How to Balance CrossFit and Running

This blog post was originally published on March 2015, but it’s topic that readers frequently contact me about. And with marathon and half marathon season upon us, I thought it would be helpful to share it again. Enjoy! 

I get questions all the time from readers about how to best balance CrossFit with running, specifically long distance running, like training for a half or full marathon and, honestly, I never really knew how to reply mostly because I hadn’t figured it out for myself yet. It was a constant struggle for me to find the time (and energy) for both of these fitness loves. Now that I am just a few weeks away from marathon day, I finally feel like I can share my thoughts on the subject. That said, here is my advice for balancing CrossFit and running. Additionally, here are my favorite sneakers for CrossFit and running!

how to balance crossfit and running

Determine which sport is your priority and stick to it

This is my numero uno advice. Think about your ultimate goal right now. Is it running a marathon? Competing in an Olympic lifting meet? Think about your current fitness goals. You don’t need to pick one sport over the other for the rest of your life; just make one of them your priority while you are working toward this goal. I really thought I could devote the same amount of time and energy to both CrossFit and running while training for a half marathon and then more recently for the Boston Marathon, but it wasn’t possible (more on this below).

Cherry-pick your workouts

crossfitandrunning.jpg

Basically, pick workouts that fit in and complement your primary training. For example, once I was in the middle of marathon training, I couldn’t do a heavy leg day at CrossFit and then do my long run the next day. My legs would fall off and there was always risk of injury. So, instead, the day before my long run, I take a rest day or I focus on upper body and core movements and save my heavy leg day for later in the week (usually after a mid-distance run). However, I don’t make myself crazy trying to integrate the two workouts, but I try my best to balance them and typically err on the side of caution when planning my next workout (i.e. if I am super sore or my knee is feeling weird, I’ll take a rest day).

Be aware of overtraining

At one point during my marathon training, I was going to CrossFit three days a week and running three days a week, which was just too much for me. Thankfully, I didn’t get injured, but I constantly felt tired and sore, so it wasn’t enough recovery time for me, especially between the harder workouts (both CrossFit and running). Basically, listen to your body and remember: Rest days are part of training too. And, boy, did I embrace my rest days as the mileage in my marathon training plan increased. I ended up cutting back my CrossFit/KFIT workouts to twice a week and then just once a week to ensure that my body was both happy and healthy.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it all

Both CrossFit and running can be really hard on your body, so don’t feel bad if you can’t do it all. At first, I was a little bummed that I couldn’t keep up with my usual CrossFit workouts, but running a marathon was/is my ultimate goal, so I changed my thinking and focused on my running workouts. When I stopped stressing about trying to fit it all in, I really started to enjoy my training and looked forward to my runs– even the ones on the treadmill!

Change your performance expectations

And because I couldn’t do it all, I needed to change my performance expectations, especially when it came to CrossFit. I was running, running, running and not spending a lot of time at CrossFit, so, of course, my strength and skills were going to suffer. Initially, I was disappointed, but the more I got into marathon training, the more excited I became about achieving my goal of crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles. (I seriously can’t wait for marathon day!) And I know the CrossFit stuff will come back once I devote more time to it.

Questions of the Day

CrossFit/runner friends: Have you ever tried to do both? How’d it go? Any tips/advice for someone who wants to simultaneously balance both? 

P.S. Looking for sneakers commendations for both sports? Check out this post!

55 Comments

  1. I like doing a combo of 4-5 traditional crossfit wods a week and 2-3 cardiofit wods per week, and I run about 50 miles per week, a long run, speed workout and tempo in between. My main advice is to eat enough, I hired a Renaissance Periodization personal trainer to help make sure I ate enough during my 3 months before Boston because I was working out several hours a day. It was tough but had a terrific outcome and PR’d at Boston substantially. I balance these two sports by focusing on endurance lifting more than 1RM, and hitting the cardio part really hard which translates well on the road when I run.
    It can be done, I just don’t let myself get frustrated when I don’t hit what I think I should on lifts, and I certainly don’t toe the line at a marathon looking like the other women in my corral due to the lifting- but, I like it all which makes it worth it!

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