them mentality too, aren’t we all just trying to be healthy?

  4. says

    I think Crossfit activities are great options for cross training. I find that I run and race much better when my total body is in better shape. That being said, I think folks should be careful when using Crossfit. There are a ton of quick explosive movements that lead to a A LOT of injuries. I discussed it in length with my A.R.T. guy and he says that of all the athletes he treats (which he does mostly athletes) most of them currently are injured through Crossfit type of training. But I think if you take it easy it’s a great option.

  5. says

    Of course you know my stance. :) I’d suggest anyone who is skeptical read Brian Mackenzie’s Power, Speed, Endurance — he really lays out why eveyrone SHOULD combine CrossFit style training with their chosen sport if they are single sport athletes.

    CrossFit is intimidating, which is why most people knock it, I think. I love being humbled every time I enter the box, because I know I’m working on my weaknesses. I’m going to be more fit and stronger as I progress, which will benefit me in all aspects of my life, not just endurance training.
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..Training: 1/21/13 – 1/27/13My Profile

  6. says

    I can’t remember whether it was Pete Larson (Runblogger) or Steve Magness (Science of Running) who actually took a scientific approach to the merits, or in the case of their opinion, the lack of merits of cross fit with respect to running.

    Unfortunately, unlike Pete or Steve, most people don’t bother with actual facts and base their opinions on little or biased information.

    In the short term, anyone who adopts cross fit should see an improvement in their running – much like adopting any other new exercise regimen. At question is long term and sustainable benefits and improvements.

    In the end, I think it depends on your goals and if you believe cross fit can help, then dive in. Your point that it gets and keeps people active is important and should not be lost.

    I read a lot of information on cross fit when it started taking off on both sides of the fence, including articles/opinion pieces by informed and uninformed authors. My take is that it is not for me. Admittedly, my workouts, when I do them, do contain some elements of cross fit.

    Just because I am not doing YOUR thing, does not mean YOUR thing is wrong.
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  7. says

    As a long time runner, triathlete dabbler & CrossFit newb, I have an inner battle with wanting to do it all – but it does come down to balance and priorities. I wondered what the vast majority of CrossFitters felt at the games last summer when their first event was a Triathlon? Probably didn’t see that coming… There shouldn’t be a war between sports, and even in the Strength & Conditioning Journal article I was reading (albeit to prove someone wrong bc when it comes to Exercise Science, I let the science speak) it was their position that to achieve optimal health there should be a balance between cardiovascular and strength training, as is it the stance of the ACSM.

    Anyway, I struggle bc I want it all, and the truth, I don’t have that kind of time. So I run 3xwk, CF 3xwk and SC 2xwk on a very good week. I belong to a box only bc our local gym includes it in the $45/mon membership, so I have access to a pool, a box, and a gym. Otherwise, this budget minded mama would be finding my own tractor tire.

    It’s not a matter of one sport being better than the other, but what works best for you, to achieve your goals, and you are your own/only competition (that’s my perspective anyway) When it comes to health and fitness, can’t we all just get along?
    Hope Epton recently posted..Priorities & PerspectiveMy Profile

  8. says

    I agree with you. And I know at least one CrossFit box here in AZ has an “endurance” program where some of the members trained together for a half marathon AND did CrossFit. So it definitely can be done.

    I also grab the deals when I see them but just can’t justify the cost of joining a box AND having a gym membership.

    The Kidless Kronicles
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  9. says

    I love crossfit and agree that it can definitely be integrated into other sports/training regimes! I see it best as a “strength/conditioning” program. Odds that 98% of us will become professional crossfitters are slim, but we can certainly use the programming/WODs to improve out fitness in general and for our ‘sport’ of choice!

