Friday, January 6, 2012

Calling Bullshit on CrossFit Endurance

A couple of days ago the February issue of Runner's World arrived in the mail. I saw they had a preview of the Olympic Marathon Trials and since I will be attending this year, began to page through the issue.

However, I stopped on page 46 at the article titled:
Totally Fit: Devotees of an intense new training regimen say you don't need long runs to train for distance running - By Selene Yeager

This article is all about CrossFit Endurance (CFE) and how it can replace your normal running routine. If you are asking what CrossFit Endurance is click here to read more. Here is the description from Ms. Yeager from the article:
"...CrossFit Endurance (CFE), a high-intensity, low-volume training plan that blends CrossFit conditioning (i.e., heavy, explosive strength training) with sprints, time trials and tempo workouts. Goodbye, long runs. CFE reduces mileage to as much as one-quarter the average of a typical marathon program."

That sounds glorious! Sign me up ...

Now I am very aware of what CF and CFE are and actually think they are very solid programs for maintaining a fit and balanced lifestyle. In fact, before I became an endurance athlete, I was very involved with P90X and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts which encompass many of the same principles of CF. These types of workouts made me very fit and I looked better with my shirt off doing these workouts then I do now. I will make that concession right now - CrossFit makes you more buff than running!

You know what these workouts did not do? Make me a better long distance runner.

Maybe I am old school or maybe I am just skeptical of snake oil? I believe it takes more then 6mins to get ripped up abs and have experienced first-hand how increased volume can lead to increased performance. CFE takes the principle of Specificity and stands it on its head.  They say get stronger and get faster by not running all that much - this is just plain wrong.

Am I suggesting that weight training has no benefits to runners? Absolutely not.

What I am suggesting is that if you have 8hrs a week to train for a marathon that time would be much more beneficial if used for running as opposed to dead lifting empty beer kegs. The principles of CFE disagree with this according to the last line of the above citation, "Goodbye, long runs. CFE reduces mileage to as much as one-quarter the average of a typical marathon program."


Now to give Ms. Yeager credit, this is not a complete fluff piece. Aside from looking for advice on the RW Forum, she does go the extra step and interview a CFE enthusiast (James Herrera) who slightly contradicts the opening of the CFE article with this statement:
"I'm a firm believer in HIIT, but I still feel a runner - especially a new runner - has to cover about 75 percent of the distance in training for a marathon to prepare for those elements." 

Okay, now that I have given my thoughts on CFE I want to talk about what stood out to me that wasn't in the article:  Race Results from those training exclusively using CFE.

Usually when we are being sold a new "kind" of training/regimen/product we always are shown the successes.  Maybe this got cut from the RW article? Maybe the writer chose to just focus on the idea and left out the results?

Or maybe these impressive race results just do not exist?

I did some searching online and over the CFE website and found a couple of CFE blogs and nothing was really impressive in terms of race times. I hate to sound like an elitist but I found a couple of 4+hr marathons and 6+hr 50ks but nothing considered fast.  I am not trying to downplay the success of those who accomplished these races but would really like to see some proof from the CFE camp that this type of training does work.

So I guess my question is if CFE is so wonderful then why are the results not being pimped all over the internet? Why can I not find any pro runners or triathletes who are preaching CFE? Was Chuck Norris unavailable for the infomercial?

So tell me, what are your thoughts on CFE? Have you tried it and do you believe it can replace traditional marathon training like suggested in the article? And Mr. CF cult member, please show me some fast results.

Thanks for Reading,

Jeff

85 comments:

  1. If I wanted to do pure strength training, I would look into CFE. It looks quite appealing in what it has to offer, but it needs to stop there when CFE starts blending with endurance sports. You wanna ride long and be successful? Than ride long.

    There is the whole "work" formula of work = volume * intensity, meaning that you can go super hard for short periods and essentially create the same amount of "work" had you instead gone longer but at low intensity. I think for a sprint distance triathlete, this works, but us long course triathletes, GO LONG BABY!

    I should also add that I would do CFE for pure strength to limit future injuries.

    Finally, why is there such a beef with CFE athletes vs triathletes? I could care less, but they see us as the anti-christ! CFE is an apple, and triathlon is an orange. Two VERY different things!

    Rant, OVER!

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  2. Wait to you see what they say to do on the bike, 21 mins in the saddle wont get it done for a 70.3 or further

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    1. I have completed IM-WI in 11:15:10 and the Pinhoti 100 in 26:33:15 with doing CFE. My longest run was 15 miles, I had no injuries and was back to training a week later after the race. Commit, educate yourself, eat right and sleep right. It is all about the recovery. Oh and by the way, I did Ironman in my first year of triathlon and same goes for my 100 mile ultra. Just saying unless you commit 100% to it don't knock it. It works!

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    2. Nicholas - Not to say that CFE doesn't work for some folks, I will say that I finished VT100 in under 19 hours on long/slow runs only (and yes, I was also back racing a week later - 5 miler in about 33:30)...long/slow runs work also. As has been said here by folks on both sides - everyone is different, so find what works for you and do it!
      I myself do enjoy CF, and do my share of it every winter to build some strength and mix it up - but then let it drop off as mileage increases every spring - and my successes have been more due to the mileage I run than the few months of strength training every winter.

