minutes per mile blog

crossfit and running

I don’t know what got into me, but I decided to go with a relevant title for my post today.

This morning marked the end of my official CrossFit career — sadness!

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Over my two-week trial period, I made it to about six classes, which I’m proud of! I don’t know if I really improved that much in such a short time, but I did learn a lot. Perhaps one of the biggest and most relevant lessons I learned (other than that “CrossFit” is code for “torture”) is that CrossFit is a completely different workout than running. I thought I was pretty cool for being able to run marathons, but really, I’m a big weenie when it comes to lifting weights.

My question for the world is, though, can CrossFit help me be a faster, stronger, and less injury-prone marathon runner? The thought couldn’t have come at a better time, considering I registered yesterday for the Gettsyburg North-South Marathon! I have to get my butt in gear for this race ASAP.gettysburg_150_small

So I did some research. Looks like CrossFit (or a similar type of high-intensity strength training) can help you become a better runner, and here is why.

Studies seem to suggest that high-intensity workouts can make you stronger and faster. Strength training can increase the force of your stride, reducing the amount of energy you need to take each step. CrossFit is definitely a high-intensity workout. The sessions are short, but you’re completely wiped out by the end of the 15-30 minute “WOD” (Workout of the Day).

Unfortunately, there seems to be little data on CrossFit (specifically, as compared to other cross-training) in relation to running, but here’s some relevant research I found:

This article notes a study where two groups of runners ran a 10k; and for the next five months, one group of runners did one high-intensity run per week, and the other group did two high-intensity runs per week. Both groups ran the same total number of miles, just that the second group did more of those miles at an intense pace. The two-intensity-run group shaved off about 30 seconds more of their 10k time at the end of the study than the one-intensity-run group did.

This article notes that cyclists who performed 25-minute speed cycling workouts with 30-second sprint intervals improved their fitness just as much as those who did long, slower cycle workouts for two hours.

(Cycling?! My daily commute on Betty has to count for something, right?!)

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For marathon training, it looks like one CrossFit or CrossFit-esque workout per week is a good goal. Instead of wasting energy on an easy 45-minute 5-miler, this article says, “Throw out your junk mileage days and replace them with CrossFit workouts.” If you’re training for a half marathon, 10-miler, 10k, etc., the author says you could probably fit two workouts in a week (if you’re not too sore!)

Thanks Anthony (who got me my two-week trial as part of my amazing Christmas present) for such a mentally and physically interesting experience!

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  • What cross training secrets have made you a better runner?
  • Do you like weights or running better?
  • And because I’m sick of this topic — what’s your favorite candy bar?

12 thoughts on “crossfit and running

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately. I started working out with a personal trainer twice a week in November. Shes also a marathon runner and I told her my goals (take 8 minutes off my half marathon time and break 2 hours). She custom build a weight training plan to help me increase speed and strength. I also started doing more resistance classes at the gym. I’ve seen my pace improve dramatically in the last few months and I’m sure the weight training is the reason. I’ve always been so against weight training in the past but I’m definitely converted!

  2. I’m training for my next marathon using the Crossfit Endurance method. This is really new to me, since I have always trained using high mileage and long runs. However, I love trying something new. And yes, the WOD’s are super difficult. I’ve been lifting heavy for about 2 months though, and I definitely see progress in my running. I feel less tired during runs and I find it easier to hold a quicker pace during “long” runs.

  3. I have found that weight training really makes me a stronger runner. Especially since I have issues with my hip. I have to really strengthen the leg on all 4 sides. I have never done crossfit but it looks reallllly tough!!

    My favorite candy bar is a milky way! SO good. If I need a topping on something though, it’s a heath bar all the way:-)

  4. I’ve ALWAYS hated weights training, so use yoga as my strength training for running. As I’m a new Mum just slowly starting to get back into running (yep, my goal isn’t a marathon or a half marathon.. not even a 10k’er.. I just want to run 5km without stopping) I’m hoping that yoga will once again help to give me strength. In your experience, could I survive on yoga alone to do this? 😉

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