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How To Combine CrossFit With Endurance or Triathlon Training and Not Mess Up Your Body

Posted Dec 20 2010 7:44pm


What is Crossfit?

Well, according to their website definition:

“CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.

Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”

Before anybody gets judgemental or questions whether I know what I’m talking about, I’ve done Crossfit. Lots. I’ve done the “WOD’s”, or Workouts of the Day. I’ve done Fran, and Lynn and Nutts and all the other affectionate names given to the not-so-cutesy Crossfit workout routines.


I have worked out in a Crossfit gym, underneath their mascot  “Pukie the Clown” (pictured right), and I have puked. Been there, done that.

And here’s the problem with Crossfit.

If the highly anaerobic and power/strength demanding Crossfit workouts are performed in a typical carbohydrate depleted state by a triathlete or endurance athlete who is engaging in heavy bouts of aerobic training simultaneous to Crossfit involvement, the result is poor form and increased risk of injury during the actual Crossfit routine combined with sacrificed biomechanics and hormonal imblances from Crossfit-induced soreness/fatigue during any subsequent aerobic swim, bike or run sessions.

In other words, aerobic athletes and triathletes cannot have their Crossfit cake and eat it too.

If you’re a Crossfit enthusiast and Crossfit gym attendee, or use the Crossfit websites to get your WOD’s, and you’re blindly adhering to the program while also doing 2-3 swim, bikes and/or runs during the week, then you’re either A) not performing to your capacity in the Crossfit workouts, and thus getting mere fractions of the “intense” Crossfit benefits or B) performing to your capacity in the Crossfit workouts, but then performing ugly and half-assed aerobic training sessions because of soreness and fatigue.

In either case, A or B, I guarantee that if you’re doing a “proper” Crossfit program and combining it with a “proper” triathlon or endurance training program, there is absolutely no chance that you are giving your testosterone:cortisol ratios or inflammatory response to exercise an adequate time to recover, which results in increased immune system lowering risks, increased risk of soft tissue injury, and increased risk of overtraining syndrome.



So what’s the solution?

The solution is simple. You just need to modify  both Crossfit and your triathlon or endurance training routine. Here is how to do it:

Step 1:  If you decide to do Crossfit,   immediately make a mental and physical commitment to adjusting your run frequency to no more 3x/week. You will receive any run-specific anaerobic and strength training necessary from the type of sprinting and running you will encounter while engaged in working out at your Crossfit gym or doing the WOD’s on the Crossfit website. Your other remaining runs for the week should be: 1) a single long endurance run, preferably spaced at least 48 hours after the toughest Crossfit workout of the week; 2) two easy recovery runs that focus primarily on cadence, footwork, and running form.

Step 2:  If a Crossfit workout is “pull-intensive”, that is, if the workout includes lat and bicep soreness-inducing amounts of deadlifts, pull-ups and rowing machine, modify your swim workouts for the next 48 hours to be either A) switching to easy recovery bike rides or B) purely aerobic swims with an emphasis on drills and skills.

Step 3:  Track your recovery status like crazy. Using a tool such as  Restwise or something as simple as your morning resting heart rate, track any alterations in your recovery status that suggest you could be moving towards the brink of overtraining. When this occurs, skip the next  two  Crossfit workouts, and switch any swim, bike, or run workouts to be aerobic only – nothing above anaerobic or lactate threshold. For the Crossfit workouts that you skipped, it’s OK to do a simple core routine, but no “just go easy” modifications of Crossfit workouts.

Step 4:  If you decide to do Crossfit year round, then do zero, zada, zilch Crossfit during any race weeks, and only do a maximum of two Crossfit routines for the week before race week.

Step 5:  Primarily if you are a marathoner, Half-Ironman, or Ironman triathlete, completely and totally skip your Crossfit workout for 48 hours after any breakthrough endurance training sessions, including workouts like 5 hour bricks, 3-4x 5K’s, 18 mile runs, tempo century bike rides, or any other workout that *may* be mostly aerobic, but is still highly carbohydrate depleting or affects hormonal status significantly.

Finally, as an endnote, understand that the anaerobic, glycolytic nature of Crossfit requires carbohydrates. So do not attempt starved or minimally fueled Crossfit training routines. What does this mean? While a good day of nutrition and a solid dinner the night before can easily fuel a fasted morning Crossfit routine, a long day of work with a negative caloric balance combined with an overnight fast and no breakfast before Crossfit is asking for trouble.

So finally, here’s a glance at what a typical schedule might look like for someone who is combining Crossfit with triathlon or combining Crossfit with aerobic, endurance training.

Day 1:

-easy recovery Run with drills/cadence counts

Day 2:

-Swim or Bike intervals

Day 3:


Day 4:

-No Crossfit
-Swim or Bike Intervals

Day 5:

-Cross fit
-easy recovery Run with drills/cadence counts


Day 6:

-no Crossfit

-long, aerobic run

-swim drill workout

Day 7:

-rest day OR

-long bike with mix of intervals

I do expect questions and comments, so if you have them, just leave them under this post. Also, if you  my  version of Crossfit as a nice little book that you can tuck under your arm and take to the gym with you, just go here to grab  Shape21: The Lean Body Manual.  


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