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  3. very interesting post - i did crossfit a few years ago - and it definitely did NOT make me a better long distance runner. the diehard crossfit folks there definitely looked down upon triathletes and marathoners. quite sad.

    perhaps pro triathletes do not do CFE because um, it doesnt work? that, or maybe they are so sore from the damn 10 minute workouts that they cant get on their bikes for 8 hours? am really interested in hearing the comments you get.

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  4. Thanks for this post! First of all I think CF & CFE is good for a lot of people(it's just not for me) and helps people look at their eating habits and do strength training. I think people that would never consider lifting are now doing so through CF - so that's great.

    BUT I totally can't stand the mantra of "CF is the ONLY answer". Sorry - I don't buy it. I an a new runner(been running for 4 months) but I am endurance mtn biker. The gym I go to The Alpine Training Center in Boulder, CO make the CF workouts look like kids play and it all about getting you ready to play hard outside and not get ready for the "CF Olympics"

    I wouldn't be so annoyed with CF if they weren't so militant in their righteousness.

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  5. Jon summed it up nicely. I know quite a few CF guys and they all 100% believe I would be a better runner and triathlete if I did the workouts they did. This despite the fact that I can smoke each and everyone of them at any race?

    CF has it's place, I just do not understand why they think it is in the world of endurance sports?

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  6. BRG - "I wouldn't be so annoyed with CF if they weren't so militant in their righteousness."

    You should have written my post (-:

    My feelings exactly. The RW article was just the final push.

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  7. ha, jeff, laughing at your comment - this made me remember one time i was running a half-marathon...now, i am not a fast runner by any means, and just broke 2 hours like last year. but i passed a guy and a girl wearing crossfit shirts. while they could benchpress me, do pushups with me on their back, or do 1,000 burpees to my 1, they certainly were not going to beat me in an endurance race!

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    1. I think most in the crossfit community take on other endeavors (running a race) to challenge themselves in various areas of fitness. Your comment is no less elitist than what the CF community is accused of. Subsequently, all boxes are run by different owners and thus have varying views.

      Our head trainer/owner Jason Rice ran a sub 3:17 marathon with only one long run on the weekend and he is most likely going to the regionals for the Crossfit comp. Having said that, he admits that different programs give different results and you have to experiment what's right for you by trial and error.

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    2. Crossfit is for total fitness, not to make you the best ______ (fill in the blank). I'd rather finish a few minutes after you and look like a greek god than a skinny gazelle with toothpick legs and t-rex arms. To each his own, at least you are all out having a good time enjoying an active lifestyle.

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  8. I saw this and was just as skeptical. Running long is so mental - even if I was strong or fit enough to run long, how do you train for the mental stregth necessary to run long without actually doing it?

    I don't buy it.

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    1. CF's short intense workouts are far more mentally challenging then running long distances. I find myself more mentally comfortable at the end of a long run then I do 3 min into my CF workouts. Try it

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    2. Running faster on your long runs takes mental practice. I've been following this post because I do a muscle endurance heavy bootcamp that incorporates lots of crossfit movements, and I am starting to see a trend between more running and better race results. I love my classes, but I love running gains more.

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  9. Cross Fit can stand on its own as an excellent, balanced fitness system. However, as a replacement for long runs for those training for long course races... I DON'T THINK SO!!!

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    1. Have you tried it? I talked the same crap as everyone else on here until I gave it a shot for a full year. I became better at everything. It sounds crazy but it really works. I am 205lb guy who completed IM-WI in 11:15:10 and the Pinhoti 100 in 26:33:15 with very little distance. I swear by it.

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  10. Thank you for posting this. I thought the exact same thing when I read the article.. How in the world can you run only 1/4 of the mileage and do a great marathon? No way!

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  11. Miles in, miles out. It is as simple as that. There is no magic bullet. No single magic workout. It is hard work (and lots of it) that is going to make you a better swimmer/cyclist/runner/etc.

    Is CrossFit good for you? I'm sure it is - just like any exercise is good for you. But, I'm with you. Don't try and sell me some BS that I can do CFE instead of running and yet become a better runner.

    Maybe it is true through and we are doing something wrong with Adv Marathoning. Here we are 4x-ing our mileage instead of 1/4th-ing it. haha

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  12. It works.

    You can see variations of it 'work' at marathons all over.

    I'm being cynical here, but lets face it - all those overweight soccer moms and walkers that took over marathons years ago are evidence that your average couch potatoe can complete a marathon. Notice I didn't say RUN a marathon. We all know they end up injured or walking, and are not doing themselves any favours.

    People want the fast food, instant-gratification, pill popping solution to their obesity issue. So what is better than to sell them on 'do a fraction of the work for the same results!'. Sounds like a marketing company that knows what people want to hear.

    Nothing will ever beat SPORT SPECIFIC training.

    Cross-Fit has NEVER produced a Triathlon champion or remotely close.

    If you want to be good at cross fit, then do cross fit(it can make you overall-fit). If you want to be a capable runner, then run.


    While we're on it - replace crossfit with yoga etc. Yoga will not make you faster, but it will make you fitter. You might have gone faster doing yoga but Correlation does not equal Causation.

