In Defense of CrossFit Endurance | Lift Heavy Run Long

There is no shortage of criticism out there for the CrossFit Endurance program.  People love to write blog posts about how they know someone who tried to add CrossFit to their Marathon training and hurt themselves so CrossFit Endurance must be really bad!  This kind of crap is everywhere on the internets. Since I’ve had such an incredible experience with CrossFit Endurance I feel like I should put some love out there for the program.  Hence, this article.

The Criticism

First, CrossFit Endurance people don’t run. If you want to be good at running you’ve got to practice running and CFE people don’t ever practice running.  I cannot tell you how far from the truth this is.  If you know someone coaching runners in a CrossFit gym and they aren’t teaching running as a skill and having their athletes practice that skill then you need to tell them they are doing it wrong.  Seriously.  In addition, if you know someone coaching runners in a CrossFit gym and their athletes aren’t running 3-4 times a week then you need to tell them they are doing it wrong.  Seriously.

If you came to me and asked me to help you run the first thing I’m going to do is watch you run, help you correct errors, and teach you to run as efficiently as possible.  Once you have practiced running enough and gotten your form worked out, then I would have you run.  The CrossFit Endurance model is SI (Short Intervals) one day, LI (Long Intervals) another day, and a longer TT (Time Trial) or Tempo Run on the weekend.  These aren’t just bullshit workouts, they are tough.  They are to be monitored, measured, and adjusted according to the athlete’s performance.

Second, “My [insert strawman here] went to a CrossFit gym, got hurt and was never able to run a Marathon!”  This is actually not an argument against CrossFit Endurance.  It may not even be a valid argument against CrossFit.  It could be a valid argument when talking about picking the right coach or picking the right gym.  I’m sorry your meemaw went to a CrossFit gym and the coach made her try to squat 400 pounds and she never realized her dream of completing a Marathon.  This is obviously a problem that arises with the CrossFit model.  Anyone with a Level 1 and the money to purchase an affiliate name can open a CrossFit gym and run it as they see fit.  Be careful about what gym and what coaches you choose.  Pick the right ones so that you don’t get hurt.  This is a completely different topic, and has nothing to do with whether or not a CrossFit Endurance program will work for you or anyone else.

Third, and my most favorite, “They don’t do long runs in CrossFit Endurance programs.”  I think a lot of these kinds of criticisms come from people just looking at the CrossFit Endurance website and making an opinion based on the training they see there.  Fair enough, however, I’ve heard Brian Mackenzie himself say that training will vary depending upon the athlete. With a program like CrossFit Endurance where they post daily workouts on a main website (that are free) you will most likely find some things about the program you don’t like or that don’t work for you.  You can’t write one program that works for everyone.  At the same time, not everyone has access to a CrossFit Endurance coach that can build a program specifically for them.  For me, long runs are necessary and I can handle them without injuring myself.  I’ll do a few 13-18 mile runs before running a Marathon, 20-23 milers before a 50K, and 50K before a 50 miler.  That works for me (or has worked for me in the past).  Like I said, coaches are different.  If you came to me wanting to run a 50 Miler, you can bet that you’ll at least run one 50K before that race.  Depending upon your experience and training results I might make you run a Marathon before the 50K.  There are people out there that believe a Half Marathon is good enough training for an Ultra Marathon.  I’m not one of those people, but maybe that is true for some people.  I’m certainly not going to criticize them.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to train however they think they need to in order to get the results that they want.  Brian Mackenzie may not approve of the training that I do.  I do WAY more strength work than he would probably recommend.  My personal goal is not to win an Ultra.  My goal is to continue to gain as much strength as possible while continuing to lower my race times.  Like I said, adjust training according to the goals and abilities of the athlete.

The Awesome

CrossFit Endurance works.  I’m living proof.  I walked into a CrossFit gym at 30 something years old, fat, lazy, and never ran more than a 5K.  Now here I am racking up the Ultra Marathons, all with CrossFit Endurance training methods and even more strength training.  I’ve never ran more than, I think, 350 miles a year.  I enjoy every one of my runs, and remember each one of them.  No junk miles. I’m not an elite athlete, but I’m damn proud of my Marathon, 50K and 50 Mile times! My very first Marathon was sub 4 hours and my longest run was 18 miles before that.  Tell me if that’s average?  I could go on and on about my experience, but here’s video from my first 50:

In the words (paraphrasing) of Brian Mackenzie, I’m not saying what you’re doing is wrong or my way is the only way.  I’m just saying give it a shot.