There’s no question that CrossFit is one of the world’s fastest growing fitness programs today.
From changing how weightlifters and bodybuilders train to being a favorite workout of celebrities, the “functional movements performed at a high intensity” mantra of CrossFit has gone mainstream in recent years, replacing workouts that are falling out of favor with athletes worldwide, like pilates and boot camp.
CrossFit has expanded to include sport-specific training, with programs like CrossFit Endurance, which has transformed the way that many endurance athletes train. Athletes have used CrossFit’s unconventional 12 week marathon training plans, moving away from longer, sustained runs that have traditionally been used when training for distance runs.
Recently, FitSugar wrote about why runners need CrossFit. As the training program goes mainstream, no longer is CrossFit only for people interested in heavy weightlifting or those looking to meet “Pukie” during a workout, it’s being seen and respected as a complimentary training program to many sports.
“The challenge is that runners think that their legs are strong, and they are strong at that one movement pattern,” according to Yumi Lee, a Reebok CrossFit ambassador. She continued to describe CrossFit as the combination of “power lifting, strength training, and gymnastic training, all of which benefit your fast twitch muscles used for sprinting and your slow twitch muscles used for long distance.”
While there are certainly distance runners who have strong legs across multiple movement domains, they much more the exception, rather than the norm. In gyms around the country, you’d be much more likely to see a sprinter working on heavy back squats, plyometrics, and dead lifts than you would a distance runner. A distance runner might be able to run 10 miles at a consistent 7 minute pace, but they might struggle to complete 30 pushups in a set with good range of motion or be unable to comfortably back squat their body weight for multiple repetitions. It doesn’t take away from the fact that distance runners are great athletes, but they’re sport-specific great athletes.
On the other hand, CrossFit helps athletes train to be “pretty good” at a number of different training methods. While they likely won’t be the strongest, fastest, or quickest when it comes to sport-specific training, chances are they’ll find their fitness (not to be confused with skill) levels near the top of the pack compared to other gym-goers, no matter what task is put in front of them. A typical distance runner who does not incorporate weight training struggle to complete a traditional CrossFit workout, but a typical CrossFit athlete would be able to run a 10K while maintaining reasonable amounts of dignity. It might not be pretty on the latter, but the work would get done.
FitSugar wrote, “Solely running also leads to workout plateaus, so when the muscles become used to the demands placed on it, a runner needs to run further or faster in order to keep up her level of fitness.” With the high intensity interval training in CrossFit, runners can train across multiple training domains in addition to their endurance training.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons why anyone should consider adding CrossFit to their training regime is the “constantly varied” aspect of the training program. Unlike training for long distance runs, where time, distance, and incline are the majority of the variance you’ll see during a training program, CrossFit incorporates different barbell, gymnastics, kettlebell, and strength movements that vary from class to class.
Without a doubt, sport-specific training can be extremely effective, but adding the varied training of CrossFit to runners’ training programs could help great endurance runners become better all-around athletes.