Today we have a special guest post from Kyle, who recently took it upon himself to try the CrossFit Endurance method to train for a half marathon. Major kudos to Kyle for taking the time to do the research and stay with the program!
An Experiment with Crossfit Endurance
Deadlift 400, back squat 350, compete in 100 mile ultra-endurance runs all while training 9 hours per week or less. I read this and like any endurance runner I was instantly drawn in. This was a claim that Brian Mackenzie made in an interview with Trimax (see interview here). My first thought – “this guy must just be a genetic freak – or lying”. So I decided to investigate. What I found turned my training routine upside down. The program is called Crossfit Endurance (CFE) and it is producing athletes that are competitive in endurance sports while placing an emphasis on training intensity over volume.
Anyone who has taken on typical endurance training will tell you what it takes. Run, run, run and when you’re sick and tired of running, run some more. This is what the CFE crowd calls long slow distance (LSD) training and is quick to point out its flaws. Decreased strength, power and speed are on the long list, along with one that hits home for me personally, overuse injuries. LSD training places a premium on cardiovascular development while downplaying the role of muscular development. Racking up the miles may mentally and to an extent, physically prepare you for an endurance event but it is typically at the cost of cannibalizing muscle – the muscle required to gain speed and carry you through your event.
CFE combines the typical Crossfit structure with high intensity sport specific workouts. Simply put (for a single sport athlete), there are three main targets of the program:
CFE WODs follow a three WOD per week pattern. Typically, the first WOD is focused on short intervals. Think 100 – 200 m repeats. The second WOD is focused on long intervals. Think 400 – 1600m repeats. The third WOD focuses on time trials and tempo runs to track progress and push your aerobic capacity. Think 5K – 15K distance runs. The emphasis on these workouts is high intensity to build speed and push your aerobic and anaerobic capacities while maintaining low volume to prevent overuse.
And that’s it. You’re on the road to half-marathons, marathons and beyond.
Personally, I began the program about three months ago, slowly adding the CFE WODs into my routine. I wanted to experiment with the program while not interrupting my work at Intrepid. I spent a few months doing 2 CFE workouts per week (typically the long intervals and time trials) with the goal of completing a half-marathon after 2 months.
In that 2 months of training I never exceeded 10K in a single workout but watched my lifts go up and my 5K times drop. On the day of the half-marathon I remember having some serious butterflies in my stomach and thinking, “I trained to less than half the distance of this race – how the heck am I going to finish??” Of course, I should have trusted the training. Not only did I finish, I came in under 2 hours (a personal best) and had no flare up of my old overuse injuries (a first at this distance). Needless to say, I’m a believer and have begun incorporating that third CFE WOD into my weekly routine.
For anyone that read this and is interested in trying it out, all of the information you need is online at CrossFit Endurance. The FAQ page has a lot of great information on the program like potential benefits, how to get started, which routines to follow (there are a few), etc. The front page has the CFE WOD (they also post a strength and conditioning WOD, but what we do at Intrepid will fit the bill). Finally, Crossfit Journal has some fantastic videos on the programming of CFE, the scientific concepts underlying the program’s success as well as great running/cycling/swimming drills and technique development videos.
Please note that I wrote this post from a runner’s perspective, but the site also caters to cyclists, swimmers, rowers and multi-sport athletes (though multi-sport athletes have an increased number of CFE WODs per week). See the CFE main site for details on each program.
100 KB Snatches
90 Sit Ups
80 Wall Ball Shots
70 Push Ups
60 Box Jumps
50 Ball Slams
40 Pull Ups
30 OH Lunges
20 Ring Dips
10 Pull Overs (sub ball ups)
Complete the reps together as a team. One partner works while the other rests.