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  13. oh and since alot of people here believe in Yoga, I would like to also point out the obvious:

    Yoga makes you more overal fit and can be great for you, but they dont go around boasting that they are a direct substitution for sport specific training. Yoga and others compliment your already existing training.

    CF marketing is at fault here. I would like to think they are not helping themselves by making false claims, but who cares - they make a ton of money probably because people WANT to believe it. Besides, most don't stick around long enough to find out anyways. See Gym Memberships and lack of attendance lol
    Same thing.

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  14. I need to read the article but have had conversations with a CF owner and it drove me nuts to hear the underlying statement of 'I'm right and you're wrong'

    I'm sorry but I weigh 145 lbs and run a 3:31 marathon and I don't see how throwing a 9000lb tire across a field is going to make me run faster.

    As you know I believe in strength training but I use it to keep my body strong enough to avoid injury from overuse during swim/bike/run. I'm also nearing 40 and I need to keep my body always thinking so that it can get stronger and that is where the strength training comes in.

    I have a finite # of hours to train and you will see me in a yoga class before you see me box jumping.

    The notion that one size fits all is also so wrong. There are guidelines to live by but not a flat out 'this is the only way to do it'

    And lastly......Ryan Hall doesn't look like he is doing CF and yet he is the fastest male American. Call me crazy but if I want to be fast at the marathon that is the body I want to have and not Hulk Hogan's.

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  15. Been similarly skeptical. As much as I'd like to bag the long run for my spring marathon training in exchange for CF, I'm just not comfortable running 26.2 with a 10mi long run.

    I've traded the junk miles for CF, but keeping the speedwork/tempo/long runs.

    We'll see how it goes.

    No reason for either camp to go all elitist for sure. Good post.

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    1. I ran a 3:35 marathon this week... I Crossfit a couple times a week, run about 3x a week, and also play soccer. I have gotten a good bit faster lately and have had no injuries and I believe that has a lot to do with training with a combination of the two. My brother also ran his first marathon with me and finished in 3:35 as well with almost no long runs, just CF/CFE training.
      I still run long once a week but I don't do the same mileage that a lot of my running friends do, and I've had great races.

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  16. I ran some respectably fast 5k and 10k races training exclusively with wieghts and competitive racquetball (very explosive movements) circa 2003 - 2004, about the same paces I hold now. I cannot speak to results for true endurance events but suspect they pale compared to aerobic only training.

    I browsed through the crossfit endurance link and found the content and testimonials to be quite reasonable. It seems to attract folks with injury history or limited time who prioritize muscle mass over endurance prowess. They are able to compete in the endurance events they love with much less committment. No where did it say times would be faster but claims were made to being in a better balanced state of overall fitness. Of note the testimonials came from people with a base, not new to endurance sports.

    I am currently doing a lot of Jiu Jitsu to add muscle and training for a 50k by doing long runs and recovery runs. Because I want to keep speed I have been doing some tempo work. Balancing long aerobic workouts and short high intensity efforts is my biggest concern. I feel too much in either direction is not desirable, but then again we all have different goals and means of acheiving them.

    I look forward to reading the article when it comes in the mail. A lot of journalists have a way of representing things in a light that does not accurately capture something and the nuances involved. I do dislkie militant righteousness mentioned earlier but such does not discredit 100% of an idea.

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  17. Hi Jeff~

    I'm glad that you bring this up because early this week I was torn between taking up CF after going in for a class and spending $120/month. My biggest issue with committing was whether this would help or hurt my endurance training. I love strong but, I want fast and I knew my times wouldn't improve with this kind of training in place of swimming, biking or running. At the end of the day, I realized that I'm and endurance athlete and the amount of strength I incorporate each week already, is enough to help me prevent injury and keep me strong year round. So I recommend CF for people whose intentions are focused on weight lose and muscle toning.

    DonnaG
    donnaslifestyle.blogspot.com

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  18. I think the major fault with CFE isn't with their training plan, it is with their communication of it.

    I bet it is a much better choice for someone that is just trying to get off the couch and FINISH a marathon. Likely because it works a lot of other muscles and helps prevent overuse or imbalance-related injuries. The problem is that if you are already a runner or other athlete, CFE will help you reduce your training hours but not your time. You hit an instant plateau.

    So if you are a runner who has a new job or baby and can't train as much but still want to do marathons, CFE may be for you. As long as you aren't expecting much progress in your finishing times.

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  19. I just wrote a really long reply to this and then it wouldn't save it! Basically I know quite a few people who have training exclusively with CFE, some being CF coaches and some just people who do CF. The common thread seems to be they are all fit people and could probably finish a marathon without much training anyway. They were mostly able to finish marathons but I'm talking like the coaches did 4:30 races and the other people 6+ hours. The ones I know using it hate running and just do the CFE so they can get the shirt and finish. If you want a respectable time you have to put the shoes on and run. I used to do a lot of crossfit and you are right I never looked better... I also did a 5:20 marathon that year and this year a 4:05 with zero crossfit and lots of running.