    Glad you’ve been enjoying your box. Hopefully another LS will pop up and you will get to go back again :)
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  10. says

    Lots of strong opinions about Crossfit. Don’t know if I really have an opinion here. Just kind of think different folks different strokes. Kudos to you of you like it! Don’t think it’s really my thing, but that’s more so because I don’t always have great feelings about the group exercise scene and love strength training at home.
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  11. says

    I am glad that you have enjoyed your time at crossfit, but I understand about not wanting to pay for another gym membership. Stuff can get expensive! It is fairly inexpensive to get some of the equipment for your home. I bought some kbs from amazon with our prime account last year so it was free shipping. I could easily workout from home, but I enjoy the competitive atmosphere with working out in a group. I get too distracted when I lift at home by myself.

    I think that the aerobic component of the workouts has helped my marathon training immensely. I wish that I could go more than two days a week, but marathon training comes first. I hope that you can continue some of the workouts on our own once your 30 days is up.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Week 5: Running on EPICMy Profile

  12. says

    That’s fantastic that you’ve enjoyed it so much! I think I would love the challenge, too… although the hiit moves make me nervous about injury (box jumps, etc). Wish there was more of an overlap between regular gyms and crossfit, the double expense is tough!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..8 Tips for New RunnersMy Profile

  13. says

    Thanks for the opinion Amanda!! I actually start CrossFit today – I also bought a Living Social deal for a local box about 2 months ago, but between holidays and finding someone to take my second voucher (since my boyfriend had wrist surgery), I am just now getting around to it. I don’t foresee myself loving it enough to trumph running – but like you, I want to go to work on my weaker upper body/core and to learn exercises to incorporate into my regular strength/cross training days. It is definitely going to be a challenge for me!
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  14. says

    I think they are totally compatible with each other and I think they enhance your fitness by doing them both.
    I have been doing Cross fit type workouts for years and I am a much stronger runner because of it. I took a break for Ironman and i think it was a detriment to me and my next IM I am definitely gonna try and fit it in. Strong muscles just work better!
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  15. says

    Very interested to see how this works out for you. Friend of mine has been trying to get me to try crossfit for a while, but I haven’t figure out how to work it into triathlon training, and I look at it and just see a whole new set of possibilities for injuring myself. I love the idea of it, but am keeping it at arms length for now.
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  16. Jeff Irvin says

    The so-called feud between endurance athletes and crossfitters is not about getting off the couch or claims of one or the other being better for general fitness. The feud is because the creator of CF and proponents of CrossFit Endurance state that CrossFit Endurance will make you a faster and stronger marathoner/triathlete. For reference, this was even printed in the January 2012 edition of Runners World.

    The vast majority of Endurance Athletes think CF is a fine program if your ultimate goal is to live a healthy lifestyle and look good in your swimsuit. None of us argue from this perspective and will gladly concede the point.

    The dispute arises when the Crossfitters adamantly claim that doing what they do will make us faster on the long distance race course. They discount specificity of training and unabashedly claim they have the silver bullet to endurance greatness.

    Yet they have zero scientific data and even very few anecdotal claims of those training using CF or CFE and becoming faster on the long distance course. Sure they have a lot of 4hr + marathoners but so does the school of “just running”.

    Lets do a little math. Assume you choose to do a WOD twice a week instead of doing two 5mi recovery runs. That would mean you would run 10mi less per week, 40mi less per month, and 520mi less per year.

    Can anyone make an argument that replacing those 520mi per year with a WOD would be better for optimal marathon training? Especially if your goal is to be faster?

    For most age group endurance folks who have a goal of running a little and maintaining a healthy lifestyle a “marriage” of the two sports will work and work well. For the endurance folks who want to become faster as running, you really want to run more. It is pretty simple. Yet some CF dude will come on here and say it is not.

