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Can Runners Do CrossFit?

In the world of physical fitness, a person always seeks to get the maximum output for the given input. This often comes with mixing physical training and fitness programs, but the question that can arise is whether or not mixing physical training styles can be beneficial if you are a certain type of athlete?

One of these instances is when runners want to know whether or not they can do CrossFit.

Female runner jogging, training on stadium

Runners can do CrossFit. There are several benefits for runners, such as an increase in the performance of your running time if you’re engaging in 5K (or below) running activities.

CrossFit is also a great option if you’re a beginner or injury-prone runner.

Whether or not you want to engage in CrossFit when you are a runner is something that does require a bit of pondering.

There are many things to consider: the benefits, the negatives, how to balance CrossFit with running if runners DO decide to do CrossFit, and so forth!

Can Runners Do CrossFit

Before we start with whether or not runners can do CrossFit, let’s just take a step back and explain what CrossFit is in order to determine why this question is relevant, to begin with.

What Is CrossFit

CrossFit is a physical training philosophy (or program) that aims to combine Olympic weightlifting, HIIT, gymnastics, strongman, calisthenics, and various other branches of fitness and physical exercise.

So How Would CrossFit Benefit Me As A Runner

Now that we have given somewhat of a definition for what CrossFit is, we can start exploring whether or not runners can do CrossFit.

Of course, the CrossFit community is not going to exclude runners. So while CrossFit is an option, we want to know whether or not doing CrossFit will be of any benefit to these runners.

So what are some of the benefits of doing CrossFit if you are a runner?

  • It has the potential of improving your running time for 5K or below items. Research has shown that many athletes in this range perform better in their running time, despite the belief to the contrary that if you wish to improve running time, simply run more! It must be noted that the research was only done for 5K and below athletes; the jury is out on distances greater than 5K.
  • It enhances your endurance by focusing on strength, flexibility, and speed building and improvement.
  • CrossFit engages in exercises that contain movements that are very useful for runners; these include box jumps and jump rope exercises. These exercises help runners develop these movements, which are very useful while running, but merely utilizes them in a different manner.
  • It teaches runners to run on their so-called ‘dead legs.’
  • It improves the mental toughness of the runners.
  • Helps you better understand your own body’s limits
Woman holding climbing rope in cross-fit exercise

Potential Caveats To Watch Out For Before Signing Up For CrossFit

Before you sign up at the CrossFit gym (or ‘box’) near you, first consider these potential caveats that might be applicable to you as a runner:

  • The workout of the day (‘WOD’) is beyond your control. This can be bad for one of two reasons: 1. you might either do a very intense leg day session the day before a running competition or track workout or 2. you might not get enough running activities done in the CrossFit session as you would have liked.
  • Sometimes you only find out 12 hours beforehand what the day’s WOD will be and whether or not it will include running. If you are a very busy person, can your schedule accommodate this flexibility?
  • Consider the cost. How many days will you use your CrossFit for running vs. how much you pay?
  • Marathon training has been described as an exhausting exercise on its own – let alone adding CrossFit. These two intense forms of exercise can either cause you to over-exert yourself and result in injury, or it might lead to mental fatigue.
  • CrossFit, by in large and for the most part, focuses on hypertrophy and power over muscular endurance. Muscular endurance, however, is the main focus of marathon training – thus, there can be a mismatch of physical exercise and goals you wish to achieve with those exercises as a runner.
Sportive people training crossfit

Determine Your Priority: CrossFit Or Running

So now that we know some benefits and some caveats of doing CrossFit as a runner, we now have to explore the ‘priority aspect’ thereof.

Depending on what your priority is, running or doing CrossFit, it will almost completely determine whether or not you can, or should, do CrossFit as a runner.

The main question here is, what is your ultimate goal regarding your fitness? It is almost impossible to try and prioritize both running and CrossFit simultaneously, and neither should you strive to make both your main goal.

Thus, even when you decide that you can do CrossFit as a runner, how much attention should you devote to either branch of exercise?

When trying to determine whether you should either prioritize CrossFit or prioritize running, ask yourself a couple of these questions:

  • Do I wish to lose weight?
  • Do I wish to improve my running time for a marathon?
  • Do I wish to improve or increase my muscle mass?
  • Do I wish to compete or engage in Olympic weightlifting?

If you are a runner, but you are more focused on being a well-rounded, healthy person that has strengths in various areas of physical fitness, perhaps CrossFit deserves a higher priority on your list.

This will most likely be if you answered ‘yes’ to the third and fourth questions above.

If you are a runner and wish to merely lose a bit of weight and start preparing to run long marathons, running should take the higher priority on your list. In that instance, it is advisable to engage in CrossFit activities a maximum of three times a week.

Young female runner bending forward on race track starting line

Suggested Schedule For Runners That Want To Do CrossFit

So, if you are a runner and prioritize running over CrossFit, how can you go about it, and how would your program look if you wish to both?

Below are two samples of what a program might look like for someone that wishes to do a bit of diverse physical exercise, in the form of CrossFit, whilst still prioritizing running:

DayPlan 1Plan 2
MondayA normal CrossFit workout session  Off day
TuesdayRunning activities with low physical exertion  Running activities with a focus on tempo or speed, but short distances. This is followed by a normal CrossFit workout session
WednesdayA normal CrossFit workout session  Running activities, focusing on a medium to long distance.
ThursdayRunning activities with a focus on tempo or speedRunning activities, focusing on short distances. This can be followed by a normal CrossFit workout session
FridayEither low-intensity cross-training or a normal CrossFit workout session  Either an off day or a normal CrossFit workout session, depending on whether one was done the previous day
SaturdayRunning activities with a focus on distance, but also at a slower pace  Running activities, focusing on long distances  
SundayEither an off day or recovery exercises such as stretching, yoga, etc.Running activities, focusing on medium to long distances  


In conclusion, there are many benefits and negatives to doing CrossFit if you are a runner.

The question that was asked is whether or not runners can do CrossFit, and the answer is clearly ‘yes!’ The other question that one must ask is whether or not runners should do CrossFit; this question is not so easy to answer!

There are many benefits to doing CrossFit as a runner, such as diversifying your physical strengths to not only your lower body but also your upper body.

It also greatly enhances your mental strength when engaging in long runs. On the other hand, it is not worth doing CrossFit if you clearly see yourself as someone who predominantly runs marathons and will be better off if you only engage in running exercises.

The bottom line of the matter is that if you want to run and diversify your physical exercises, CrossFit is a good option to consider. If you want to run with the aim of winning a marathon, you should first consider all obstacles you might face as a marathon runner while CrossFit.