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    1. I have no idea what your training is like but as I said earlier. I switched to CFE and dropped my marathon to 3:15, my 100 mile on 16,000 total feet of elevation to 26:33:15, and my Ironman as around 11:15. It works. I swear by it but I find that people give up to quickly. They want to blame it on the program but don't take the time to analyze their nutrition, recovery, or technique, or programming enough to really make a difference. CFE puts out a general guideline, from there it needs to be customized to fit your needs. Check out Ben Greenfield fitness for your nutrition along with CFE for one year. It works.

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  20. Oh and also I'm not sure the paleo (which many of them follow) diet is really conducive to long distance sports unless you plan your meals VERY carefully. I trained with a girl on paleo and she died at mile 12 everytime. I told her to eat some brown rice the night before we ran or don't come.

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    1. I eat sweet potato the night before my long runs, never felt better!

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  21. Now, I'm no expert, but I do have a degree in exercise phys and nobody can change my mind when it comes to the principles of specificity. Muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular are developed in different ways. All work well together but you can't develop muscular strength by running a marathon and you can't run a marathon by weight training (or in this case, cross fit). It's simple science. As I began to read your post, the first thing I thought of was, let's see the marathon times for the people who are doing CF to train for a marathon. Physiologically, it doesn't add up.
    Personally, I would love to participate in CF workouts but I am a little afraid of getting injured and not being able to do the thing that I most love and that is swim/bike/run. I'll stick to my boring weight training routines here at home that are safe and sound.

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  22. I don't know.... but
    I did read this book one time on how to train for an Ironman on one hour per day..

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  23. I wonder how much crossfit the Kenyans are doing?

    Honestly I dont know anything about these pre-packaged neatly marketed workout schemes. All I know is I actually like running and biking that last 25% as well as going to the gym.

    And lastly snobbery of any kind is something i want nothing to do with.

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  24. When I saw the title of this post I thought "Oh boy, here we go!". I've found that CF fans tend to be a bit upset when you question "their ways". I've considered signing up for CF and visited their local gym, but I just couldn't match what they were doing with my endurance goals. I'm a firm believer in "you have to put in the miles". Strength training will always be important to endurance athletes, but as a total percentage of time, "CF type" work should be small. I've enjoyed reading the comments and I'm glad they have been balanced and thoughtful.

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  25. I read that article too. I dont buy it but mostly I wonder: if you don't want to run that bad that you need an avoidance workout, why bother???? I run because I love it. Why would I substitute something else???

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  26. I agree the claim is BS though the program is probably good for cardio and strength and surely better than sitting on the couch.

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  27. Great post and I couldn't agree more. CF has it's benefits for sure but it is not something that can replace sport specific training. People will always search for a "short-cut" when it comes to hard work but it's the hard work that will pay off in the end.

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  28. Thanks. I thought the runners world article was a bit ridiculous but never could have expressed myself as well as you or all of your commenters have. Info believe on strength training but I know I simply need to run bike and swim more. And there's no way that article provides enough for an endurance athlete. Tho if followed, I'd have more time on my hands. Good review tho!

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  29. Apart from CF, there seems to be a lot of authors pushing interval rather than endurance training. I think lean more towards the FIRST program, where you run MUCH lower duration, but MUCH higher speed/intensity in order to get faster. I can see how the old go slow to get fast might be eventually discredited.

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  30. Could a program like that be beneficial, sure. If one simply wants to finish a marathon they could probably go either way. If one wants to excel and have fast times, nothing will replace the physical and psychology demands on your body that you will experience come race day like long runs wills. Also, during long runs one can work on their hydration/nutrition plan.

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  31. PS I cam up from behind on a guy dressed head to toe in Cross Fit cycling kit today. I dusted him in your honor...

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  32. I don't know enough about CF but I am a believer in the Church of Specificity (+1 JohnP). I'm not saying that there isn't a role for it as part of a training plan but not at the expense of specific training.

    Wonder what would happen if Tebow endorsed some training regimen?

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  33. A few friends and my boyfriend did a crossfit endurance WOD to test out the program as a promotional deal with our tri club. The guys at the gym expected them to fail miserably, but they ended up beating all/most of the crossfit guys. I think it is a great program, but it isn't an endurance athlete program. I think there is an article on trifuel that says that you can do both to get stronger, but you won't be able to use the level of weight or have the weight improvements crossfit expects. It also said that you may have increased fatigue which causes your endurance workouts to suffer

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  34. The problem I have with CrossFit is that it seems to be so geared toward finishing FAST so form gets ignored and injuries happen. We had someone who was a CF junkie join my core training class and they couldn't even make it through our training as they were doing everything wrong.
    I think CF is a good tool but NOT a substitute.

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  35. I read that article once, but looked at the pictures many many many times! (of the girl, not the dude)

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  36. I have taken 2 things from this post. And I want to thank you in advance for this.

    #1 - Re-order my snake oil supplies... they are running low.

    #2 - Open a CF in Kenya. Obviously I can capitalize off of this because the damn Kenyans have obviously been doing something wrong by running carrying goats or bags of rice on their shoulders all this time.

    Thank you for my newest career endeavor. Heather will be more than thrilled w/ this move.

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  37. I've been doing crossfit and cf endurance for little while now. In a past life, I was a competitive cyclist but got out of that and began doing crossfit maybe 3 or 4 years ago. I do cf because I like it - not because I think it will make me a better endurance athlete.