  17. says

    I’ve been so curious about your impressions of Crossfit. While I haven’t tried it yet, I do agree that the two can complement each other in helping to make you stronger and to work on those muscle imbalances. I worry that I would be super competitive walking into the box but I know that I would need to check my ego at the door. I still really want to try it. Maybe when I’m finally healthy!
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  18. says

    I don’t know how anyone could have the nerve to judge someone for engaging in an exercise program of any kind. Not one routine works for everyone but if crossfit works to keep you working out, then do it. If not, find something else.
    As for coupling any other strength training with running, I think it’s absolutely necessary. Free weights, machines, power yoga, any kind of strengthing routine coupled with running will make for a better runner, help prevent injury (if done correctly).
    I also believe that the cross training, if the priority is running, should be done AFTER your running workout and NEVER done on your day off. A day off is to recover and rebuild. So the strengthing/cross training should be done on one of your running workout days.
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  19. MissZippy says

    Hey Jeff–That’s my point here–you can do both, but I think you have to choose to make one a bigger priority than the other. In my case, I am not replacing two runs/week to fit in CrossFit. I am doing CrossFit just as I would my normal strength sessions–two times/week. I don’t agree with the idea that you can primarily do crossfit and then run a good marathon on a long run of 10 miles. But I also don’t think we have to hold them in disdain for their opinions. To each his own.

  20. says

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been crossfitting and running for the last two years. I love them both! CrossFit has made me a better runner but you are 100% right in saying that you have to choose which will be the priority and stick with that choice during your training cycle. I also agree what you said above, I’ve seen too many people try only crossfit and crossfit endurance (and I may get lambasted for saying this) but so far I have not seen “fast” results on those who have tried this. I’ve seen people be able to finish, but they’re often in pain. I’m going to put it to the test later this year (if I don’t get pregnant), to finally see for myself. There will be a point where I will want to prioritize CF, and I’m excited for that, but my running goals take precedent at this point.
    MegG recently posted..Why “fast” is relativeMy Profile

  21. says

    Crossfit intrigues me, but I really don’t like the overwhelming sense of smugness that I get from a LOT of crossfitters. It’s a shame, because, like you say, WHO CARES how people are getting fit, as long as they’re doing something?

    I like your perspective, and it’s the same way I’ve approached my strength training – My husband just finished P90X, and LOVED it, way more than running, so he does that primarily, and runs 2-3 times a week. I am the opposite, and supplement my running with the dvd’s. I tried doing both for 2 weeks, and it kicked my butt.
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  22. says

    Funny I just did my first crossfit workout yesterday because it is free on Sundays and I needed to see what all the hype is about. I got a great workout and the guys were really nice but no way am I going to pay 100$ a month for someone to watch me do burpees and hit a tire with a sledgehammer.
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  23. says

    I think Cross-Fit or any (all) work-out programs are a great compliment to running. If you are like me and can’t run every day anymore than cross-training is the way to go. I’m all about trying new things and fitting them into my work-out program (which changes every day).
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  24. says

    I couldn’t agree more! Getting off the couch, moving, and trying to get/stay fit is fantastic no matter how one goes about doing it. I think it’s awesome that there are so many
    choices! I like strength training, but don’t have much interest in Cross Fit, though I admire those who are passionate about it. One of the most important things to me is being a positive role model for my kids, so I won’t bash anyone’s sport. I’ll support whatever my kids choose to do. Even if it’s baseball 😉
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  25. says

    Oh man it is a hot button topic. I definitely think they can coincide — and you might know I considered doing it in the fall. However, to do it right, I think you need lots of commitment and that’s time most people don’t have. I would have felt overwelmed by all the workouts. Anyway, I hate all the “hater attitudes” too…everyone should stop judging.
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  26. says

    Thanks for doing my research for me. I have hemmed and hawed about trying out one of the local CrossFit gyms….then I became pregnant and that was a no-go, but kept thinking I might try it after.

    After reading this, I really may just pass. I also love my gym and would never want to leave. Couple the costs of road races, my a$$ gym, and then add on crossfit? Probably not doable. And really, probably not doable time wise either!

    But I have seen what CrossFit has done for a few of my friends bodies, and they are hot, hot hot mamas!

  27. says

    I was wondering if you were enjoying it! Glad that you are. I’m with you though on the price. We belong to a “regular’ gym and I can’t justify spending more $ on a second one right now.
    And I do the same thing when I do strength training – after my hard workouts so that I have a full 48 hours until my next hard one!
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  28. says


    This fits nicely with my “can’t we all just get along” theme over the past couple of weeks.

