Is it possible to do CrossFit and endurance running without burning out? (Part 2)

Posted on 21 January 2016

Am I ever going to be a CrossFit Games athlete – no. Will I ever go to the Olympics to compete for my country as a runner - no way. So the solution is simple; modify your CrossFit and running program to ensure that they complement each other. Of course the easy option is to just give up one of these things and just focus on the other. But why should you if you love strength training and running - all it takes is additional planning to ensure that your training program takes into account the physical demands of both sports by being safe; and more importantly a program you can consistently follow for long durations.  From my experience, here’s a couple of golden rules which have worked well for me:

  1. Adjust your run frequency to no more than 3 a week. These runs should be 1 x "long run" for endurance, 1 x easy paced run and 1 x run which is a threshold type run (ie. 5-10km run). Speed work (i.e Anaerobic short intervals) are not necessary as your high intensity WOD’s will take care of this training aspect.
  2. Long endurance run/race should be at least 24-48 hours after a hard CrossFit session. A lighter session in the form of gymnastics or stretching/yoga is ideal the day before a long run if like me you can't resist the temptation to do something. Try to avoid heavy leg workouts!! *For major running events I always like to give myself 3 days rest, but 1-2 days is fine for a normal training week.
  3. At least 24-48 hours rest after long endurance run/race. Once again, gymnastics or stretching/yoga is ideal the day after - avoid olympic lifts and heavy leg workouts straight after (your legs need a decent amount of time to recover). 
  4. Cut back on WOD’s (metabolic conditioning training "metcon"). You are already getting the aerobic benefits from your running program. Although running will generally serve as your main cardio base, it is important you add in a few high intensity metcons/WOD’s each week. Most workouts will last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, which not only acts as a form of aerobic training, but more importantly as a way of improving the your Vo2Max (which is activated through shorter high powered efforts).
  5. Eat! Most endurance athletes normally try and keep the kilos off and maintain a lean race weight by eating less and then carb loading before a race. This approach isn’t ideal when you're mixing in additional CrossFit sessions which are generally very cardio-muscular intense.  It is crucial you are constantly refuelling the body so you’re able to maintain the greater demands of your training workload. Don’t be worried if you gain an extra kilo or two of weight - it will most likely be muscle mass which I have found to assist me in the tough long runs as the body can call on these extra muscle reserves to get you through to the end. 
  6. Be flexible with your training program. In a perfect world, every month we would sit down and design the ultimate training program which lists every workout, run, rep scheme, number of sets, etc and then follow this program religiously; ticking off each session and repeating this process month after month.  Unfortunately, that’s not a reality for most people. Sometimes your body will get extremely sore and tired after what you would consider a standard training session. Or sometimes you might feel that niggling injury start to play up. Listen to your body. If your body (and/or mind) is screaming out for a rest - then don’t train. Or, if you can't help yourself, you can at least try and modify that training session to enable your body or muscle group every possible chance to recover. For example, if your legs are sore - change the run for some upper body strength work (or vice versa). Or if you had a big metcon style workout planned and you’re completely shattered from yesterdays session - substitute the workout with Yoga and stretching. I’ve found the best way to approach training is to treat each day with an open mind. 1 day of rest is better than 1 month.

So with a little bit of planning, flexibility and common sense, there’s no reason why you crazy endurance athletes can’t get your CrossFit fix as well. And CrossFitter’s have no excuse for not working on their cardiovascular fitness. Some might say, why bother, it’s too much of a challenge for one to successfully run a half marathon one day and 3 days later be having a good crack at a CrossFit WOD. Yes, it is a challenge, quite a big one - but that’s why we sign up for it.  It’s all about giving 100%, pushing yourself to the max, and being able to experience those special moments when you accomplish something for the first time!

My final word on this subject: Be greedy - do both.



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