Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crossfit Endurance

As I have said before, I am not a typical endurance athlete.  I came to the world with a sprinter's past and a weight lifter's mentality.  In the years that followed my college track career I got very into a system of training that is currently gaining immense popularity known as Crossfit.  Back in 2005 some members at my unit and I adopted their daily workout strategy and quickly believed that it would quickly become the new standard in fitness - and simply be "the norm" for how real athletes train. 
Fast forward to today, and you see a guy who uses a traditional periodization style LSD based training program for getting ready for races.  By the end of a 70.3 training schedule I am dying to get back to Crossfitting for just a few weeks in order to recover some of the strength and speed that fade over the miles and miles of endurance training.  And if weak and frail is how I feel by the end of a 70.3 program, I wonder how I'll feel after this year's Ironman...? 

I recently discovered a coaching program that claims to be able to use a Crossfit-style traning strategy to prepare athletes for Ironman distance events.  By improving what they refer to as anaerobic endurance, they state that an athlete can enter a 140.6 distance race in greater overall health (strength, speed, endurance) than using traditional methods while training less than 10-12 hours per week. 

I have tried Crossfit Endurance workouts in the past, and was blown away by their intensity.  At the time, I was training for my first 70.3 - but in the end I failed to commit and transitioned to LSD type training a couple of months prior to the event.

I am currently considering the possibility of committing to a Crossfit Endurance style program to prepare for IM FL in November.  The risks of adopting such an "unorthodox" strategy include the added consideration that such a coaching program is not exactly inexpensive.  Thus, committing to a CFE plan is literally quite a gamble when you consider entry fees and 4-6 months of coaching costs (not to mention the risk of a dreaded DNF.)

And so, I thought I'd ask the experts out there: 
Do you think this is feasible?  
Can an IM virgin put up a sub-12hr finish based on interval and strength style training alone? 
Or is simply putting in the miles the only way to go?

*Post Draft Addition*
While discussing this with a friend of mine, he informed me that Crossfit Endurance was featured in a Triathlete Magazine article just a couple of months ago.  Coincidence?  Or fate?  

BTW, don't forget about the Finis Lap Tracker Giveaway.  Donate some cash to help Japan and you get FIVE entries.


  1. That is an interesting concept. I don't know anything really about crossfit. I am interested to see what you find out.

  2. show me a sub 10 IM athlete and maybe ill believe it... until then im not impressed.... heheheheh :)-

  3. There's more than one way to skin a cat. But, don't go into some "alternative" training "system" thinking it will take less time/effort. The workouts will be different but I'm sure you'll still need to be prepared to get your ass handed to you on a regular basis during your workouts. :)

  4. Crossfitting makes you a good at crossfit.

    S/B/R'ing makes you better at Swim, Bike, Run.

    Dont waste your time.

  5. Look up Gale Bernhardt's 13 weeks to a 13 hour Ironman training schedule. I've talked to a few people who've tried that schedule and posted just over 12-hour Ironmans on their first try.

    I'm tempted to side with Heidi Austin and her sub-10 hour Ironman comment. I think for a lot of athletes in decent shape and a bit of endurance training, a 12 hour Ironman is achievable. 10 hours begins to be the real tough.

    I also say this having never raced one myself and still training for my first 70.3 though, so take it with a grain of salt.

    I think alternative training methods are the future for sure, but for every one that works, how many are there that will flop? I'm more of a fan of the straight endurance training with additive alternative cross-training.

  6. I don't know anything about crossfit, but I have been surprised by the overall lack of strength training in a lot of the IM plans I looked at. I am following the Matt Fitzgerald plan but fully intend on keeping up P90X, even if it is only a day or two a week.

    Is it possible to do a combination of the crossfit program and the more traditional training?

  7. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. John brings up a good point about specificity...and danny is right on about crossfit not being a shortcut - anyone who has ever done "Helen" knows that a 50 mile ride is cake by comparison...Right now i think IM by 30 is on the right track with a balanced approach.
    And no, Heidi, i'm not breaking 10 hours.

  8. Austin,

    Am working my way from Oly dist to 1/2 iron man (2012). Also shaving marathon times to the 3:30 Boston Q.

    I began crosstraining in Oct 2009 to rehab a bad satorial. My first round was P90x (which at the the time totally kicked my butt). I stumbled into CF in January and have done it for over a year - 8 months with great affiliate coaching, 6 months as home/Y.

    I do blend in the CFE programming but have altered it a bit.

    1. I'm incorporating more of the disavowed CF founder approaches - which provide some planning on the "WOD". As a Ironman you're getting some strong metcon. The bigger payoff I've found is quality, lower rep Oly lifting and form. The Rhabdo cases continue to rise (see even University of Iowa) and the mix of some workouts seems to border on the ridiculous. Check out from Catalyst Athletics and Michael Rutherford’s Max Effort Black Box. That brings a little more sanity for 2-3 good "strength" workouts a week.

    2. I love Brian MacKenzie's fire and have incorporated 2-3 of the CFE workouts a week. Sometimes though I want to crank a 20 mile run or hit some Yasso 800's or bike 30-50 or swim 2 miles. Why feel guilty for a good SBR workout?

    3. I'm seeking a good alternative that has a foundation of great coaching (what I have here with an affiliate) with some plan as I prepare for marathon in 2 and 1/2 weeks, Pike's Peak Double in August,Boston Q in Fall and 1/2 iron man next June. I fully embrace the need and benefit of strength training and metcon that compliments the tri/ sbr training. Sometimes though I think pulling the specific exercises from a metcon that work (jump rope, box jumps, walking lunges) versus ones that just over strain body parts (wall ball shots) makes more sense..


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