How to Use CrossFit like a Triathlete

How to Use CrossFit Like a Triathlete

By Nathan Helming • For

CrossFit (CF) has become incredibly popular over the past few years. It has gained attention worldwide among both the fitness-loving masses and performance-minded endurance athletes.

Many triathletes, however, are skeptical of the program given CrossFit’s “hardcore” reputation, and have thus far chosen to pass on CrossFit in favor of more conservative strength training approaches. However, with more and more endurance athletes regularly using CrossFit these days, CrossFit’s reputation is changing for the better.

More: Why Short Workouts Can Help Build Endurance

In my previous article, I outlined five ways in which an intelligent CrossFit program can benefit triathletes. CrossFit teaches proper body mechanics; it identifies athletic weakness and imbalance and provides tools to address them; it builds greater strength, power, agility and speed; it develops and builds true functional strength; and finally it develops skills that transfer to specific endurance sports.

In other words, CrossFit can expose the causes of overuse injuries and minimize them. And it can help improve athletic performance overall.

More: How CrossFit Can Benefit Triathletes

This follow up article provides practical advice on how to effectively incorporate a CrossFit program into your regular swim, bike and run schedule. Follow these five steps to blend CrossFit into your routine for the chance to enjoy fewer injuries and greater racing success this season.

1) Do your research.

CrossFit gyms seem to be popping up on all street corners these days. Choose one that has a history, a good reputation in your community and a thorough basics or “on ramp” program.

Ideally you want a gym (or “box” in CF parlance) that has experienced coaches who work with endurance athletes or who are endurance athletes themselves. For example, San Francisco CrossFit has a well-trained and experienced endurance staff, and endurance athlete-specific CrossFit classes.

2) Be responsible for your own limiters and weakness.

Many athletes come to CrossFit with one pre-existing condition or another. Own your injury by letting your coach know before the workout. The instructor can keep an extra eye on you and offer specific suggestions to get you back to health more quickly and/or to prevent a frustrating re-injury. That’s a win-win.

More: Eliminate Excuses: No Buts About It

3) Prioritize mobility, lifting mechanics, strength, power and metabolic conditioning in that order.

The deeper you get into your own specific and demanding workouts (track, tempo, hills, long rides/runs) and the competitive season, the less you are able to handle everything that CrossFit can throw at you. That’s ok. When push comes to shove, you should focus on the basics: mobility, good movement mechanics and strength.

If you are new and/or are fatigued from your endurance training, you can conservatively avoid the high intensity (and riskier) power and metabolic conditioning workouts.

More: 6 Exercises for a Balanced Body


4) Prioritize your sport.

CrossFit is becoming a competitive sport with its own sponsors, competitions and professional athletes. Similar to professional triathletes, these CrossFit athletes demonstrate incredible ability and work capacity through a combination of talent and hard work. It can be easy to get sucked into their competitions, forgetting your own racing season and your own purpose for being there. Remember, you are an endurance athletes using CrossFit for your own competitive ends. You should purposely avoid racing in CrossFit so it doesn’t detract from your primary endurance goals.

More: How to Set Inspiring Goals

5) Be patient and keep a long view.

CrossFit will expose you to a whole new and exciting world of technical Olympic lifting, power lifting and gymnastic movement. Be patient with yourself and enjoy being a “newbie” athlete all over again. The majority of injuries that occur in CF are when athletes rush too soon into workouts with too much intensity.

A good CrossFit coach will slow you down and emphasize technique, consistency in movement and intensity, in that order. Remember, (similar to endurance sports) it takes years to sufficiently develop the motor control, positional strength and capacity to run with the top athletes and at your full potential.

More: Why Technique is Vital to Performance

CrossFit can bring an enormous added value to your endurance program and provide a new athletic spark for the season. To safely incorporate CrossFit into your endurance training: do your research, take responsibility for your own limitations, prioritize mobility and movement mechanics over everything else, prioritize your sport, and finally be patient with your progress. If you follow these steps you will have the ultimate success: fewer injuries and greater performances in this upcoming season and in seasons to come. Train well.

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