Why I do Crossfit as a Marathoner

deadliftA year and a half ago, I had an IT band injury that kept me from running and marathon training for over a month. I was going stir crazy, but even worse than that, no matter how long I rested, I couldn’t kick my IT band pain.

Desperate for a way to get active again that didn’t involve swimming any more awful laps in the pool, I skeptically decided to try out a Crossfit gym. I’d heard the rumors that runners perpetuate: Crossfit is dangerous. Crossfit will make you bulk up. Crossfit will make you slower!

Turns out Crossfit hasn’t made me injured, fat, or slow. I’ve PR’d races from 5ks to marathons while taking classes 3 days a week. Here’s just a few of the reasons why I’ve stuck with Crossfit, and even become a better runner because of it.

1. Injury prevention.

When I first started Crossfit I couldn’t run without pain. Strength training and increasing mobility are both important aspects of Crossfit and both great for injury recovery and prevention. I’ve been injury free (ok, except for when I sprained my ankle tripping on a crack in the sidewalk…) since I’ve been doing Crossfit.

2. It’s fun!

The team-like community aspect of Crossfit is one of its biggest draws for me. I missed the motivation of practicing with a team every day!

3. AND challenging.

I love a good challenge. I have lots of room to grow and improve at the gym and that’s great! Also, I feel pretty sweet lifting those bars with huge weights above my head.

deadlift 2

4. Something new.

After a marathon training cycle is over, I need a new goal to work towards. Remember my marathon blues? Crossfit is a great way to give my legs a break in between marathon training but still get a satisfying workout.

5.  It makes you fitter.

Has being a stronger, fitter person helped my running? Absolutely. Unless you try to, Crossfit will not just magically make you bulky. Without gaining weight, I’ve increased my muscle to body fat ratio, and that will only help your running.

6.  Great cross training on days off of running.

We all know that sometimes your body needs a break from the impact of running. And the cross training workout I get at the Crossfit gym is MUCH better than the lazy half an hour I used to spend on the elliptical in college. Seriously, I never even broke a sweat on cross training days before.

toes to bar

So, how do I adapt Crossfit to fit into my marathon training?

  1. Plan my workouts and runs for the whole week ahead of time. No squats the day before an important tempo run!
  2. Scale workouts when I need a break. If my legs are shot from a 20 miler I’m not afraid to ask my coach for alternatives to a lower body heavy day. I haven’t met a Crossfit coach yet that wasn’t eager to individualize a workout.
  3. Remember that I want to make progress, but don’t need to lift the heaviest weights in the class! It can be tough to keep my competitive side in check, but I try to focus on individual improvement.  Plus, I’m not trying to win any Oly competitions!

deadlift 3

There ya have it–just a few of my favorite reasons why  I’ve traded in my Garmin for a barbell a few days a week.

Am I the only one?  Do you think that strength is important as a runner or believe that sticking to the roads is best?


3 thoughts on “Why I do Crossfit as a Marathoner

  1. HI Lesley: I am really impressed with your dedication to becoming stronger to aid your running. Grammy said that “she doesn’t really lift that big weight, does she?” When I started to run at Case (1950) we didn’t even think about weight training. I think that the wrestling and the football teams had a few free weights , but no weight benches or other equipment. Runners were forbidden to use them, and to swim (makes your muscles soft). Times change, but I wish we had worked with weights way back then! Love, Grandpa


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