    That said, this past weekend I ran my first marathon (my second ever running race) and finished under 3:00. I was happy, I probably could've done better if I only trained for running, but who knows, maybe I would've gotten injured or burned-out. I haven't had a injury in four years, at least not one related to a cf workout. The day after I finished the marathon, I was out mountain biking with some friends and we went bouldering in the evening. I feel great, no soreness whatsoever. When I was only a runner or cyclist, I felt like a ligament or tendon was about to snap or break at any moment.

    I agree there's a lot of BS and bravado in the crossfit world, maybe cfe is worse in that regard. Still, cf is not all bro-dudes and board shorts, there're a lot of cool people at my gym, and I really enjoyed their company. I like doing it, I don't really care about anything else.

    I do wish CF and CFE would drop some of the marketing BS though, I agree it's hard to take them seriously when they make such stupid, obviously false claims. For that reason I tend to NOT discuss cf with my running and cycling friends.

    Is it for everyone? Is it going to produce the next world champion? Certainly not (despite what the d!ckhead creator might say). But I can confidently say that I'm in better all-around shape than ever before. I'm not as fast as when I was only a cyclist, but it allows me to ski, climb, run, bike, surf and do all the other things I love at 85-90% proficiency. This summer I'm doing a 24 hour mtb race and a 100 mile mtb race, I'll probably do more longer rides, but I'm going to keep doing a few cf workouts each week, just because I like doing them.

    Just my 2 cents-

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  38. I am a bit disturbed that I cant get ripped up abs in 6mins. Now I will have to rethink my training plans for the year.

    I believe CF is a good all over strength training program but I don't see how it could help a person become a long distance runner.

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    1. It helps a distance runner become faster and stronger. But there has to be a balance and I do not completely buy into CFE but I do at our Crossfit box.

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  39. snake oil YES! the crossfit thing is one of my soapboxes, i couldn't agree more.

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    1. Could you expand on that? We have track and field athletes in our box who blow away the hardcore runners at long distances. Those same hardcore marathon runners cannot even jump unto a 12" box.

      Why does that matter?

      Plyometrics help with building explosiveness, speed and strengthining the lower body to prevent overuse injuries.

      And before anyone starts about my credentials, I am an Ultra runner (8:26 50 mile) and did the polar dash half in Chicago under crappy conditions in 1:43:43 this past January using mainly Crossfit.

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  40. Cross Fit gives you a ripped and awesome looking body. Now who can argue the benefit of that? Or specifically, the benefit of looking at a someone at the beach who has done cross fit successfully? (Wowie Zowie!) So it makes (him) a bit slower...at least they look great zooming by...and you can look just a bit longer too. Just sayin'.... ;)

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  41. I did a general CF program for about 6 months before deciding to run my first marathon just 5 weeks out. This left me with just 4 weeks of hard training to figure things out. Longest run I did was a 10k and I used nothing but CFE programing I ran the Davy Crockett Bear Chase in Houston in 3:36:19. Again no other training the CFE and only decided to do it 4 weeks out.

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  42. I am way late on the train but CFE did work for me. I managed a 8:30 double marathon. Is it a pro time not but not too bad either. I also felt fully recovered in 3 days. Just my 2 cents. However, I also understood how to program and realized how much volume I could take and built my own program based on this.

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  43. I am a little surprised that this wasn't mentioned in any of the comments, but P90X is NOT Crossfit; therefore, the author is not qualified to evaluate Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance. Also, Crossfit and Crossfit Endurance are not the same thing. Sure, CFE uses CF principles, but it does also incorporate long and short interval training with a long run on the weekend.

    Most of these comments are from people who have never done CF or CFE training - it's simply a mob mentality in my mind. No one has any idea what's going on, yet "Crossfit is stupid!" This does not hold water with me whatsoever. I, personally, have done half marathons utilizing 20-30 miles/week with no strength training, using CF only, or CF/CFE with a long run on Sunday. My results were basically the same if I used the 20-30 miles/week or the CF only methods. I had much better times with the CF/CFE methods/longish run (usually a 60-90 minute tempo run). We're talking about greater than 30 seconds per mile faster.

    Now, with my 26.2 mile race training, I am strict about using the CF/CFE/1 long run for the entirety of my training. I am much less sore after these races than those where I did 20-30 miles/week for a 13.1.

    My old coach recently did a 10:23 Ironman using the CF/CFE/long run training for less than 10 hours/week TOTAL. Admittedly, he was shooting for sub-10, but got a flat tire and also got sick during the race from a Clif bar that didn't go down right; otherwise, he was right on track for his goal. Again, only using CF/CFE/1 long run priciples and less than 10 hours weekly training.

    With all that being said, the CF/CFE method works if done properly. Please don't be so quick to judge if you have never done it. The author of this articcle is especially guilty of this!

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  44. I am a crossfitter & I don't necessarily agree with that statement. I think to train for a marathon, you need to run like a marathoner. Crossfit workouts can certainly replace some runs, but long runs are still important. In my search of which sport I wanted to compete regularly in, I tried them all ... half marathon, duathlon, triathlon, & Crossfit. I made many observations in my training as I really enjoyed all of them. I finally settled on Crossfit because I felt most "fit" during my Crossfit training (I trained for all 4 separately over the course of several years). I also observes the average Crossfit athlete verses the average triathlete .... & the crossfitter had the physique I desired. Because of my years of running I can out-run (speed &H distance) than many of my fellow Crossfiters, but several can still beat me on strength.