    I see NO reason to dis another person’s fitness activity of choice. For example, I do not like bike riding, but I have friends who are avid cyclists and I love that they love their wheels.

    I respect the fact that we all have different things that *work* for us.

    And the world is soooo much more interesting as a result!
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  29. says

    Totally agree that you should do whatever works for you and no work out is better than the other. With that said I think it comes from both sides. You have endurance athletes ragging on crossfitters and you have crossfitters saying that endurance sports are a waste of time. I think we all just need to learn to support other athletes no matter what sport people are in.
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  30. says

    I totally agree. Any form of exercise that you choose is fine by me – even cycling! I may have bagged it a little in my last post but I have every respect for anyone who gets up and sweats. Especially those who can do it on two wheels and not fall over (which I have a tendency to do).
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  31. says

    totally agree with you-and love your approach. i think you have to have a focus on one with compliments of others-and not just with running/crossfit. i feel the same way about pilates. it compliments my running-but running will always be #1 to me. i wish i could afford/had time for crossfit too!
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  32. says

    I agree that you should do what you like, what works for you. We can’t all be the same and that’s a good thing too.

    The Dutch Runners World had an article about CrossFit this month and they too said that you can combine it perfect with a running plan.

    I’m curious about it, I can do it close to home but am a bit scared that it’s too heavy for me and I don’t want to spend money this since I workout at home.
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  33. says

    Ah, so true! Can’t stand all the judgement, we’re in this together, let’s celebrate each others passions. I have never tried CrossFit but I recently added two days of spinning to my training plan and I feel stronger already, whether or not it improves my running remons to be seen… one can hope. Enjoy your week Amanda!
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  34. says

    This is the PRECISE post that I needed to read right now!! I have been doing CrossFit since December, but am only starting to ramp up on it right now, since I have gotten through the two half marathons I had this month. I feel so out of place there! I feel like they are all looking at my “runner’s body” and sneering, but maybe it is just me being self-conscious?? I do also need to leave my ego at the door during WODs…CrossFit is an entirely different type of workout altogether (it is truly humbling me as an athlete), but I do feel that it can make be a better runner if I stick with it! Luckily, I get a VERY GOOD discount for being married to a firefighter, so I am able to afford it. I hope I feel like I can begin to “fit in” more after another month or two, because I do like many aspects of CrossFit! :)
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  35. says

    I don’t want to re-iterate what Jeff said but you know he and I think along the same lines here. I am doing heavy lifting right now but it is not cutting into my running, cycling or swimming miles and that is the key.

    I would not do a WOD as a replacement for a recovery ride/run/swim or even in place of yoga as that helps me with my core and my balance without taxing my body the way a CrossFit workout would.

    If I were to stop training to go faster at long course I might be interested in putting the two together but my goals are to go faster and no amount of CrossFit as a replacement for sport specific training is going to help me do that.
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  36. says

    Someone I initially met via Twitter then in real life after doing the same races started doing CrossFit last summer. Two weeks in he started bashing running and even made a couple of sly remarks on posts I made. After calling him out and saying let’s just do our own thing and be happy we’re in shape, he laid off quite a bit.

    I don’t understand the war of words between the two camps — I’m all for people doing whatever they want as long as they’re happy about it!
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  37. says

    I agree with you in that it is important to let all prejudices about other approaches aside, and be able to try out fitness approaches. By constantly making our body guess what is next, we develop not only new muscle groups but new skills. Here in Hawaii, where I live, surfers of all shapes and sizes are passionate practitioners of yoga. While the connection between yoga and surfing is not that obvious, it has spread all over the Hawaiian Islands as surfers let go of prejudices over yoga and rip the benefits of having more limber, flexible bodies.

  38. says

    I just quit the Crossfit I have been going to for a year and a half. Got in an argument with the owner about how “dangerous” running is….my thoughts? I love both CF and running, and last time I checked there were no long term studies on the effects of CF…so stop being an elitist and respect everyone’s right to exercise the way they see fit (or that’s what I told them in a nutshell).