It all started one fateful day last December. I was watching a rerun of the CrossFit Games and told the Saltines, mostly in jest, that I was going to try CrossFit. As usual, there were many jokes, but they were supportive in spite of seeming unsure if I was serious or not.
As I pursued my CrossFit dreams, my real-life running friends had some things to say:
“I hate CrossFit because my old running friends can never run with me – they are always rehabbing a CrossFit injury.”
“CrossFit is unsafe.”
“CrossFit is like a cult.”
This was, quite frankly, a little rich coming from ultrarunners who I’m pretty sure have been accused of similar or worse themselves.
This also explains my intrigue.
Aside from cults, which I am wholeheartedly against, I routinely do things that other people say are unsafe and sure to lead to injuries. I have, despite others’ assertions, remained injury-free (knock on wood, please don’t jinx me) and safe since I started training for ultras. That’s over three years of running (or hiking, whatever) up and down mountains and consistently running over 100 miles per week for almost a year. Therefore, logically, it was clear that CrossFit would be perfectly safe for me to try. In fact, the potential obstacles made it more alluring. But I didn’t want to give up my running goals. Enter the CrossFit Endurance training plan, which uses the principles of CrossFit to improve your running performance. Perfect! I had to try it. But should you?
Before I get to the nuts and bolts of why the CrossFit Endurance training plan might be a viable alternative to the traditional training plans, I should give a brief review of how I went from a CrossFit skeptic to a CrossFit believer. Initially, I found every book published and read them all, except any book that was less than $5 on Kindle because I am suspicious of books like that. Additionally I watched re-runs of past CrossFit Games. And something happened. If reading and watching were buying the Kool-Aid, I now really wanted to drink it too. Despite all of the warnings about CrossFit and, frankly, my own comments made several times over the past three years, I really liked what I was seeing and reading.
First, and foremost, I loved what I saw about women in CrossFit. Aside from the completely inappropriate and offensive practice of naming workouts after women, the women actually competing in the CrossFit Games are strong, powerful, awesome women. As someone who has struggled with feeling like I needed to be stick-thin, emaciated, and bony, seeing what these women could do helped me to think about my body and my view of an ideal body in a different way. As I watched and read, I found my view of my own body changing. When I felt my thighs touch, I wasn’t repulsed. I felt empowered because maybe this meant my squats and lunges were paying off. I stopped wanting to be tiny and started wanting to be strong. This is a big deal.
From there, I finally worked up the courage to try a CrossFit workout, which was admittedly something better done with parental supervision, but I was too excited to wait. I started with the workout where one does 100 squats while throwing a medicine ball up to bounce it off of a wall. I had to use the lightest medicine ball, of course, and the workout was really hard, but it didn’t kill me and I could still walk the next day. A few days later, again without parental supervision, I tried Murph. Heavily modified, as I can’t do a pull-up and there wasn’t a pull-up bar in my hotel gym anyway to embarrass myself on, this workout was so hard that I wanted to quit almost from the first pushup. But I didn’t because I didn’t want to be the runner who couldn’t finish the running-centric workout. It took me forever to complete, but I felt so amazing when I was done. It was incredible. And I was hooked.
What is the CrossFit Endurance Training Plan?
But what does this have to do with a CrossFit Endurance training plan? The CrossFit Endurance training plan is a performance-focused training plan for runners that mixes CrossFit, high interval training, and the Pose method of running form. Like the original CrossFit training plans, the workouts for the CrossFit Endurance training plan are posted each day here, not written down in rows on a spreadsheet like traditional running plans. According to the man behind the plan, Brian McKenzie, if you swap out a large portion of your mileage for CrossFit and HIIT workouts:
you will become faster, stronger, and more powerful training half the time you typically would for an endurance race. We can make and keep you healthy in a sustainable way. You will decrease your training time while increasing the effectiveness of your training. It is our contention that limiting an endurance athlete’s exposure to constant LSD [long slow distance] training and emphasizing skill, power and speed will not only allow them to stay stronger and healthier, but also allow that same athlete to stay competitive while enjoying training for an endurance event in half the time.
Sounds pretty good!
What Are the Benefits of the CrossFit Endurance Training Plan?
Great for the oft-injured runner: less wear and tear.
Since I am a self-proclaimed rarely injured runner, why would I and maybe you be interested in this? Here’s the deal: last year, I was so sick that I had to be hospitalized and they still don’t know what’s going on. Whatever was going on, the result is that my body won’t support the high mileage training I was doing anymore, but I don’t want to give up my ultra dreams. I love ultras and I love ultrarunners. The CrossFit Endurance method keeps my training hours manageable by replacing it with high-intensity intervals and strength training. If you don’t have the time or a body that can handle lots of running miles, CrossFit might be a viable alternative for you too.
Bored no more! Mix it up!
Second, if I’m being honest, training had really started to get boring. I don’t know how I used to spend so many hours on a treadmill, but those days are gone. My weekend trail long runs were amazing, but they happened only once a week and I really hated the monotony of training. I’d be fine at the beginning of a training plan, but then I start to get bored and want to experiment with other sports and do different things, like triathlons. Traditional training plans don’t exactly work for me because I get bored and end up not following them.
CrossFit Endurance helps me with this for a few reasons: for one, I never know what to expect when I show up for my CrossFit workout and the CrossFIt Endurance website posts the running workouts every day or week, depending on the workout. Because of that, I have no idea what is coming … and I love it. I like the variety, the surprise, and the complete lack of monotony. Plus, it’s fun to know that people everywhere are doing the exact same workouts as I am. Training solidarity!
Finally, I’m choosing CrossFit Endurance for the reasons that I liked CrossFit in the first place. I want to be strong, not tiny. And frankly, if that was the only reason I had? It’d be enough.
The CrossFit Endurance plan is not without controversy. Most important, CrossFit, in general, should begin at a CrossFit gym with a good staff that will train you in the appropriate ways to train without injury. I’ve since joined a CrossFit gym where they kick my butt four to five days a week without mercy and they teach me the correct form for each workout. Anything new, especially when weights are involved, requires careful attention to form. And you have to start slow. I’m treating this season as a rebuilding year, which I’m willing to do if it means I can run that much longer in the future. But it’s worth it for me to keep running.
What do you think about CrossFit? CrossFit Endurance? Have you ever given them a try? If not, are you tempted now?