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  45. Hey Jeff,
    Haven't visited your blog in a while and was googling marathon stuff today and saw this post so I obviously had to pay you a visit... even if I am a little late to the conversation.

    As discussed on my old blog after my 2011 tri season I decided to switch to cfe for the off season. This was partially because of wanting shorter workouts, partially because of integrated strength training That i needed for my job, and for a new approach since i had 3 marathon fails do to overuse injuries around the 20 mile mark in my programs even wHen following a training program created for me based on my season Created by a certified usat and usatf coach.

    Before i share my thoughts i think it is noteworthy to mention that it seems many of your readers seem to use cf and cfe interchangebly Although they are not the same at all. Cfe, like cf football has sport specific workouts, plus cf metcons for muscular endurance, and strength specific. I have read several articles by fitness experts because of that think cfe and cf football are actually better programs than cf because being more well rounded. The supposed benefit of the strength and conditioning workouts are building strong him drive which is important for runners for speed and to avoid injuries. It also is done in an aerobic state which also is supposed to build endurance capacity.

    My thought and results: following the program (for 3 sports) i did see improvement in body composition and strength. Running a sub 20 5k and being able to pull 350 off the ground is a cool feeling. I did see improvements in my 5k and 10k. I lost progress on the bike, and Short course swimmming got faster while long course slowed. In both the bike and swim i think it was for a lack of long non-tempo work. On the run i had tempos of up to 15m in length and in my opinion that is substantial distance. Some may say that the results may be based on previous conditioning level, however anyone who does their homework with cfe would learn that it is recommended you have a base fitness level before begining. For instance it is recommended you already be able to run 90 minutes continous.

    Having actually trained with this method do i think it could be used to run a marathon? Yes and no. When i first found cfe, a year before i started using it, the rxed workouts were broken down based on race distance. They no longer do this and i believe it is because it doesnt work as written for long or ultra course. I have talked to several usat coaches who think the training is great for oly distance. I have had extensive conversation with a usat coach in tx who is also cf level 1 coach. She uses cfe BASED programming to coach 70.3 and ironman athletes, however she feels that the at these distances it is integral to add a weekly long run or run or swim or brick. I think using a similiar approach fast marathon results could happen, especially for guys like me who May have builds and skill sets atypical to the average endurance athlete. I dont think the metcon portion will help with endurance for long races, although great for 5k, but can be positive for injury prevention.

    -Luke the former fatlete

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  46. Alright, I gotta stick in my two cents. I'm a CrossFitter..in fact I own a CrossFit Box here in Utah. And Yes I also endurance train. I think most CrossFit trainers know that in order to hit a marathon, or even a half for some of my athletes they need to supplement their training with long runs. There is no avoiding it.
    But I have found that with sprint training I can get my athletes to improve their mile times waaaay faster than when we focus on the long runs. And yes, it does translate over. Now am I producing all Boston qualifiers, no. But like I tell my athletes,"Why do you run in the first place?" Most of us started this type of training to get Fit. Not to go beat the pants of some guy in Kenya. So yeah, do we make some sacrifices in our runs to also kick butt in the gym? Yes.
    Most of my new athletes come to me with hip issues, knees issues like Discoid meniscus, lower back issues, plantar fasciitis or Achilles pain. They come in looking for something different because the standard training isn’t producing the results they want. In 6 months or less I can usually eliminate the pain (if it is a muscle weakness/mobility issue – which most are) while simultaneously increase their run times. So while the injuries are waaay lower than in the running world, the overall fitness is higher and we still get the thrill of a good long race. So again it’s focus…why are you a runner? What long term health and fitness goals do you have? Are we the fastest and the best. No, not usually. That’s the facts, if you look at the times for the mini-triathlon that started out the games this year, were their times the best in the triathlon field? no (Mackay 1:57:33 Katrinarson 1:59:16. Third place went to Kyle Kasperbauer in 2:01:54.) But you have to give them kuddos for going out with almost no recovery time and hitting an obstacle course that same afternoon, Marine Corps style.
    Reality check, if your goal is not overall health and fitness, but just a faster time; then you need to run, long and hard. There is no magic bullet as some of my friends above have stated, but only the top echelon of runners ever really get anything more of a good run then the thrill of the race and a major deficiency in other areas of fitness. So yes, call me a workout snob, elitist or whatever, but for true overall fitness - you need to cross train (crossfit or otherwise). And if we're being honest almost all of us started this journey with that end goal in mind: true, lasting, life changing fitness.

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    Replies
    1. You're basically saying the same thing I did. In my post you'll see I am questioning the Runner's World article on CFE. The highlighted paragraph says, "Goodbye long runs!" - My issue is with RW printing a poorly researched article (not unusual for Runners World) making CFE look like it is what all the Kenyans are doing (this is hyperbole, BTW).

      You seem to have a solid understanding of how CFE/CF can work in conjunction with running/endurance training for those looking to achieve overall general fitness. Unfortunately, many other box owners do not have your perspective and are a lot of the reason for blogger like myself writing unflattering articles.

