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Marathon Training and CrossFit

Posted Feb 06 2013 1:36pm

Hi everyone! I’m Meg and I blog at RunFitKin about my life as a runner, crossfitter and wife/puppymom (and hopefully person-mom within the next year!) Being a runner the majority of my life, I’ve always viewed myself as someone whose strength and ability was built on running around an oval or on a cross country course.

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So when my husband approached me about trying this crazy new workout program called CrossFit, I was nervous to step outside my comfort zone. I was also intimidated. At the time I was struggling to even do push-ups on my knees! I knew that I would be frustrated with my lack of strength but John was encouraging and we took the leap, mainly because he wanted to lose weight and I wanted to get out of a running slump. I found out a couple of things right away.

  1.  Everything is scaleable, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t do a pull-up, there were bands to help me. It didn’t matter that my flexibility was limiting, there were mobility exercises to practice to get me more limber. It didn’t matter that I didn’t finish first in all of the WODs, my “boxmates” (fellow class members) were always there to cheer me on.
  2. I was the best runner out of everyone. Now this was important to me, especially in the beginning because I have a big ego. I have a “medium size fish”, little pond mentality going on over here. Being good at running showed me that everyone has strengths and weaknesses in CF. The slower runners at our gym were some of our strongest athletes. I wanted their skills and they wanted some of mine, together we gave each other tips and cheered each other on and challenged each other to do better. We believed in each other through and through. It made me find my fire for running again.
  3. I started to believe anything was possible.

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Which brings me to my marathon story. When I moved to Seattle and realized that adults don’t really run XC or track, I was sort of at a loss. I ran a few 5ks, then my first half marathon. I told myself I could never do a full marathon; half was tough enough. But then curiosity got to me, and I signed up for the 2009 Vancouver Marathon. My training was all over the place and I DNFed at mile 10, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make it through all 26 miles without serious pain. I wasn’t ready.

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Fast forward to 2012. After a big PR in a half marathon in 2011, just 4 months into crossfitting, I could feel the difference in my core. My mentality was stronger and I had much more confidence in myself. I was ready to try Vancouver again in 2012. I used the Run Less, Run Faster training plan, which pairs hard miles with cross training. I used Crossfit instead of biking or swimming and found myself hoping to BQ on my second attempt at the marathon.

While the BQ didn’t happen, I did finish my first marathon sub-4, after injuring myself in mile 14. My physical therapist has told me that it was no fault of Crossfit or even a lack of training that got me injured, she believes I’d been overcompensating for weak hips and glutes for years.

I returned for another marathon after some strength work both in PT and in CF, and hit a 15-minute PR in the race. While training I also gained a few PRs in lifts at Crossfit. I was proving to myself that I could maintain Crossfit strength and run pretty well (though still no BQ).

I won’t pretend that you can be top notch at both sports simultaneously. When training for marathons or attempting to be competitive in half marathons, Crossfit takes on a cross training role for me. I will go twice or three times a week and prioritize my mileage over Crossfit. I will commit a Crossfit sin and cherry pick my WODs. For instance if something is going to burn out my legs on a morning of a track workout, I’ll skip the WOD so that I can bring a strong performance to the track. This is how I manage to keep my love of Crossfit in moderation with my love of running.

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When I’m not training for big running goals, I focus on Crossfit. I can now run a happy pace and hit “good enough for me” times on half marathons and sometimes surprise myself at shorter distances. The advantages I have gained from doing both sports has me convinced that this is the formula for me. My next big goal, which is a very lofty one, is a sub 1:30 half marathon. I plan to do  Crossfit about twice a week and average 40 miles/week.

While there a program called crossfit endurance, I’m still not sold on it. I may experiment for my next full and see if CF endurance can get me to 3:30 (or below). I have not seen many women be competitive runners and competitive crossfitters. I would love to learn from anyone who has that experience!

Have you tried crossfit?

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