Improve Running Performance With CrossFit

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CrossFit is a heavily debated topic among the endurance community and fitness enthusiasts. There's no denying its popularity, but can it make you a faster, stronger, better runner?

What is CrossFit?

First, let's start with what it is, and how it might be different from other forms of cross-training. Many cross-training programs use stability balls, crunches and isolated movements like leg extensions and bicep curls, and the intensity of these workouts is done at an aerobic pace.

CrossFit uses Olympic lifts, power lifting, gymnastics and other training tools. The method includes throwing random exercises together performed at a high intensity called the "WOD," or workout of the day. Workouts generally last from 5 to 25 minutes, and the main energy system used is anaerobic (without oxygen). CrossFit exercises use multiple joints, such as knees, hips and shoulders, to perform compound movements that are executed at a much higher rate than typical cross-training programs.

More: How Cross-Training Will Boost Your Mileage

Can CrossFit Make You a Better Runner?

When I competed in track and cross country in high school and college, I always believed that strength training only made my performance better. CrossFit can make you a faster, better runner. Being a balanced athlete is the name of the game. Running fast is great, but having functional strength is equally as important in the long run. Strength training can improve your power, speed, balance, coordination, bone and tendon. Don't limit your training to one aspect—be a complete runner.

To reach your running goals, you need specificity within your running workouts. Nothing can replace the actual skill in which you're trying to succeed other than that skill. Bottom line: You have to run, and run hard, to improve.

More: Can Crossfit Endurance Improve Your Runs

Run-Specific CrossFit WODs

If you're getting ready for a 5K or 10K, here is an example of a WOD I designed that is more ballistic in nature, and will help you with your speed.

  • 20 box jumps, 10 chin-ups, 10 dumbbell thrusters, and 1 minute of kettlebell swings.
  • Rest for 1 to 2 minutes between rounds and repeat for 3 to 5 rounds.
If your goal is the half or full marathon, try the "Barbara." This is a WOD designed by CrossFit:
  • 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups and 50 air squats.
  • Rest for three minutes and repeat for 5 rounds.

When doing any of these WODs, you can scale down the exercises—for example do inverted rows instead of pull-ups or chin-ups, push-ups can be done on your knees, and you can always reduce the amount of weight you are lifting.

More: Full-Body CrossFit Workout Video