      Delete
  47. The CFE guys who did their marathons in 4+ hours, how many pullups can they do? How much can they deadlift? Press? Squat? I'm willing to guess it's 2-3x more, minimum, than the emaciated and most likely physically broken athlete who is strictly a marathon or distance athlete. Do I think CFE will make marathon runners better at running marathons? No. But I think it will make you physically a better athlete overall. I think it's best for athletes who need endurance but also cross into realms of power and strength needs as well, such as military personnel, law enforcement, rescue, MMA, wrestling, etc.

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    Replies
    1. "Do I think CFE will make marathon runners better at running marathons? No. "

      You could have stopped right there because that was the point of the entire post. IF Ironman ever becomes Swim/Bike/Run/Deadlift then I will be all over CF.

      Delete
  48. I feel that CF and CFE has its place in the endurance sport scene. It cannot compete with traditional sport specific training in terms of performance but, in my opinion, that is not the objective. CFE is for casual endurance athletes that struggle with traditional programs because their bodies break down from increased mileage. CFE can get you "good enough" to finish a 1/2 or full marathon if that's all you are looking for.

    For people like me, I do not want to specialize in endurance training, I also play basketball and tennis and I feel cross-fit training gives me a more well rounded body to handle the various demands of these sports. Just my 2 cents.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with everything you said. But the article I referenced in the post was in Runner's World Magazine which focuses on one sport: Running. Hence you just pretty much expanded upon my argument.

      Delete
  49. While I don't buy the theory that CFE can by itself make you a comparable marathoner/ironman competitor like sport specific training, I do believe that for the general enthusiast who wants to dabble in endurance but also not look emaciated, CFE can be a viable option.

    These types of discussions always come back to the same focus point, which is what is YOUR primary goal!? If run/bike/swim fast at any cost is the goal then that should be the focus, I personally prefer to be able to actually push/pull/lift my bodyweight or greater while looking overall more athletic.

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  50. I think cf/cfe tends to make its members overly confident concerning their athletic ability. That one doesn't need to specifically train for different types of sports. And when results, especially for endurance events, are less than average at best - they can then hide behind the fact that they practice a 'generalist' approach to fitness (as persons above have mentioned).

    Here's the thing, I walk, I walk pretty darn fast, average 13:00 to 13:30 min/mile. Two years counting now I have completed marathons WELL ahead of people I know who cf. In fact this year my time was above the marathon average, go figure! This is not to discredit completing a marathon, but, um, shouldn't all that cf training have produced slightly better results? Natural human locomotion, i.e. walking, is 3.1 miles/5 km an hour...

    Anyways, seeing as I will be doing my first ultra in 2013, when it comes to my training plan, it does not and will not include cf/cfe...the proof for me is in the pudding and the pudding is flipping slow and takes days to recover from poor preparation/training.

    Also, in the case of retort, I do more than just walk, but without the 'elite' monthly price tag of $150 to $300. Plus, I have no injuries, no chronic pain and nominal recovery time (less 24 hours if any). All three of which I also have personally seen my cf friends suffer from.

    Mahalo (Thank you)

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  51. Interesting reading, for sure, both article and comments. When I was much younger, I ran a 4:25 mile in the middle of a 6-mile road run at altitude and a couple of years prior to that ran a 2:35 marathon, and it's unlikely that I could have done those times on Cross-Fit workouts. I like Cross-Fit for general fitness, and if I was just running in races, rather than actually racing, I would be quite content to cut back my mileage and time spent training. For me, when I was actually racing the distances, I don't think I would have achieved the times I did without putting in the 100+ mile weeks I did. I believe there's a significant difference between people wanting to run races and people wanting to race them. And there's a difference between younger athletes racing and older athletes, as I am now, racing. Now, I'd be much more likely to embrace some Cross-Fit strategies during race prep, just to prevent the endurance wear and tear on my body.

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  52. I do CF and am not a runner. I do tend to think CF'rs can think too much of cf, even though it was developed in general by the cf community adding in pieces of all types of trainning to make it work better. They can get close minded when it was built off this ideal, it boggles my mind sometimes. Though from everything I have read about Cf, how it works and what it does, it is general physical preperation. It provides a base for you to then go into you specific sport with less muscle imbalances. With less muscle imbalances you have more to push yourself and get less injured, then by shoring up those weak muscles it increases you time. To be fast though, I do believe you still need to put in the miles though. Loved reading all the comments and wanted my 2 cents in

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  53. I used to be fat. I started doing Crossfit, and I got a good baseline level of fitness going, but I was not a runner. One of my friends who ran the Leadville 100 asked if I'd like to compete in the VT50 Ultrarun, and I said yes. I could only run a couple of miles at a pretty slow pace at the time, so I picked up Crossfit Endurance to supplement my training. I ran the race after five months of training and sprinted across the finish line with a smile on my face. The longest training run I ever did was 13 miles.

    That's not to say I didn't train much. To do Crossfit Endurance properly, you have to work out twice a day most days: you do a CrossFit WOD AND a CrossFit Endurance WOD. Crossfit Endurance does cut back on millage, but not necessarily time spent training, and the two-a-day workouts really increase your muscular endurance while sport specific training allows you to train for a race.

