Why Crossfit Is The Best Strength Training Program for Runners


strength training program for runnersWe’ve all heard someone we know tout the benefits of Crossfit. Over, and over again. But for devoted runners, the idea of giving into the Crossfit cult may seem crazy. After all, if you want to be good at running, you should focus on running right?


It turns out that adding strength training to your schedule can be hugely beneficial.

Studies have shown that adding explosive strength training (sound familiar?) for 9 weeks can improve endurance athlete’s 5k times, without changing their VO2 max.

According to Travis M. Erickson, MS CSCS from the University of Wisconsin’s Sport Science Department, heavy resistance training is the best way to increase your stride length. This in turn, will increase your running economy.

“Intelligent use of the weight room, just like intelligent implementation of a running program, can have a dramatic influence on the success of the competitor. This success can be defined as faster running times, but can also be extended to include reduced injury risk, and an overall heightened enjoyment of the sport, a goal that many athletes surely have.”

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a program designed for strength and conditioning. The idea is to complete constantly varied movements at high intensity.

Consider how most people complete their strength training. They usually hit the gym for a 25-30 minute circuit of machines. They focus on isolating specific muscle groups while completing 3 sets of 8 reps and taking rest breaks. This is a low-intensity workout.

CrossFit is the opposite. Instead of using machines to isolate specific muscles, you’re using compound functional exercises. Functional exercises such as squats, pushups, pull-ups, and burpees, which use many different muscle groups.

Workouts change continually, and each one will range from a few minutes to anywhere from 7-20 minutes, rarely lasting longer than 20 minutes.

However, there are no rest breaks, and you quickly move between each set- making it extremely high-intensity.

Why is CrossFit an ideal strength training program for runners?

When it’s time to start training for distance running events or marathons, many runners will stop strength training and add extra miles of running each week.

Unfortunately, while you may increase your endurance this way, you’re more likely to end up injured, since all that pavement pounding puts a huge amount of strain on your body.

This is why so many runners end up with shin splints, runners knee, and stress fractures.

You’ll Get Stronger

Distance running actually breaks down your muscles, which can mean you lose strength- something that can slow you down.

However, by incorporating a strength training program for runners, you’ll be able to maintain your strength while increasing endurance.

You’ll be Kept Engaged

One of the reasons why so many people love CrossFit? It’s never boring. You’ll be working out in a CrossFit “Box” with a bunch of other people who are also giving it their all.

You’ll usually start with an “As Many Rounds As Possible” workout. This could consist of 30 sit-ups, 20 air squats, and 15 push-ups which you’d repeat between 3-5 times, as fast as you can go.

Unlike running, which involves long hours of putting one foot in front of the other, you won’t be repeating the same movement over and over when you’re doing a CrossFit workout.

Since you never know which workout you’ll be doing next, CrossFit adds an element of unpredictability to what can seem like the same old schedule after years of running.

You’ll Learn to Run When Tired

Along with the “As Many Rounds As Possible” workouts, you’ll usually have a “Workout of the Day“. This will often combine lifts with sprints, and should also be completed as fast as your body will allow you to do it.

These WODs will train your body to run even when it’s tired- which is what happens when you’re nearing the finish line. Don’t be surprised if you cut minutes off your personal best after adding CrossFit to your training.

You’ll Get a Whole Body Workout

Another reason why CrossFit is such a good strength training program for runners? Because you’re constantly changing it up, your muscles are continually challenged. You’ll also be hitting smaller muscles that you can’t challenge by running.

Many people are naturally stronger in different parts of their body, which can make you more at risk for injury. You may have great core strength, but a weak lower back, or amazing quads, but puny glutes.

CrossFit works your whole body. You’ll work on strength movements like deadlifts and squats, building muscle and toning your whole body.

CrossFit Endurance is Designed for Runners

Brian MacKenzie created CrossFit Endurance, overcoming assumptions that the sport just for bodybuilding or has a high risk of injuries. While CrossFit is an excellent addition to any runner’s workout plan, CrossFit Endurance goes even further.

The plan prepares you for your race by combining strength workouts, running workouts, and CrossFit metabolic conditioning workouts.

This allows you to get either the same or better results as if you were continually running while decreasing the chance that you’ll get injured.

Tips for CrossFit Beginners

Convinced you need to get in the Box and benefit from a strength training program for runners? Here are a few things you need to know:

Running shoes and CrossFit shoes are different. You’ll need to find a good pair of CrossFit shoes to accommodate all the different movements you’ll be doing and prevent injuries.

Take it easy. Many people are attracted to CrossFit due to its competitive nature. While it can be tempting to go full-throttle, this is a good way to end up puking (something that’s surprisingly common).

Focus on your best. You may find that you compare yourself to everyone around you. Instead, focus on always beating your personal best, and you’ll be able to benefit both physically and mentally from the program.

Find a good club. You’ll usually be performing a number of endurance or strength exercises super fast when you’re doing CrossFit. This is why it’s crucial that you have experienced trainers. They’ll be able to check that you’re using the correct form so you can avoid injuries. Check out our article about how to find a good CrossFit trainer.

Did you find this article about CrossFit as a strength training program for runners useful? Leave a comment below and let us know.


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