Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What the HECK????

Okay...those of you who know me, know that I am like a spongy vulture when it comes to gathering information on health, fitness, and training. I am constantly reading, studying, observing, and experimenting. I want to know how to be the healthiest I can possibly be. I want to reach my highest potential as an athlete. And then I want to spread the word and teach others about it!

So, I've been working on my certifications for sports conditioning, personal training, and performance nutrition. I'll admit, it's tedious and sometimes boring to be on a self-study program. I'd much rather be in a classroom or hands-on training, but right now, with my work schedule...this is how I'm rolling. I'm learning a lot. I like what I'm learning. But honestly, I feel like I'm learning MORE from my own experiences and research.

If you've been reading my blog diligently (which I know you are!), then you know about my recent obsession and love affair with Crossfit--the very sport I used to raise a skeptical eyebrow at. Crossfit continues to surprise me and prove me wrong. Constantly. Now, some of the relative strength, metabolic conditioning work is stuff I had introduced to my training regimen years ago. The addition of olympic weightlifting COMBINED with the metabolic conditioning into a short, intense, sweet WOD (workout of the day) is a pretty new concept to me. As an endurance athlete (triathlon and ultrarunning) I have spent HOURS AND HOURS training for my sport. And up until my achilles injury (and introduction to Crossfit) I was logging up to 20-30 hours on the trails a week in preparation for a big ultra race. I did some conditioning work in the gym every other day, but I could barely fit it in with the amount of running I was doing. This is how I trained. Sport specific. It made sense to me to train long, long hours on the trails because that's what I'd be doing the day of the race---long, long hours on the trails. Right?

So imagine my surprise when I started Crossfit and WODs and was cutting my training time from 20-25 hours a week to 6 or 7 and was getting my ASS KICKED! (I haven't vomited after a workout in a long, long time (can't count sour stomach on long runs since that's par for the course) ). The intensity of these 10-30 min WODs is so fierce and pushes me to a point that my body is constantly adjusting, changing, and building itself into something incredibly strong, fast, and functional. At first I'd leave a workout wondering if I should head out for a run, in case I didn't get enough out of that 10-30 minutes. I actually felt a little guilty. But the true test of the efficiency of my new workouts was tested recently when I got the green light from my doctors to start running again. I was TERRIFIED I wouldn't have the endurance or stamina to complete a run. I was worried about my achilles and worried I'd be so out of "running shape" that I DREADED that first run. Again, I was surprised. No...shocked! Crossfit had managed, in those 10-30 min WODs, five to six days a week, to not only maintain my endurance, but BETTER my speed and running efficiency! How is that possible?????

Well...the best answer to that question is here:
But it's a very lengthy read that most people don't have time for. So I'm going to try and lay it out quickly and easily (note: most of this information is found on the website, crossfit endurance website and some in my textbooks, workbooks, and fitness journals ):

Crossfit is NOT a specialized fitness program. It's a "deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains": Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. Crossfit was developed to enhance an individual's competency at ALL physical tasks. And Crossfit athletes are trained to perform successfully at multiple, diverse, and randomized physical challenges at short, middle and long distances. Crossfit achieves this through functional movement and high intensity anaerobic training. Okay, I'm probably going to piss off a lot of my fellow trail and ultrarunning friends here....BUT there is a big misconception that long distance athletes are fitter than short distance athletes. Here's the thing though: endurance athletes have typically trained themselves LONG past any cardiovascular benefit and have actually LOST strength, speed, power, agility, balance and flexibility. Their athletic competency has been compromised. It is SCIENTIFIC fact that aerobic activity DECREASES anaerobic capacity, decreases strength, speed and power. (How many ultrarunners out there can jump up to a 24" box, or do a dead-hang pullup, or squat to parallel without hurting their hamstrings or backs? ) On the other hand, anaerobic activity BENEFITS cardiovascular function, decreases body fat, and is the ONLY way to dramatically improve power, speed, strength and muscle. And what's even BETTER---anaerobic conditioning will not adversely affect aerobic capacity! This explains why I am still able to run WELL (and even better) after adhering solely to Crossfit and anaerobic training during my recovery. Now I don't know about YOU, but I'd much rather look like THIS:

Than THIS:

Who looks stronger to you?

Crossfit has found an incredible balance in achieving athletic potential. Thousands of elite athletes have some pretty awesome testimonials on the website of how their performance has changed because of Crossfit's regimen.

Okay. Great. Interesting stuff, right? BUT, I'm ready to start training again for another ultra. In fact, I plan on running a R2R2R (South Rim to North Rim to South Rim) in the Grand Canyon in April. How the heck will I be able to run THAT without training for hours on the trail? And how can I continue to do Crossfit 5 to6 days a week AND run?

Well...I've been talking to a lot of coaches, a lot of endurance athletes, a lot of fitness specialists and have been introduced to Crossfit Endurance. Check this out! They claim that if I follow their program, I'm only required to train 6-8 hours per week to COMPETE at an ultra distance! WHAT???? They claim that limiting an athlete's exposure to LSD (long slow distance) training will allow them to remain not only functionally competent in other areas of fitness and competitive in aerobic endurance pursuits but DOMINATE in ALL areas of fitness! That's a HUGE claim! So let me get this right...I train hard 6-8 hours a week and not only will I be able to run 45 miles in the Grand Canyon, I'll also be able to kick ass on the soccer field, AND maybe even throw a football farther than my brother after Thanksgiving dinner this year? Good grief--makes me wonder...what ELSE could I do?

So here's my training plan: I'll be continuing with the Crossfit WODs and add the Crossfit Endurance WOD specific to MY sport and distance (running) every day. The regimen will also include the occasional tempo or time trial on my "off days". Still--this balance will NOT push me past 8 hours of training a week. And the WODs are FUN! Yesterday, for instance, I did a clean and jerk, pullups, squat, sit ups AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) in 8 minutes and then 3+hours later did a Tabata run where I did 20 seconds on/10 second off for 8 rounds on an incline. Both workouts only took me about 30 minutes each (when you include some warmup and stretching time too). ! Sounds too easy? Well...let's just say, I had to hang out near the bushes for a while after the second workout. It's all about INTENSITY. goes! Looks like I'm off on another crazy adventure! But, I'll admit, I'm still skeptical. I realize that most successful ultrarunners are still running hours upon hours on the trails and most AREN'T doing Crossfit Endurance. But then again, I don't think enough ultrarunners have experimented with Crossfit or Crossfit Endurance. The idea is CRAZY! But what if this works? What if I actually run better and do WELL in my Grand Canyon run. Holy cow!...this will seriously change everything! I mean DAMN! What am I going to do with all this FREE time? Ha ha! Can't wait to find out! Stay tuned..


  1. i love that you posted a pic of the difference with endurance cardio -- and high intensity interval training to your body. That is so awesome. I have been doing HIIT for 2.5 years and just started paleo eating and man -- the difference is amazing! Great work!


  2. I can understand your skeptacism....

    My only comment is....I think if you follow cross-fit endurance you will be able to still do an ultra marathon- however, I don't think you can be at the top level in the ultra marathon game (i.e- top 3 female/male) with only 8-9 hrs a week of training. It just depends what your goal is. I remember joining crossfit and the guy telling me that some crossfit dude finished a 100 mile race in 26 hrs training only crossfit- which is great- but...if you are looking to be very competetive in ultra marathon running solely....26 hrs is way off the mark....

    just playing some devils advocate....however, I still would rather look like a powerful women, then paula radcliffe....but thats what it takes to do a marathon in 2:17!!!!!!