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  54. 100 mile race with 13 max distance trained? I call BS.

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  55. The VT50 is a 50 miler....

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  56. The one thing Cross-Fit Endurance really pushes, that I think is worthwhile, is the idea of a pyramid with TECHNIQUE on the bottom, then intensity, THEN volume. I see so many friends just go out and pound long weekly mileage, upwards of 80 miles, at the same speed, with no regard for technique training, interval work, and certainly no strength training. I hit the Crossfit WOD's maybe 3 times a week, and get maybe 30-40 miles a week when I'm peaking for a trail Ultra, and do better than many of them. Now I'm certainly just a recreational runner, and I do believe if I were going to COMPETE in the ulra scene, I'd need to do far more speed work and LONG back-to-backs. It's not black and white!

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  57. I was a competitive runner. My top 5k time out of high school was 16:38. I quit running after high school for a while and my senior year of college I began to run again. After my first year of grad school I decided start racing again. I brought my time down to sub 18 min when the injuries began. Knee problems, hip/lower back problems - not to mention chronic fatigue. I got training and a coach - it wasn't my posture and my running form was perfect. I tried new shoes (inov8's are what stuck). However nothing worked. The problem was the volume - and I was running FAR less than most endurance coaches and athletes would say to run (I was an engineering masters student). What did it for me was CrossFit and CrossFit endurance (by the way, they are completely separate). What CFE says is that 99% of people or athletes bodies can not withstand the wear and tear of high volume, repetitive LSD training. You need to supplement it with strength training and not just in the off season. It says you need to train short and fast (anaerobic) more than LSD (aerobic). It is a fact that significantly increasing your anaerobic threshold will greatly increase your aerobic threshold and not the other way around. Without functional strength training you leave yourself prone for injury. Furthermore, high intensity training such as CF is the best way to improve your aerobic threshold. Neither does it cause all the oxidative stress as high milage LSD training....

    Last year I ran a 16:57 5k while never running more than 1.5 miles at a time, a 1:26:45 half marathon with ZERO specific distance training at all (I literally decided to run it the night before on a bet), and a 4:41 mile. My total milage the month leading up to the half was less than 10 miles. Most importantly I am INJURY FREE!! I am a CFE (not CF) coach and I can show you 10 runners that have better results than me, 2 of which are ultra marathoners... On a side note I have since given up running and am a CF Regional qualifier. I weigh 155# and clean and jerk 285#, deadlift 450#, and squat 402#.... my 5k time last week......... 17:49.

    Low distance high intensity training will replace high volume LSD training. In the near future we will see professional runners winning national caliber races. We will see low volume Olympians. We will see a low volume 2:30 marathon.

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  58. I am a crossfitter and a runner. You don't have to be one or the other. I crossfit 3-4 times a week and run 2-4 times a week (depending on if I'm training for a race or simply maintaining). I, too, have met crossfitters that think CF is the one and only way. However, I have met many more crossfitters that are like me - i do CF because I enjoy it and I get results - not because I believe it's the ONLY way.
    As far as CFE - I think it's great to maintain during your 'off season' and work on technique. However, got a long run coming up? Do long runs in preparation.

    ReplyDelete
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  62. I'd be surprised is anyone doing crossfit endurance believes that it is the path to becoming a world-class marathoner. Can a casual runner get better by dropping the milage and adding some strength training? I believe so. Running doesn't make you strong and a lot of runners get hurt because they don't have the muscle to hold their bodies together during high volume training. Reducing their milage and gaining some strength. Most people posting here are not world-class runners and probably would see their times and bodies improve with these protocols.

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  64. Excelente article, Well, I spoke from the point of view of a Cyclist Cat.3, no from a runner point of view.

    First I said, CFE Is good IF YOU NEED a good formation., but in may case Veteran

    Cyclist almost 17 year hit the pedals.. I used a CFE program for almost 3 years in the last MTB race i don’t broke any records, even stay in the top ten of my categorie, the gap between the winner and I are 30min.

    So why this possible ¿? I was very committed with the program, I work very hard, and was very stressfull; but why can't improve my performance bike in a races???

    The answer is very simple, the CFE Program it’s no a good training program for cyclist, o in others words, The program don't help to recovery for a HIITS on Bike training so can’t get better gains, because You dont rest enough Period.

    Also the continuous weightlift exercices & gymnastic body weight exercises and WODs increse body mass…. When I started the program my weigth are 160lbs for my 5’10” it’s ok for a average rider, but now a lose a some FAT and GAIN many muscles in Core, Chest, Arms, Back. And my weigth now is 176lbs. In others words I a heavy rider, and I note that in mediun and long climbs; In shorter climbs I have more power but in longest its very diferent.

    Now can jump more, lift more, run more, carry more, my body it more defined, more fitness, but my cycling it’s no better than 3 years ago.

    So, if you can improve your cycling for races, CFE its no the path.; But if you have a better fitness definitely its one the best choices.

    Now I focus more in my cycling and less in my WODs..I do a 1 o 2 wods in a week but focus in technique and strength, no in a Intensity, Reps or even wheigt
    .
    But a CFE still be a very good option for a foundation season (2 or 3 months)

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  65. Sorry for my english... I from Ecuador.. ;-)

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