Training for a marathon with CrossFit


Training for a marathon with CrossFit

  December 1, 2017


‘Why would someone want to run when they are already doing CrossFit?’ One might ask.


Sports can be mixed and matched. Some use strength training to enhance their gymnastics, others use Pilates to improve their flexibility.
CrossFit is multi-disciplinary, covering gymnastics, weightlifting in an aerobic setting. It is not surprising then that crossfitters would want to test their skills in another activity. Perhaps it is the mental aspect of it that is appealing, gathering others to suffer as a group or testing our abilities to jump into any sport and use our fitness.


In any case, crossfitters or not, a minimum of prepping is needed to stride a half or full marathon.
Why does CrossFit is efficient at getting ourselves ready for long distance running and what else should we implement to our training?

Recovery and injury prevention

Faster recovery

In CrossFit we learn to work on mobility and flexibility. Mobility widens range of motion and flexibility prevents muscles tightness.

We are not done when we step out of the gym. Being frequently subject to intense training immediately followed by recovery including nutrition, hydration and sleep, our bodies are accustomed to recuperate in a fast and effective manner which prove to be just what we need after a long distance race.


If it is our first marathon and we are doing CrossFit, we probably think we will be fine all the way, except for one incident which could really slow us down: cramps. If we haven’t’ dealt with those before, how are we going to prevent them for hurting us on race day?
Deterioration in the stride is recognized as being a source of cramping. The origin of this derailment is a slouched posture and lack of hip extension.

‘Tendency to sit butt backward to counter balance the upper body’s forward position. This results in over-striding (landing with foot out in front of centre of mass), which dramatically increases the impact forces that travel up the leg as the foot lands.
Over striding also puts the hamstrings in a vulnerable position at ground contact and forces them to do more work to pull the leg through since the glutes can’t be activated as efficiently.’

Hip extension:
‘To compensate for the hip and glute getting tired, the body recruits the calf and quad to help generate the power needed to maintain marathon pace. ’
Luckily, upper body strength and  hip extension are familiar to us! Our CrossFit training should prevent us from quitting because of cramps.

Marathon specifics

Smaller muscles activation

Crossfitters have an advantage over runners who only run as their training methodology for long distance: their entire body understand the principle of working hard through compound exercises. Most runners only train their legs, which seems obvious when we think of running. Building strong  glutes and hamstrings alleviates the risk of injuries which occur when soliciting mostly the joints.


After running for a while, posture can deteriorate and other body parts than the legs can start cramping. A stronger back, core, and arms ease the stride. The body doesn’t need to rely only legs and feet. The upper body gathers power to maintain speed and coordination which we learn in CrossFit with movements such as snatches. During the run,  arm sway harmoniously, head is relaxed, and the breathing pattern is steadier.

Heavy lifting and distance running

Deadlifts, followed by wall balls, or cleans followed by double unders or box jumps: these combinations are the ultimate recipe to improve explosiveness. We need it in CrossFit but so do runners. ‘It increases the force of your stride—the more powerful your push-off, the less effort you exert with each stride, the easier fast running feels, says Stephen S. Cheung, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at Brock University in Ontario.’

CrossFit and marathon prep


If the beginning of the race is the easiest mainly because of motivation and friends running by our side, passed a certain threshold, we most likely slow down and search for inner motivation.

This scenario sounds familiar, it is reminiscent of a wod, when legs are burning, breathing is tough and our eyes hastily jump from one side of the room to the other desperately trying to make eye contact with someone as in much pain as we are.

In CrossFit we learn to use our legs, even if they are tired. It is what we experience during a marathon too.

Wods, sprints and longer sessions

Preparation for a marathon using CrossFit varies from one individual to the other. A consistent CrossFit schedule throughout the week to which sprints and one or two longer running session seems to be the ideal combination. There is nothing left but getting ready and motivated to attack the challenge!



Photo Credit: CrossFit Games, Reebok


Tamara Akcay

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